Snap Happy!

Didja miss me? A whole twelve days without something new from Ali Does It? Shenanigans! We are starting to find ourselves in a routine with now month-old LongJohn (for the most part) so hopefully I’ll be able to get back to some kind of regular posting schedule in the near(ish) future.

Anyway, here’s something for you now. I recently found myself looking for a birthday gift for a mom friend of mine, who takes a good number of pictures of her kid on her phone. As a new parent too, I find myself doing the same thing – my phone is usually to hand when my actual camera is not (if you check out my instagram you can see what I mean …).

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So on my searches on the internet I found a company called Photojojo, and their specialty is photography. And they had these nifty kits with camera lenses you could attach to your phone! So I got one for her, and one for myself. Naturally.

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Each lens comes with several little adhesive rings so you can attach them to your phone, your partner’s phone, your tablet … whatever. The ring clips easily to a magnet set into the lens itself. No fuss, no muss.

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Simply stick the ring to your phone (that blue plastic comes off) and let it sit for half an hour.

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I got all the bells and whistles in my kit.

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Including this wee pouch that holds all the lenses!

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Here’s the ultra fisheye lens securely sitting on my phone …

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And its effect.

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You have to zoom in a bit so that the lens itself doesn’t show up in the shot:

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I’m especially interested in the wee macro lens that also came with the kit. Most of the stuff I do here on Ali Does It is in macro so I think I can have some serious fun with it. Stay tuned!

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Grapefruit Poppyseed Soap

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After my disastrous start with melt-and-pour soap, I’ve been leery of trying it again. It was way more of an accomplishment for me to learn how to make soap entirely from scratch, though nobody will let me near the chemicals these days. And with melt-and-pour soaps, you already know the chemical reaction is going to work, so newbies like me have much more freedom to experiment with the add-in ingredients. And this mixture from A Beautiful Mess has been haunting me for ages with its deliciousness. I had to do it.

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The simplicity of the ingredients is a definite bonus, and the fact that it’s so quick and easy to put together and then you can ignore it for a while is also a plus. I made this while painting two sets of lawn furniture so obviously my attention was divided. All you need is 1 grapefruit, 3 tablespoons poppy seeds, peppermint essential oil, grapefruit essential oil, and 2lb goat’s milk melt-and-pour soap base (which you can buy in craft stores and from Amazon). You also need something to pour your soap into to harden – I used the silicone trays I bought for making my jelly fish mobile.

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Grab your soap base. Apparently you can melt it in the container provided in your microwave but I decided that was unwise.

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Chop it into cubes.

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Plop those cubes in the top of a double-boiler and let that sucker melt for a while.

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You’ll find a skin develops as it melts. Just stir that back in.

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While that’s a-meltin’, go ahead and zest the entire grapefruit. Mmm, lovely.

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Then eat your grapefruit. It’s good for you.

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Gather your poppy seeds as well, about 3 tablespoons.

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Once the soap has fully melted, remove it from the heat and tip in your grapefruit zest and poppy seeds. Shake in about 12 drops peppermint essential oil, and about 30 drops grapefruit essential oil, and stir that in quite well.

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Pour the melted soap into your moulds to harden. You can use individual moulds if you like but mine was a big block rectangle – the soap is soft enough to cut afterwards so you can chop the soap bars down to size when they’re ready.

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The soap will harden in a couple of hours, but if it’s hot or humid where you are I would recommend leaving it for a few more hours just to be on the safe side. When I tipped out my soap I did find I had quite a bit of settling with the poppy seeds, but that’s okay. It means my soap will have an exfoliating side to it. I suppose I could have stirred it a bit while it was cooling, but I was painting furniture, so …

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I chopped it up into regular rectangles.

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The rounded corner bits I re-melted and poured into the same mould but with the corners blocked off so they had sharper edges.

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These make great gifts!

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Mocha Latte Fudge

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This recipe from Real Simple is not your typical fudge, but it’s relatively easy to concoct and would make a nice gift to your favourite coffeephile. You don’t even need a candy thermometer to make it, which is handy for those of you who aren’t familiar with making candy.

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Do keep a close eye on it, however, as I burnt the bottom of one of my pots quite badly the first time I made it.

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Start by lining an 8″ square pan with parchment paper and spraying it with cooking spray. I had neither a square pan nor cooking spray at the time so I used this 6″ x 10″ pan and I buttered it instead. You do you.

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Set that aside for a spell and grab a large pot. Dump in 1/2-lb butter, 2 cups brown sugar, and 1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk.

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Stir that frequently over medium-low heat until it’s all melted and starts to boil.

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Then tip in 1/2 cup chocolate chips and 1 tablespoon espresso powder. Once that’s mixed in, stop stirring and leave the whole thing to boil (but not burn!) for 8 minutes.

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Remove the pan from the heat and stir in 1 tablespoon vanilla. Remember, it’s gonna fizz.

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Let the mixture cool for 10 minutes; then grab an electric mixer and beat the crap out of it for about 5 minutes, until it looks and feels like almost-melted peanut butter.

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Spill that into the prepared pan and smooth it down. Shove it in the fridge for 4 hours, until it’s all firm. Run a knife around the outside edge and use the parchment to pull the whole thing out of the pan. Cut it into cubes.

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EAT. (Store leftovers sealed in the fridge. PAH. Like there will be leftovers.)

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Mags and her Merry Maids

Happy Thanksgiving!

Mags and the Dutchman are getting married in a little over a MONTH and I couldn’t be happier. Yesterday her bridesmaids held a small shower for her and this is what I gave her (and them) as a giftie. I put one of these together for my own wedding and for every wedding I’ve ever been a bridesmaid in, and I have used everything in it in lifesaving, wedding-emergency kinds of situations.

