Lemon Balm Tea

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Lemon balm (Melissa oficinalis) is one of those magic herbs with many medicinal properties. Among other things, lemon balm tea can settle upset stomachs, calm colic, and help you sleep better. So I’ve been drying the lemon balm that comes out of my garden, and I stole my mother’s as well when she cut her garden down for the winter.

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For several days my house was full of minty-smelling bundles. It doesn’t take very long to dry, which is awesome.

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Then I pulled the leaves and flowers off all the stems. A handful of the loose leaves makes a delightful pot of tea.

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You can sweeten it with honey if you like, or even chill it for a refreshing beverage in the summer.

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Loose leaves aren’t all that practical for me, though, because I wanted to give some of this marvelous tea to people as gifts.  I ordered 200 tea bags off Amazon. They took forever to get here from Hong Kong but were so cheap I didn’t have to pay tax or shipping to get them.

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I got the large size as with dried larger leaves like this you tend to need to use quite a few to make a whole pot of tea.

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Then I stuffed all the bags and tied them off.

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I ended up with 96 bags of tea. That’s a lot of tea.

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I made little tea tags for my tea. I used a circle punch and a hole punch to create the tag itself from cardstock.

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Then I carved a giant T out of a rubber stamp blank.

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Stampy stampy stampy.

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I tied the tags to the bags and stuffed them into wooden boxes I picked up from Dollarama for three bucks, together with a little blurb about the tea itself.

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Fun gift, eh?

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Best of Friends.

Okay, so the thing I made for the Pie’s birthday, remember that? Well if it wasn’t quite your style, maybe this one, using the same technique, will be more to your liking.

Cait’s dog, Ruby, is very sweet, but, being a dachshund, she doesn’t really get along with most other dogs.  When Cait became  mom to an anxious golden retriever named Cooper, we all held our breath to see what would happen.  It turns out we needn’t have worried.  Ruby enjoys having a big brother to boss around and take care of, and Cooper’s anxiety is so much less with a constant companion. I took this super cute photo of the two of them at a cottage last summer (for the microsecond they actually sat still).  They are the best of friends.

Cottage Life

Now, Cait’s birthday is only four days after the Pie’s, so, working on the success of the Pie’s gel transfer painting, I decided to do something along the same lines.  I messed this up before I got it right, so I’ll show you what I did.

First, I had to alter the photo to make it fit on the 16″ x 20″ canvas, and change the colours a bit in the photo to make sure both dogs stood out.  It’s hard when you have a dog with a black face and another  with an almost white face to make sure they both show up.  So I put a vintage filter on the photo, put a light vignette at the edges, and boosted the contrast a little.  These things tend to work better with high-contrast pictures.  Then I flipped it horizontally so it would come out facing the right way.

*RoobyCooper - FINAL

I had the picture printed out at Staples, and because it was so big it came out on their high gloss poster paper. My first mistake.

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I couldn’t find my sponge brush, so I just used a regular plastic bristle paint brush to smear on the gloss gel medium.  My second mistake.

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Then I used my squeegee to smooth the photo face-down onto the gel medium-ed canvas.  The centre of the canvas was pretty flexible, so I should have put something underneath to support it as I pushed around on top.  My third mistake.

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You’re supposed to leave it to dry overnight, but after an hour I could see that the thing wasn’t working.  The poster paper was too thick to conform to the huge grooves in the gel medium left by my paintbrush, and there were giant streaks everywhere.  Because there was no support in the centre of the picture when I pushed down with the squeegee, there were whole spaces where the medium hadn’t adhered at all to the photo.

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Part of Ruby’s face was completely missing.

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No worries.  I can fix this.  I scraped off the parts of the gel medium that were still wet and left the thing to dry completely.  Then I covered the thing completely in a few coats of antique white craft paint.

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It left a bit of a texture, but nothing that couldn’t be smoothed over with a new batch of medium and some careful application.

