Archive for February, 2011

Recently, I embarked on the exciting journey of making a handmade book. The finished product came out beautifully, but in my true fashion, I neglected to take pictures of various stages or document in any way what I did: you know, the sorts of things that would be helpful for a tutorial. But there are lots of good ones already on the web, so I’ll be linking to the ones I used and offering my own advice and suggestions along the way.

The first thing I did was tear apart my old phonebook and make the paper myself, but that’s definitely a post for another time.

Cut your paper down to be twice the size you want your book to be, so when you fold it in half, it will be the right size. Fold each piece in half, and stack them inside of each other in groups. Press the back of a spoon over the folds to make sure they are evenly creased. My paper was thick, so I had only 3 sheets inside each other, so when folded there was 6 pages that looked like their own little book. If you’re using regular printer paper, you could probably fold 5-8 pages together in a set, called a signature. Make as many signatures as you need to get your desired book thickness. Mine had only 3, again, since my paper was so thick.

Next, you’ll need to prepare your signatures to be stitched by poking holes in them. You’ll need either an awl or a hammer and nail as well as a piece of cardboard, and a phonebook. This site shows a great technique for getting the holes just right.

Once you’ve gotten the holes punched, then you’ll need to stitch them together. Most sites advise against using cotton thread or embroidery floss and strongly suggest linen thread. I used some kind of thread I had on hand from beading. It had the texture of thin, yet strong dental floss. I have no idea what it was made of, but it worked ok. I  double-layered it, just in case. Actually, I imagine just waxed dental floss would be fine to use too. As long as you don’t mind a little mint-y scent in your book :). I used this site as a guide for stitching the signatures.

From here, I started following this tutorial. Put a layer of glue along the spine of your book block, to firmly hold the binding and ensure there are no large gaps between certain pages. I used tabs like in this tutorial, except I forgot to place them under the stitching, so they were glued on top instead.

That same tutorial site has helpful instructions for making your cover as well, unless you have an old hardcover book you are refilling with something new. I used an old shoebox and cut a front and back slightly larger than the inner pages, and a spine the width of my book block. To attach the three pieces of the cover, I used some sort of fabric tape I had around. I actually liked the texture of the tape so much I covered my whole book in it. You could probably use duct tape, and I bet it would be fine. Or glue pieces of fabric, as the tutorial suggests. And instead of coating the cover with one layer of the same paper, I decoupaged mine with brightly colored paper scraps, thin enough for the fabric texture from the tape to show through, so it looks like I used fabric pieces instead of paper.

Then, taking my finished book block and finished cover, I trimmed two pieces of cardstock to serve as the end papers. The cardstock gets folded in half, just like the book pages, except one half is glued to the inside of the cover, and the other half is glued to the first page in the book block. The other piece goes in the back, between the last page and back cover. Check out the pictures here in steps 4-5 for a visual.

And finally, the results of my work: a really cool homemade journal, made mostly with junk from my recycle bin.

Side view

Top view

Handmade paper inside


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Today, I was suddenly frustrated with all the curling, faded pictures on my fridge. It’s hard to place magnets that will both hold them up and not obstruct smiling faces, and my pictures were always falling down. And it’s just plain a poor way to display pictures: it just doesn’t do them justice. They deserve a frame or something, not just to be shoved behind a magnet. What I did was simple and obvious, but I just needed to sit down for a moment and do it. All I did was trim them down to fit inside of various jar lids, use a little dab of glue to hold each picture in place, and mount a magnet square on the back. This is a great way to make use of various plastic lids that would otherwise be thrown away and extra blank magnets I had stuck all over the fridge. And now instead of using magnets to hold up pictures, I can now use those very pictures to hold up other important stuff!

I have been saving plastic lids off of everything for quite a while now, and I have a hunch I’ll be making loads more magnets, some with photos inside, and other smaller ones maybe just painted or with other things inside.

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This one is super easy. It has only two ingredients, is easy to mix up, and works really well, especially on leather gloves after they get all crusty and dried when it rains.

In an old olive oil bottle, mix ½ cup extra virgin olive oil and ¼ cup lemon juice. Shake well and tip onto a rag to polish surfaces. Make sure not to use too much, or it will leave smudges and residue on wood.

The only thing I don’t like about this recipe is that it might go bad before you get a chance to use it all up. You’ll know simply by looking at it when it’s turned bad: it thickens and starts to turn brown. It will keep for quite a while though, so maybe making half a batch will work a little better. I think I’ll try this the next time I need to make it.