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We start with a large tote, which can be coordinated to match the bridesmaids’ dresses. This one is reversible. I have a similar one that Cait bought me a few years ago and I love it so I know it will come in handy later. The tote is big enough to hold sweaters or scarves, cameras, phones, makeup, flip flops … all the stuff you need to bring from place to place but you don’t want the bride to have to deal with. Everything the bridal party needs is in one bag so nothing gets left behind when they move from place to place.

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Then we put stuff in it that we know will come in handy on the big day. There’s always first aid to consider, so we’ve got bandaids, blister relief (because everyone wears dumb shoes to weddings – except me), Tums for an upset stomach, Gravol for a queasy stomach, and Advil for a sore noggin.

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Last minute hair repair: elastics, bobby pins, and hair spray. And you can use those for all sorts of things. Elastics can replace broken bustle strings and hold together boutonnieres. Bobby pins can hold hems and ties in place. And hair spray can keep that run in your stocking from getting any bigger.

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Same with clothing repair: lint roller, safety pins, Tide To Go, and hockey tape, the world’s greatest adhesive. At Atlas’s wedding, when her petticoat turned out to be way too long, I rolled it up from the waistband and taped it in place and it stayed all night. Not shown as well is a little tiny set of sewing needles with thread matching the colour of all the dresses. Hockey tape is definitely the go-to, though. I’ve even used it in place of double-sided tape to keep certain parts of dresses in their proper place.

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For other touchups we have a compact mirror, gum, lotion, lip balm, Purel, tissues, and makeup wipes (for smudges). The gum and the lip balm are handy for those stolen kisses behind the scenes, and the tissues and wipes for those tender moments when you end up with mascara all down your face. And the Purel is great for after those cute pictures with the family’s younger set, when you need to de-stickify yourself, STAT.

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And of course some chocolate!

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Some of the smaller stuff went into a smaller bag, and the Purel handily attached to the handle of the tote.

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What other items have you found super handy in these sorts of Big Day situations?

Jelly(fish) Mobile

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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Next I sorted all my discs into rainbow order.

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

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And started attaching them to the discs.

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And I did that a million times.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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Almost there …

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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.

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Don’t Fence Me In – Make Baskets Instead

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This is another wee project I picked up to keep me from going stir crazy when I was sick last weekend. I’m behind the trend on this again (surprise, surprise), but I’ve wanted to make these custom wire baskets for ever. The Pie as a rule is against wire baskets because he always feels like he’s going to jam his fingers in the holes and hurt himself, but then again when it comes to me getting up to shenanigans when he’s out of town, I’m not really considering anyone’s happiness but my own. For these baskets all you need is some welded hardware mesh, usually used for fencing off gardens and things like that (this one has 1/2″ square holes), a wire cutter, and a pair of pliers. Or, if you’re lucky, you can get a two-in-one that’s both cutters and pliers. And you’ll need some patience and strong wrists. This is going to take a while.

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I was warned that when I opened the package it might spring open and seriously harm me.

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The only thing between me and certain death was this little bitty wire.

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When I undid the wire, the whole roll spontaneously sprang open — about three inches. I was expecting a large-scale disruption as it fully unraveled and let me tell you, I was disappointed.

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But I kept the wire. Because I always keep wire. And ribbons. And small pieces of string. Man am I a hoarder or what.

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Then it was easy to clip out the basket frame in the size I wanted – the best part about this project is being able to make them exactly the size you need. Make sure to leave those nice sharp open prongs. You’ll need at least one set of those on each seam.

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Folding it up was a little harder than I expected.

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But all the edges matched which was good.

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Folding the prongs down over the other side of the basket took some time. And I made a bunch of baskets on this day. So that took a lot of time.

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I also folded down the tops for a smoother edge.

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It’s just a wee basket.

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But it can hold things like coasters.

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Or my orchid.

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I even made a round one, out of scraps. It was not as hard as I thought it would be.

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I made a bunch more and even painted them for another project I started that weekend, so stay tuned for the results shortly!

Matchbox Gifts

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My mother is absolutely obsessed with match boxes and the things you can put in them, so I kind of had a lightbulb moment when trying to figure out a present for her birthday last week (normally I handle the cake but this year my dad insisted that he had it under control). If you have a mother with a similar fetish, maybe this will work out for you for a nice Mother’s Day present.

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For my mother’s wee giftie, it was just a silly little thing: I decided to give her MAGIC BEANS. But instead of magic beans it was actual bean seeds that she could plant shortly in the garden. And then we could eat the beans. I also gave her some rosemary seeds because I killed her rosemary tree while she was in Florida.

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I love these little tiny glass jars you can get at the dollar store.

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Don’t worry, I DID label all the little jars.

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I decided to make a matchbox from scratch so I could ensure it was the right size to fit my beans. In order to do that I downloaded a template from the internet. I cut it out and used scrapbook paper (it’s a decently stiff cardstock) for my boxes.

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I used a craft knife to get things exact, but it’s a pretty easy template to cut out.

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Then a little bit of strategic adhesion with craft glue.

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And the beans, they fit! They’re a little loose though.

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So I padded the bottoms of the boxes with a bit of felt.

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I broke this photo. It’s okay, though, because it wasn’t a very good one anyway.

 

Then tied up both boxes with pretty ribbon to give to my favourite mother!

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Match boxes (even custom-made ones) are a great creative way to package up smaller gifts of jewelry or what-have-you. Keep that in mind the next time you’re doing some complex wrapping and you don’t have a perfect box to hand.