Fast Tip Friday: Getting to the Bottom of the Tube

Happy New Year! One of my resolutions now that I’m super poor due to owning a house is to get the last drop out of everything I own. Tremendous thanks to my bestie Chelle for filling in this Friday with a guest post. If makeup and fitness are your thing, make sure to check her out!

201512_chelle1

Hi everyone! My name is Chelle and I run the beauty blog Makeup Your Mind. I’m helping out Ali today by passing along one of my fast tips (I actually got it from my mom, but we’ll ignore that for the sake of this post…).

201512_chelle2

So you’ve almost finished your favourite lotion. Unfortunately, it won’t squeeze out of the tube any longer but you can see that there’s still plenty left inside. Sure, you could bang the bottle against your hand and splash it everywhere, but do you really want to do that?

201512_chelle3

Instead, take a pair of scissors and cut right through the tube.

201512_chelle4

You’re left with two separate pieces and easy access to your product inside.

201512_chelle5

Now, my bottle was semi-transparent so I could see how much was left inside, but I think you’d be surprised how much lotion is left inside opaques tubes that we believe are totally empty. I’ve got at least several more days’ worth out of this one!

201512_chelle6

To close up the bottle after you’ve scooped out what you need, insert the bottom half of the tube onto the new “lid” and tada! You’ve got easy access to the remainder of your product AND you get to keep it fresh!

Snakes and Soda Bombs

In our house, all the drains in all the sinks are screwy. The sinks are slightly tilted in the wrong direction or the bottoms of them are flat so the water doesn’t actually LEAVE the sink. And I suspect that most of the drains were partially clogged when we moved in, because getting water out of them has always taken a while. Now that we’ve been here over a year (and will shortly be leaving as quickly as possible), we’ve added our own mix of dog hair and muck to our drains and the two in our bathroom, the tub and sink respectively, need some TLC.

Remember when I cleaned our dishwasher and it was one of the more disgusting things I’ve ever done? Well this is way more gross. These pictures are going to be graphic so feel free to skip this post if you think you might lose your stomach contents. If it makes you feel better I gagged often while actually doing this thing. This is my bathtub drain. You can see the gunk surrounding it because it’s not draining fast enough to wash everything down so little bits of dirt get stuck, and nothing dries, so I get that lovely orange mildew line. Yummy. The pop-up plug thing that goes with the tub never worked so we pulled it off and bought a regular rubber plug. It’s somewhere around the house …

DSCN8734

When you’re first cleaning out a drain, before you reach for chemicals or solvents, grab one of these. This is a drain snake. It’s just a wee one. If you have some more serious drain issues than a bit of dog hair then you might want something more complex, but this one does the trick when you’re trying to navigate around funny-shaped plug bits jammed in your drain.

DSCN8733

So you take the snake, and you shove the brushy end down into the drain and scoop it around until you feel you’ve caught a bunch of stuff.

DSCN8735

Bring it up and clean it off. Try not to throw up. I would recommend wearing gloves. Because bleugh.

DSCN8736

This is all the gross hair I pulled out of the drain. Holy ew.

DSCN8737

Next, to make extra sure you’ve got everything in there, put a kettle of water on to boil and grab some vinegar and baking soda. Block off any other vents or drains that are attached to the one you’re trying to clear using tape or a rag.

DSCN8738

Tip about 1/2 cup of the baking soda down the drain.

DSCN8739

Then add in 1/2 cup of the vinegar and jam the plug down. Leave that for however long it takes your kettle to boil. I found it made a very satisfying noise throughout the house as it gurgled through the pipes. The chemical reaction that’s going on is breaking down all the fats and oils and stuff that cause that sludgy goo and getting rid of them.

DSCN8740

When the kettle is ready, empty it down the drain to flush all the now loose bits away.

DSCN8742

And the drain is now as good as new – or at least, as good as the day we moved in. Maybe slightly better. Who knows?

