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.

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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!

Impressions Ornaments

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I saw this leaf imprint necklace at Happy Hour Projects and I thought it was neat. While I wasn’t that interested in the jewelry aspect of it, I thought that the technique would make for some great Christmas ornaments. What you need to do this is simply some oven-bake polymer clay (like Sculpey) and some leaves or other items to make impressions in the clay. Everything else, the silicone work surface, the craft paint, the bits and bobs, those are all up to you. A note on polymer clay – it is not food-safe. Whatever you use to cut or otherwise work the clay should not be used for food items.

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So. Grab your clay. I used a plain white. Work some of it between your hands to soften it and then flatten it onto your work surface. I’d aim for a thickness between 1/8″ and 1/4″.

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Then take a leaf or whatever else you’d like to impress, and place it on the clay. This leaf is about 2″ wide, to give you an idea of scale.

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Press the leaf into the surface of the clay so that it leaves a full and detailed impression. You won’t get as much detail with the small leaves on polymer clay as you would on natural clay (like with the clay leaf bowls) simply because the substance is more resilient.

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Carefully remove the leaf and then cut it out with a cookie cutter or knife. You can cut it off-centre or however you would like. I’m not grading you on these.

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Use a skewer or some other pokey object to put a hole through for stringing.

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We even got Grenadier in on the action, though he wasn’t happy about it. If you want him to step on something, suddenly his paw is a delicate flower and he can do no harm. If you don’t want him to step on something, he will immediately put his full 40lbs of weight behind it.

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So these impressions were not as deep as I would like.

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But they worked out well enough that I figured they’d do.

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Place your finished items on a sheet of parchment and bake at 275°F for 15 minutes per 1/4″ of thickness of your clay. Let them cool completely before handling.

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Done.

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Now we paint. If you want. I used some craft paint  and a small paintbrush to swipe colour over the impression.

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This one I used a dry paper towel to wipe it off, which left the colour on the majority of the ornament.

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This one I just filled in the leaf part as close as I could.

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Then I used a wet flannel cloth to wipe it gently off.

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The Gren ones took a few applications of paint.

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Then I strung them with some hemp line and some wee bells.

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These would make a great addition to your gift wrap arsenal, a cute personalized stocking stuffer, or you could give a few to a person just starting to collect their own Christmas ornaments.

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Sweet Heart Place Markers

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On Friday we’re having a few people over for dinner.  It’s not that we really celebrate Valentine’s Day, but it’s a good excuse to have a super fancy dinner party — where all the attendees are wearing sweat pants.  And really I think that Valentine’s Day is overhyped as a generically heterosexual romantic thing when really, why can’t we use it as a time to celebrate our love for friends and family?

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Anyway, this is the idea I came up with for place markers for each diner’s plate: SALT DOUGH!  You remember salt dough, right?  I guarantee you made it at least once as a child, or made it for a child as an adult.  If not, then NOW IS YOUR CHANCE!

It’s easy peasy.  Preheat your oven to 250°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or not, your choice).  Start with a bowl, 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup fine salt, and 1/2 cup water.  I like to add in a pair of gloves because this stuff is majorly drying to the skin, and you’re gonna have to knead it.  Plus I intend to colour it with gel paste colouring, which has a tendency to stain.

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Mix the flour and salt together, then add the water in bit by bit.  Sometimes you won’t need it all.  Today, given that Ottawa is SO FREAKING dry right now (neither Gren nor the Pie will come near me because I’m a walking static shock machine), I used it all.

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Use your hands to get everything properly mixed together.

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The dough will be very dry.  If it sticks to your hands then you need more flour.

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Here’s where I added the gel paste.  You can leave that out and paint the ornaments later, or leave them as is for a nice soft white finish.

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I got bored kneading in the gel paste and ended up liking this marbled texture so I rolled with it.

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And rolled it out with a rolling pin.  Not too thick, or the dough will puff up in the oven and take too long to dry, and not too thin, or it will just break.  But it’s not rocket science, so don’t worry too much about it. You can always re-roll scraps, too. It’s not like you’re worried about it being tough — you don’t eat this stuff.

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Then I used a cookie cutter to slice out the shapes I wanted.  Decorate them however you want with other dough or whatever. I was originally going to imprint my guests names into the soft dough, but I forgot about the whole gluten-equals-springy-dough thing and it didn’t work out.  Oh well.

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I used a skewer to poke a hole so they could be hung them up if the guests wanted to.

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In the end I had fifteen 3″ hearts, with only a little scrap of dough left.

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Lay the ornaments flat on the parchment and bake for an hour, flipping them halfway through.  If your oven burns hot, put the rack on the upper portion of the oven and/or turn down the heat if possible.

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Remove the “cooked” ornaments to a rack to cool completely.

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I used a silver Sharpie to write my guest names on each ornament and strung them with coloured thread.

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The blank hearts I hung from the light fixture in the middle of the dining room, to give a bit of height to the table decoration.

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For the Birds: Edible Holiday Ornaments

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For the Birds 13

Merry Christmas to everyone!  I hope you are all enjoying the winter holiday season, whichever tradition you celebrate.

Today we’re going to celebrate by feeding our backyard birds.  Both the Pie’s parents and my parents are supremely fond of the feathered creatures that appear outside their windows, so we thought we’d make them a little holiday treat, courtesy of Design Sponge.

First, I’d like to show you a little behind the scenes shot of my office during my Christmas gift-making chaos.  I made these on a tiny patch of floor I’d cleared specifically for the purpose.  It’s amazing what you can hide in a close-up shot …

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Aaaand the closeup.  You will need these things: waxed paper, a spoon, a giant bowl, a tablespoon measure, corn syrup, flour,

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and a honking hunk of birdseed.

