Busy Board

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I didn’t take as many photos of this as I should have, but it kind of came together in fits and starts when I could work on it and I may have forgotten my camera a few times. In any case, this is a great gift for the toddlers in your life, and it’s very simple to make: grab a board, paint it up, add bits of hardware and you’re set. It’s all the stuff that small children are fascinated with around the house in one convenient spot where they can play with it safely.

So I started with a wide pine board, which I cut in half. I made one for Rosa and one for Gen. Zod for Christmas.

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Drilled screw holes at all the corners so it could be mounted on the wall for added security.

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I later put felt at the corners as well so it could also lay flat on the floor without damaging anything.

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Sanded and spray painted it.

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Added stripes to make it look like a construction sign.

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They didn’t come out perfectly, but if you’ve ever seen the types of signs the construction workers make around here this is a freaking masterpiece in comparison.

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Then I gathered an assortment of hardware: slide bolt (also known as a barrel bolt), casters from my old computer desk, a padlock, spring door bumper (the kind that makes farty noises when you twang it), a hinge from a door and a security chain. I discovered that if you screw one side of a hinge too tightly to its surface the hinge won’t turn (or won’t be moveable by a toddler in any case), so make sure to adjust that accordingly if you use one.

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Then I just painted around them with some craft paint for visual interest and added a little caution sign at the top. Now it’s a toddler trap, because they can’t stay away!

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Peanut Butter Pumpkin Dog Cookies

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When it comes to present-giving in my circle of friends, you’d be a bad friend if you didn’t think about the needs and desires of our furry family members. That’s why I made those cat toys back in the fall. And that’s why I’m making these healthy-yet-tasty dog treats.

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Start by preheating your oven to 350°F and line some baking sheets with parchment paper. In the bowl of your electric mixer, plop in 3 cups flour (I prefer a gluten-free blend because wheat is not that great for dog digestion), 1/2 cup oats (I used oat meal here because I had some that needed using), and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Give that a stir.

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Next drop in 1 cup canned puréed pumpkin, 2 eggs, and 3 tablespoons peanut butter.

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Mix that until it’s all well combined. The dough will be pretty stiff, which is why I prefer to let the mixer handle it.

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Now you *can* roll the dough out on a floured surface and cut it with cookie cutters and make it all cute and stuff, but I’m lazy and plus the dough was pretty sticky so I opted to pipe the dough instead. I dumped it in a large Ziploc bag, snipped the tip, and started laying out little dough logs.

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The perfect size for the smaller dogs in your life. Eventually the bag split so I took little buttons of dough, rolled them into a ball in my hand, flattened them between my palms, and baked those too.

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Bake the cookies for about 20 minutes, until dry and crispy, and then let them cool.

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Here are the logs.

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Here are the buttons.

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Here is Gren waiting patiently for his cookie. Look at that focus. The final shot of him taking the cookie was a giant blur because he was so focused so I’ll leave you with this one …

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Saponification!

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I like to learn one big major skill in DIY every holiday season and turn it into my showcase gift for friends and family. This year, the Pie and I learned how to make soap, from scratch. There are four main methods of soap preparation:

Melt and pour: basically you get a kit containing a block of solid soap, goat’s milk, glycerin, whatever, and some nice moulds and you melt the soap in the microwave, mix it with pretty flowers, and pour it into the moulds. You may recall a disastrous outcome we had once with one of these kits. They are, however, super trendy right now and many DIY bloggers have instructions on making pretty layered soaps and things.

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Hand-milling: more or less a fancier version of melt-and-pour, in that you grate up a bunch of super nice soaps, melt them down, add things to them, and then chuck them in a mould.

Cold process: This is the from-scratchiest way to make soap, wherein you combine specific oils with a lye solution and cause the chemical reaction that leads to saponification. SCIENCE! Of course this is the version we did. Do not do this process with small children, as it is quite dangerous. To start, I began with the very clear and simple instructions I found on Garden Therapy.

Hot process: Essentially the same as cold process, except you speed things up by “cooking” the soap, usually in a slow cooker. We did a bit of this with one of the batches that didn’t turn out right the first time.

Safety Equipment

Lye is an extremely strong chemical, and you’re using it in a pretty violent reaction in this DIY, so safety should be your number one priority.  Lye can burn or blind you and inhaling its fumes is a really bad idea as well. You must, therefore, have good quality safety goggles (the kind that touch your face all around) and some strong rubber gloves with long sleeves.

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Wear long sleeved shirts and long pants, and make sure to wear shoes while you do this. If you have a chemical ventilator, I recommend you use it as well. This one cost me about thirty bucks at Home Depot and it’s great.

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Keep a large amount of white vinegar handy. The acid in the vinegar will neutralize the strong base of the lye should you happen to spill it on yourself.

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Work in an area as well that has access to fresh air either through a window or a fume hood (the first time we did this I went outside). I do not want to feel responsible for you people if you die while doing one of my DIYs. So please behave yourselves and BE CAREFUL!