DSCN8744

My scary sink is a whole ‘nother kettle of stanky fish, because it has that stupid pop-up plug thing going on and I can’t get in there with even my wee snake. What I need to do is take the little pop-up thing out and do all sorts of horrible things. It will involve much swearing and probably some assistance from the Pie (because we make a good plumbing team). And you don’t need to see that (because I know it’s jammed with like a year of the Pie’s beard hair and that is GROSS). But if you have the same problem, I found an amazing video that lays out what to do much better than I ever could. You can access it on YouTube here.

DSCN8745

Fun with the Silhouette: Temp Tats

Part of my Hallowe’en costume (update on Friday!) is making Poison Ivy look like she’s got actual ivy growing along her skin. For that I chose to pick up some Silhouette temporary tattoo paper. The great thing about this is that you don’t even need a Silhouette to do this project – you can always cut the tattoos out by hand. Any colour printer will do.

Temp Tats 10

Design your tattoos on your computer and make sure to mirror them in the image you print out onto the special paper.

Temp Tats 9

Print them at high quality on the shiny side of the paper.

Temp Tats 8

Use a squeegee to ever so carefully smooth the sticky plastic sleeve over top of the printed and dried design. It’s really quite easy.

Temp Tats 6

Cut it out carefully with scissors. Or use your Silhouette if you’ve got one.

Temp Tats 4

Temp Tats 3

Then go ahead and stick stuff to your skin! These would make great gifts for people if you customized it to their tastes. I bet they’d make great favors at weddings too!

Temp Tats 2

Temp Tats 1

Jelly(fish) Mobile

Jelly Jelly Mobile 71

You guys. Guys. Seriously. This might be the best thing I’ve ever done. And I have to give it away. Fortunately I’m giving it to someone very, very special, so all the effort that went into it is definitely worth it. I can see that this sort of project could be used in all sorts of different situations: you could have it simply as a delightful window decoration; a baby’s mobile; as the modified shade on some LED chandeliers (like this one from IKEA); a room separator … anything. really. This one in particular is … a rainbow jellyfish.

Jelly Jelly Mobile 4

And you can make one too. All you need for a basic version are some gelatin plastic shapes (you may remember we made them earlier), some fishing line or monofilament line (I picked very fine line that will be nearly invisible) and a wire rack of some kind to hang stuff from (mine is round).

Jelly Jelly Mobile 1

Add-ons to this were some snap swivels I picked up from our local hunting and fishing store and that lovely beaded string I picked up for my miniature chandeliers that I made earlier this summer. I had some flexible wire that I saved from my wire baskets, and I found a set of bent needlenose pliers (and a pair of scissors) to be very helpful.

Jelly Jelly Mobile 2

I’ll show you what I did and then hopefully you can take this idea and improve on it and make it your own. Let’s begin, shall we?

First I took the flexible wire and I cut it into three equal pieces. I hooked each piece around the three little feet on my wire cooling rack and wound them up tight. Forgive the photos as my camera hates taking pictures of wire apparently. I looped each wire between two feet so I had three arcs coming up from the rack.

Jelly Jelly Mobile 7

Jelly Jelly Mobile 8

Jelly Jelly Mobile 9

Then I grabbed all three arcs and squished them together, twisting the wire so that all was left was a nice big hoop at the top, tapering to a straight line in the middle and then it spread out to the three little feet at the bottom, like a tripod.

Jelly Jelly Mobile 10

Then I took my beaded string and I wrapped it around all of those things, to look like bubbles in the sea.

Jelly Jelly Mobile 11

Jelly Jelly Mobile 13

Then I hung it from my ceiling fan, because I figured it was pretty firmly attached to my ceiling.

Jelly Jelly Mobile 14

I added some more beaded string, because I knew that once I started hanging the discs it would be harder to do. I put some loops at the top to distract from all the hardware that was going to be visible up there when I was done.

Jelly Jelly Mobile 20

Jelly Jelly Mobile 22

Jelly Jelly Mobile 23

Next I sorted all my discs into rainbow order.

Jelly Jelly Mobile 18

Then I grabbed my humble snap swivel. And some pliers.

Jelly Jelly Mobile 25

And started attaching them to the discs.