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No Impact Week was several weeks ago. But it’s still leaving an impact in my life. We’ve declared Tuesdays and Thursdays as “dark days” because we had so much fun during No Impact Week, we wanted to continue it, just not permanently. I would love to say we don’t use any electricity on those days, but the reality is that I’m not going to pull the plug on our fridge two days a week. So here are the rules for our dark days:

  • No electric lights
  • No TV
  • Computer for work only while Husband is at work, and no charging the laptop: I can only coast on battery. No computer use at all after Husband comes home from work.
  • We have a hand-crank flashlight and hand-crank radio we can use, and a solar charger that can charge a phone or ipod.
  • Energy use IS allowed for heating/cooking food, refrigerator, heat (we keep it as low as it goes, no turning it up) hot water heater, and charging phones (but only if the solar charger couldn’t charge).

It is actually really fun to have candlelit evenings twice a week, and it’s nice to have definite, built-in time during the week to connect with Husband. So many times, we end up engrossed in our own computers or activities in separate rooms while we’re home together.

Funny enough, most of the light switches are still taped from no impact week as a reminder not to use them. We’ve been getting by using only small lamps in various rooms and not the large overhead lights with multiple bulbs and opening the curtains to let in the daylight.

I’m still making weekly trips to the weekend produce market, which, in addition to keeping our place stocked with fresh fruits and veggies, saves us a ton of money too, and we’re able to get more fresh produce for our money than at the grocery store. Double win!

And we’ve turned the TV on to watch only a handful of shows since No Impact Week ended, and only on one night per week. I’m actually considering canceling the cable TV altogether. Any of the few shows we watch can be watched online, and NPR radio is a better source for news than the sensationalized ratings-driven crap on TV anyway….

So there you have it. No Impact Week transformed into Sustained Decreased Impact. Yeah, that doesn’t have nearly as cool of a ring to it…

Anyone else thinking of (or already) trying out a weekly dark day?

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If you made my hair gel recipe from last week, you might be wondering what else you can use all that unflavored gelatin for. This is a simple and wonderful recipe for an air freshener gel. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 packet unflavored, clear gelatin
  • 1/8 tsp. rubbing alcohol
  • ½ Cup boiling water
  • ½ Cup cold water
  • 40 drops essential oil of your choice
  • 2 empty baby food jars

Dissolve the gelatin in the boiling water. Add cold water and stir until blended. Add the alcohol and essential oil and stir. Pour into jars.

Make sure to use an essential oil that is antifungal or mold will start to grow in it. Lavender, tea tree oil, clove, and eucalyptus, are some antifungal oils. There are lots more, but these are some of the basics. As always, if you find one you like, you can use it in lots of recipes.

When your jars are done, make sure not to place them in a warm place like on top of the TV or the gelatin will liquefy some. If this happens, place it in the refrigerator for a while so it can set again.

As the gel gradually evaporates/dries out, it releases the scent of the essential oil. They last a surprisingly long time, and when they’re dried out, just clean them out and refill!

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So I realize this post is a little late. I mean, who’s gonna make cookies at 11pm on Feb 14th? I made these a few days ago, after getting the recipe from my mom. She warned me it makes a lot of cookies, but I didn’t listen, reasoning that I really like cookies, so lots of cookies would be a good thing. Well…..10 dozen is a lot of cookies. But they freeze well, my neighbors like them (or they didn’t give them back at least) and my coworkers like them too. And I’ve been eating more cookies than I care to admit over the course of the week. And they’re super yummy.

So here’s the recipe, if you dare:

Preheat oven to 400F. Mix 1 tsp. baking soda into 1 cup sour milk (or add a little lemon juice to regular milk to thicken it a bit) and set aside. I used almond milk with a little lemon juice, and it worked just fine. Cream 1 cup shortening and 2 cups sugar together. Add 2 eggs, milk mixture, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 tsp almond extract and mix well. Gradually add 5-6 cups of flour. I used whole wheat flour, and it worked fine. Add enough flour so the dough is smooth and not too sticky. You may need to add as much as 7 cups. I stopped counting at 5 and just kept sprinkling it on until the dough was the right texture to work with. Lightly flour a countertop area or other large surface and place a ball of dough on it. (I rolled the dough out in batches since there was so much of it.) Flatten and lightly flour the dough and roll it out with a rolling pin to desired thickness. Cut out shapes with a cookie cutter (or the bottom of a soup can if you don’t have cookie cutters) and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 4-5 minutes.

For the icing, mix 1/3 cup softened butter, 3 cups powdered sugar, 1 and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, a pinch of salt, and 2 tablespoons of milk (I used almond milk). Beat until smooth. To achieve desired thickness, you may need to add a bit more powdered sugar, or more milk if it’s too thick. Add a few spoonfuls of strawberry jam to add a strawberry flavor and pink color to your icing.

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So I recently decided to try again with crocheting. I learned the basic stitch, with the goal of cutting down on the crushing amount of t-shirt scraps that fill my fabric box. Goal achieved! It’s crazy, spontaneous, and colorful, just like me!

And though it’s not nearly as nice as the one my mom made me, I’m working on it. This one is good enough to wipe my feet on at the door and is a much better use for all those scraps than just being stuffed in my fabric box.


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