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To get the picture printed on thinner paper (the regular 25lb stuff that comes out of photocopiers), I had to split the photo in half, so each part measured 10″ x 16″ and would fit nicely on a tabloid (11″ x 17″) piece of paper. You need a photocopier or laser printer for this job, as the ink in an inkjet goes through too many layers of the paper and will not work.

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Here I am trimming the white edges off the paper.  My paper cutter is really nice, but it isn’t big enough to do the long edge of the 17″ sheet.  I managed, but it was dicey.

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This time I put some books under the centre of the canvas to hold it up.

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I used a sponge brush AND the squeegee to get the medium evenly across the whole thing.

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I did my best to line up the photos as closely as I could, though it wasn’t perfect.  I was very careful with the squeegee when pressing it down not to press too hard in any one area.  I examined it minutely for bubbles and pushed out any that I found.  Then I left it the hell alone overnight.

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The next day I had roofers come to fix our leak so I hid out in the kitchen while chaos reigned.

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I used my handy spray bottle full of water to wet the paper.

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Then I began to rub off the wet layers of paper.  I used just my fingers, because I didn’t want to rub too hard on the dogs’ faces and accidentally remove the colour.

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I ended up wetting it and rubbing it at least three times before I was happy with how much white paper I took off.

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It’s a little rough around the edges, but it’s supposed to be, so it looks good with the vintage cast of the photo.

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Even the dividing line turned out mostly okay.

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Because there is a big chunk of empty deck space in the centre of the photo, I wanted to put in Ruby and Cooper’s initials, to make it extra cute.

I freehanded the letters onto some card stock.

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I then painted the card stock.  With glitter craft paint.  Just to be ridiculous.

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When those were dry I glued them to the canvas with Mod Podge and left that overnight.

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I then painted it with two coats of gloss polyurethane to seal it.

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And added picture hanging hardware, same way I did for the Pie’s present. So shiny …

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And there it is!

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Three-Dimensional Name Plate

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I was perusing Not Martha a while back and she was talking about a company called graypants, which specializes in products made from recycled cardboard.  While that is totally cool and I am behind that all the way (someday I will make/buy these gorgeous scraplights), what struck me about this in particular was graypants’ company sign.  It was the company name, carved out of several sheets of stacked cardboard.  My first thought was that is so nifty.  My second thought was I can do that.

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So I did.  With my nieces’ names.  I get these sheets of cardboard stuffed into some of my book orders at work as packing material, so they were a good (and lightweight and small, thereby mailable) surface to work on.

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First I picked fonts to work with.  They had to be easy enough to cut out of cardboard, but also with enough difference in them to sort of semi-express my nieces’ very different personalities.  Hard to do in a font.

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I printed the names, in their respective fonts, out and from that created a stencil on card stock for each. This was easily done by flipping the name over and tracing it in pencil on the back.

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And then flipping it onto the card stock and tracing it again on the front.

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Which left a faint pencil outline for me to cut.

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Then I got to work.  Tracing the outline of the name twice onto each cardboard sheet, I carefully cut it out with an Xacto knife and some very small scissors.

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This is definitely the most time-consuming part of the whole thing, and is tricky if you’re working with large or dull scissors.  I regretted my choice of that G early in the game, but kept going because it looked good.

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I made each name ten layers thick, and glued the layers of each letter together with Mod Podge, which I think is my new favourite substance.

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Then I took some acrylic craft paint and coloured in the sides of the thing, just for visual interest.

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And then I painted the surface of the letters in a slightly different colour, mostly to hide my accidents when I failed to colour inside the lines.

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Then I glued all the letters to each other, in the way that they best fit in terms of a glue-to-surface ratio. I used hot glue to stick the letters to each other, just for security.

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I left off hanging materials, because I’m not sure what the girls will want to do with them and so I wanted to give them some leeway.

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But I think they turned out rather well. The girls can put them on their bedroom door, their wall, or their desk — whatever they want!

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