Jelly Jelly Mobile 26

And I did that a million times.

Jelly Jelly Mobile 27

Then I started tying the discs onto my fishing line. I had originally planned to just use one disc per line, so that the snap swivel would provide the weight needed to keep the line straight and the swivel would allow for spin but before I put it together I reconsidered this and decided to tie multiple discs to the same line. This will prevent clutter on the wire rack and make things easier to install. It will also leave more space around each disc for spinning. If you do this, make sure to tie the discs on at irregular intervals, because you want the colours to overlap in places and if you do it all regularly it will look like a very pretty geometric thing but not like a jellyfish. So I guess it depends on what you’re going for.

Jelly Jelly Mobile 29

My inner lines were quite long, and each time I moved out a few circles in the rack I made the lines shorter.

Jelly Jelly Mobile 35

This took several hours, and was quite fiddly because I also used snap swivels to attach the lines to the racks for durability, which necessitated a lot of reaching over my head to fasten a tiny piece of metal to another tiny piece of metal. It is quite a strain on the shoulders after a while. This is where I got to before I threw in the towel for the night.

Jelly Jelly Mobile 39

The next day I got up early in the hopes that I could catch the early morning sun filtering through the discs but alas it was overcast. I kept going, though.

Jelly Jelly Mobile 46

Almost there …

Jelly Jelly Mobile 56

And here is my beautiful magnum opus. The recipients are already in love with it and I still haven’t figured out how to transport it in my car yet. It makes a highly satisfying sound when the pieces click together, like a sink full of popping dish foam.

Jelly Jelly Mobile 60

Floating Citronella Candles

Floating Citronella Candles 17Spending time outdoors in the summer is always an opportunity for a good time, but dealing with the bugs that also want to spend some quality time with you is less good. And you can get giant buckets of citronella candles and citronella torches and all that stuff, but they lack a bit of elegance. So for this upcoming shindig I’ve got going on, I thought I’d add a little something fancy to my bug repellent and float some citronella candles in glass containers filled with water and greenery. I had trouble finding floating citronella candles, however, so I decided to make my own, and here’s how I did it. Floating Citronella Candles 13

The most important thing you need is citronella essential oil. Now, a lot of people find the scent to be a little off-putting, so I decided to add in some clove oil as well to mellow it out. Cloves are also a very good bug repellent.

Floating Citronella Candles 4And you need some wax. I picked soy wax for this project, because it has a lower melting point and tends to throw scent a little better than paraffin or beeswax (which of course has its own scent). Floating Citronella Candles 6

You also need some wee containers. I have these miniature tart tins that I picked up from Value Village a million years ago. I have never used them for tarts but they’re handy for lots of other things.

Floating Citronella Candles 1If you don’t happen to have miniature tart tins, a set of silicone muffin cups (or a silicone tray of any sort with small depressions in it) will also work quite well. Floating Citronella Candles 7

You’ll also need some wicks, which you can purchase, or you can make your own, which is what I did.

Floating Citronella Candles 8Chuck your wax into the top of a double boiler and set that to melting over medium-low heat. Remember that if you use flaked wax, as I did here, that the melted volume will be about half what the solid volume is. Add minimum 3 drops citronella essential oil per cup of wax, and use half the amount of any additional scent. Once it’s all melted, let it cool for a little bit before pouring it. Floating Citronella Candles 5
While that was melting and cooling, I sat down with my wicks and some hot glue.

Floating Citronella Candles 2Because my wicks don’t have those nifty metal bases, I had to attach them to the bottom of the containers I was using. Don’t use too much glue – you actually want this stuff to come off. Floating Citronella Candles 9

I didn’t bother doing this for the silicone ones, but the metal dishes I rubbed with petroleum jelly to ensure that the candle would come out again when it was done.

Floating Citronella Candles 10Then I carefully filled each container. I actually used one of the empty silicone muffin cups as a scoop and it worked really well. Floating Citronella Candles 11

I used straws and pens to hold up the wicks that were determined to droop.