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Plop 2 cups bird seed in your bowl with 3/4 cup all purpose flour (we doubled our recipe, hence the enormous amount pictured).

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Give that a stir, then drop in 3 tablespoons corn syrup and 1/2 cup water.  Stir that up too.  It’s gross.

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Prepare your moulds.  You can use cookie cutters on top of waxed paper, but I used these cake moulds I picked up at the Superstore.  If your surfaces are non-stick, that’s cool, but if not you might want to spritz them with a bit of cooking spray first.

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Spoon your sticky birdseed into your moulds and pack it down with a spoon.

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I had extra (obviously), so I made little pucks of bird seed in a muffin tin as well.

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Use a paint brush or straw or pencil to wiggle a hole at the top of each of your bird seed packs. Don’t make it too close to the top of the ornament, as you’ll need enough dried birdseed there to support the weight of the thing.

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Let them dry overnight and then tip them out onto waxed paper.  If they’re still wet, leave them longer to dry or, if you’re in a hurry, bake them for an hour at the lowest temperature in your oven.

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See, it kind of looks like a Christmas ornament …

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I used butcher’s twine to string up my ornaments.

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Then I wrapped them up in waxed paper and tied them with string to give as gifts.

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For the bird lover in every family.

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Newfoundland Fighting Jam Jams

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For some reason I still don’t understand, I volunteered to do some baking for prizes to give out at the Pie’s final video game tournament before we move.  Because the group is called Newfoundland Fighting Jam, the Pie and I thought it would be funny to make up some Newfoundland Fighting Jam Jams.

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You may have heard of jam jams.  From what I understand, the general version is a round sugar cookie sandwich with jam in the middle, where the top cookie may or may not have a hole in it.  The Newfoundland version of this uses a softer molasses cookie.  If you don’t want to make your own you can order some from Newfoundland’s own Purity Factory.

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Of course, because we can’t leave well enough alone, we had to mess with the recipe a little bit, and we used our ninjabread cutters to make the cookies.  Keep in mind that below is a doubled recipe, so unless you want a million cookies, I suggest you cut it in half.

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Start with 1 cup butter and 1/2 cup shortening (both at room temperature).

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Cream those together in an electric mixer with 1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar (the darker the sugar, the fluffier your cookie will be, due to the high concentration of molasses).  Beat the crap out of those ingredients until they’re super fluffy.

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Now beat in 3 eggs, one at a time, waiting for each one to be fully incorporated before you add in the next one.  If you want to halve this recipe, I would use one egg plus the yolk of another.

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Add in 1 cup molasses (fancy or whatever, whichever intensity of flavour you prefer) and 3 teaspoons vanilla extract.

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Look at that silky, creamy molassesy goodness.

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In a separate bowl, sift together 6 cups all-purpose flour, 4 teaspoons baking powder, 2 teaspoons ground allspice, and 2 teaspoons ground ginger.

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Slowly add your dry ingredients to your wet ingredients until you form a nice soft dough. And I mean really soft. Resist the urge to add more flour. The squishier your dough is now, the squishier your cookies will be.

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Split the dough into 4 parts (2 if you’re halving it) and chill it for at least an hour. Two is preferable. And you want to have all your working surfaces, tools, hands, etc., as cold as possible while you’re working with it.

When you’re ready to go, preheat your oven to 350°F, line some baking sheets with parchment paper, flour a work surface, and get your rolling pin handy. And you’re going to need a lot of flour. Like for the work surface, for your pin, for your hands, for the dough … It’s tacky stuff.

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Working with one part of your dough at a time, leaving the others in the refrigerator, roll it out to about 1/4″ thickness (or about half a centimetre, if you’re feeling metric), and cut it out with your cookie cutters.  If you’re doing a circular cookie, some jam jam aficionados like to cut a small hole in the top cookie for the jam to poke through, but that’s up to you, my friend.

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If you’re making something other than circles or symmetrical shapes, remember to flip your cutter over so you can make a top and bottom to your cookie.  Our ninja cutters had a duller edge on top, so it made it a little harder, but we persevered.

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Eventually we developed an easy system, but it took a bit of time. You will probably sort something out yourself.

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If your dough gets too soft, huck it back in the fridge for a bit to stiffen up.

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Bake your cookies, rotating the pans halfway through and keeping a close eye on them, for somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes, depending on the heat of your oven and the size of your cookie.  You want these babies to be nice and soft, so make sure to pull them out before they get too brown.  If they don’t look done yet, don’t worry — they will continue to cook on the baking sheet.

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Spot the corgi for bonus points!

Allow the cookies to cool completely, then take a wodge of your favourite jam (I used raspberry here, but you could go full-Newfie and use partridgeberry or bakeapple if you want to be truly authentic) and spread it thinly on the bottom of one of your cookies. These ones used about a teaspoon of jam per cookie.  Press that cookie’s pair on top of the jam and then heave the whole batch into a warm oven (like 250°F) for a few minutes to make the jam all cement-y.  This also warms up the cookies again and makes them soft so you can do a little bit of repair work if any of them got bent too out of shape.

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TADA.  Newfoundland Fighting Jam Jams.  A mouthful to say.  A mouthful to eat.  A win-win situation for everyone!

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I made this up after doing a bit of research, and my main inspiration for ingredients came from these four down-home recipes, in addition to my own family recipe for Molasses Gems:

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Missing the Rock: Jam-Jams

Salt Junk: Jam Jams Cookies

Mmm…ade: Newfoundland Jam Jams

Rock Recipes: Soft Molasses Cookies or Giant Jam-Jams

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