Floating Citronella Candles 12Then I forced myself not to touch them for like AN HOUR. We had Gren’s sister Bakhita staying with us for the weekend and neither dog would come near me because I stank of citronella. Floating Citronella Candles 14

Once they were solid and cool I carefully popped them out of their containers. For the metal ones I wiggled them loose on the sides first, then turned them upside down and gave them a whack with a small hammer, and then it was easy to pull them out by the wicks.

Floating Citronella Candles 15I’m storing them until the shindig but here you can see a sample of my “vision” for how I’m going to set them up. Floating Citronella Candles 16

Gelatin Plastic

Gelatine Plastic 21This is the beginning stage of a pretty major undertaking I’m … undertaking. But it’s taking some time to get all my pieces in order so I thought I’d start with a bit of a teaser post for you. Did you know you can make plastic out of gelatin and water? I kid you not. And once you start playing around with all the different things you can do with it, it opens up the possibility for lots of super fun crafts, and it’s totally something you can do with kids. To start, you need some gelatin (I used powdered), some food colouring (optional, if you want your plastic tinted), something to cut your plastic with (I have a cookie cutter for big circles and a straw for little ones), and a smooth, relatively flexible, shallow plastic or silicone dish. Many people use the flexible lids to margarine containers and the like. Gelatine Plastic 1

For every little pouch of gelatin you use, you’ll need 3 tablespoons water.

Gelatine Plastic 3I used 4 pouches in my experiments so I needed 12 tablespoons water, or 3/4 cup water. I plopped that in a small saucepan with food colouring and turned it to low heat. Gelatine Plastic 4

Tip in your gelatin and stir it gently to dissolve all of it.

Gelatine Plastic 5Don’t feel the need to whisk it or start a stirring frenzy as this will cause your gelatin to foam and you won’t have a nice clear result. You’ll get a bit of foam at the edges but nothing serious. Gelatine Plastic 6

Once you have heated the gelatin water enough that all the gelatin is dissolved and the liquid is clear again, pour it into your little dishes (I used two 6″ x 8″ dishes) and smooth it out with a spatula so that all the surfaces are covered. Try to pop any bubbles you see, but a few are okay.

Gelatine Plastic 7Now leave that puppy alone for about 45 minutes. After that time you will have gelatin that is set but is still flexible. You can peel it out of your dish super easily, but do it slowly as it can tear. Gelatine Plastic 8

I used a cookie cutter to cut out large circles, and a shot glass to cut out smaller ones.

Gelatine Plastic 9Then I used a straw to cut out hanging holes from all my circles. Gelatine Plastic 10

The excess is weird and floopy.

Gelatine Plastic 14But cool to play with. It’s totally edible (but doesn’t taste that great) and you can chuck it in the compost. Gelatine Plastic 12

Then I set the circles to dry. I did a lot of trial and error with drying these things. There’s a school that wants you to set them on a paper towel, under another paper towel, sealed just under the lid of a tupperware container, but I didn’t have much luck with that, nor did a bunch of the people who have already done this project and posted it on the internet. In this picture you can see I set the circles on parchment paper to try, but of course paper wrinkles when wet.

Gelatine Plastic 11So I ended up with these wrinkled chip things when these were dry (which takes a couple days). Gelatine Plastic 17

I had also laid a second piece of parchment over top to help hold the drying circles down and prevent them from warping, but it only helped a little, and the paper’s surface got copied onto the circles, leaving a matte finish.

Gelatine Plastic 18I found when I left them on a smooth surface (in this case, plastic wrap taped to my counter) then they warped more but they were totally clear, and I preferred that. Gelatine Plastic 20

I also let some dry completely inside the dishes, and ended up with a big sheet of (still warped) plastic.

Gelatine Plastic 19You can cut this stuff easily with scissors. Gelatine Plastic 23

And it’s also compostable.

Gelatine Plastic 24

It’s going to take me a while to get all the little circles made that I need but I have a due date of September so stay tuned!

Jam Session: Saskatoon Berries

Saskatoon Berry Jam 27You may remember that last year I surreptitiously liberated several service or Saskatoon berries from city property. This year it rained on Canada Day, our national holiday, and between thunderstorms I went out and hauled in about 4 litres of them. Everyone who passed through the kitchen during our Canada Day get-together asked where I’d gotten so many cranberries. I got a little testy explaining that they were service berries each time. I guess they DO kind of look like cranberries, but whatever. Saskatoon Berry Jam 2

I decided to make jam out of all my berries (and I actually ended up with so many berries that I had some leftover even after two batches of jam). I bought two dozen of the wee 175mL Bernardin canning jars and popped them into my canner to sterilize. I turned on the stove and brought those to a low boil.

Saskatoon Berry Jam 4I put the rings aside and put the discs in a heatproof bowl. Saskatoon Berry Jam 3

I heated a kettle and poured almost boiling water over the discs to let the rubber soften.

Saskatoon Berry Jam 9I gathered my other canning tools and had them handy. Always use non-metallic implements when making jam. Saskatoon Berry Jam 12

I get very irritated when I make jam because I always end up either burning myself on boiling sugar or burning myself with steam or hot water and everything ends up sticky and it’s already hot making jam in the summer so I decided to double my batch so I wouldn’t have to repeat the process in the same day. When you do this you have to make sure that your proportions are exact so you don’t mess up your ratios of acid to sugar to pectin.

Saskatoon Berry Jam 23The recipe I used is from the Bernardin website and advocates the use of the crystallized pectin, but the liquid stuff had been on sale so I used that instead. The process is a little different using liquid pectin in terms of when you add the sugar and stuff so the process below reflects that. Saskatoon Berry Jam 7

It’s a good idea to pre-cut the packages and sit them upright in a cup so they’re handy when you need them.

Saskatoon Berry Jam 15

Now that all your canning stuff is ready to go, you can get onto the actual jam component. Grab your berries, about 9 cups service berries (for a single batch, though in these photos that’s doubled), and plop them in a pan. I like to use my Lee Valley maslin pan because it’s kind of designed for jam and candy making and I love it. Plus it has a great handle that is very useful. Mush up your berries with a potato masher so they don’t explode on you later and so all the berry goodness gets out there early on. Saskatoon Berry Jam 6

Tip in as well 4 tablespoons lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon butter or margarine (apparently this helps prevent it from foaming too much but I don’t think it helped in my case).

Saskatoon Berry Jam 8Start heating the berries on medium-high and give them a good stirring. Measure out 6 cups granulated sugar and add that in as well. Saskatoon Berry Jam 10

You’ll find the berries very quickly become way more liquidy.

Saskatoon Berry Jam 14You want the berries to be at a decent boil that doesn’t go away when you stir (watch out for flying berry juice that can burn you). Saskatoon Berry Jam 16

When you get to that state, grab your pectin and quickly add it to the jam and give it a quick but thorough stirring.

Saskatoon Berry Jam 17Let it come back to a rolling boil again and leave that for 1 minute before removing the jam from the heat. Don’t burn yourself! Saskatoon Berry Jam 18

Skim off any foam with a non-metallic utensil. The jam foam was always a huge treat for us as kids to eat with a spoon. I offered it to the Pie and he refused it. I was miffed about that.

Saskatoon Berry Jam 19Grab your jars from the canner and drain them. Saskatoon Berry Jam 20

Fill them with your jam, leaving about 1/4″ of headspace between the jam and where the lid will go. Use a wet towel to wipe off any jam on the edge of the jar where the disc will need to be tightly sealed.

Saskatoon Berry Jam 22Plop the disks onto the jam jars and add the rings and tighten to fingertip tightness. Return the sealed jars to your canner and bring the water back to a boil and leave it for the time required by your canner and the number of jars you have in there. Saskatoon Berry Jam 21

I set my jars on a cookie rack to cool completely. These are the first batch of my DIY holiday gifts this year.

Saskatoon Berry Jam 26And I bought some overflow jars for myself, knowing I didn’t have enough jars for the jam I made. And I quickly filled the overflow jars, and then a bunch of plastic containers I had lying around. SO MUCH JAM. Saskatoon Berry Jam 25