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Non-Chemical Equipment

You need a lot of stuff for soap-making that doesn’t necessarily tie into ingredients and/or safety equipment.

You’ll need at least 3 heatproof bowls (glass or metal, doesn’t really matter), and at least 3 silicone spatulas.  I should also note that once you use these tools to make soap you probably shouldn’t use them in connection with food anymore, so plan accordingly. I used old spatulas I was going to throw out and/or picked up at the Dollar Store, and bowls I grabbed from Value Village for a few dollars each.

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You’ll need a double boiler or access to a microwave. I prefer using a double boiler because it’s easier to measure temperatures that way.

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You also need a highly accurate scale and thermometer. For that reason, a digital scale and digital instant read thermometer are probably best.

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If your scale is super tiny, like mine is, you’ll also need some wee dishes for measuring your oils. If you have a big one, you can measure your oils all together in one big bowl.

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You need something to put your soap in when it’s ready. You can use all sorts of fancy actual soap moulds for this, but the amounts I used in the recipes below produce enough soap to fill a 1L (~1qt) milk carton, which has a nice non-stick interior. Just make sure you wash and dry the carton carefully first.

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Also handy will be a set of old towels or blankets for wrapping the soap cartons.

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Not shown, but that is more or less necessary, is an immersion blender (again, you can’t use it again for food, but you can buy a new one off Amazon for twenty bucks). I dedicated my old one to the cause and bought a shiny new one for myself.

You may also need a wide mouth canning funnel, for pouring your soap mixture into your cartons. You might not need it, depending on how steady your hand is, but I found it very useful.

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Soap-Making Ingredients

Now we’re getting down to business. Soap at its most basic is composed of oil/fat and lye. That’s it. How you put those together is up to you. So you’ll need assorted oils (vegetable, castor, olive, coconut, etc.) to get you started. I recommend doing a little bit of research into the different properties of each oil and what they do before you make your selections. I found this article to be particularly helpful.

To “flavour” your soaps you will also need an assortment of essential oils and some dried and ground herbs. The essential oils will add your desired scent while the dried herbs will add texture, and ground herbs will contribute to colour. Here is a handy list of ingredients that will change the appearance of your soap.

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Very importantly, you’ll need some distilled water. Use distilled over filtered or tap water simply because the varying mineral compositions in undistilled water will make your results unpredictable.

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Equally important is lye. That’s what makes the magic happen. For solid soap, you want to get yourself sodium hydroxide (potassium hydroxide is used for liquid soaps). Get the lye that comes in free-flowing crystals or pellets – they’re easier to measure and less likely to get everywhere.

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For those Canadians who don’t have access to specialty soap suppliers, you can purchase lye at Home Hardware.

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And the final magic ingredient you will need is a LYE CALCULATOR. I found the SoapCalc to be helpful and easy to use (and it’s free). There’s also a handy link in the top menu that explains all the calculations. Basically, you begin by figuring out how much soap you want to produce – for our purposes, 700g soap fits in a 1L milk carton. From there you calculate what percentages of oils you want to go into your soap, and then the software will do the calculations to tell you the exact measurements of oil, lye, and water that you will need. And then it tells you the quality of soap you will produce with those numbers. And it does it in metric AND imperial. Then you can print it out and keep it handy. I love things that do math for me.

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The Cold Process Process:

Once you get the hang of this (i.e., like me, you do it five or six times in a row), it’s super easy – you just have to pay attention so you don’t hurt yourself and make sure your measurements are accurate. One of the most important things you need to do first is measure out your raw ingredients as accurately as possible.

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You’ll notice in this, our first batch, that we used olive oil as one of our ingredients. Olive oil, we learned later, is hard to make into soap because it doesn’t always form a trace (you’ll see in a little bit what we mean), so we actually had a lot of trouble with this first batch. But that’s good for you guys, because I can show you how we fixed it. And we had no problems with any subsequent batch. Anyway, keep measuring out your ingredients. Accuracy is key.

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When all your ingredients are ready and laid out (this includes the water for your lye solution and all your flavourings), then you can put all the oils together (except for the scented ones) and start gently heating them in your double boiler with one of your heatproof bowls.

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A note on temperature: Always, always, ALWAYS make sure that your oils and your lye solution are the same temperature when you mix them together. This is very important. Every recipe differs, as will the humidity levels and relative temperatures of your environment, but generally you are aiming for an ideal temperature of between 110° and 120°C for both your oils and your lye solution. They don’t have to be exactly the same, but in that range would be best.

So, once your oils reach about 120°-125°C (I like to get them hot and let them cool a bit while I do the next step), you can work on your lye solution.

Take another one of your heatproof bowls and fill it partially with water and ice to create an ice bath. Set that aside for a moment. Measure out your room-temperature distilled water into your third heatproof bowl and have your lye crystals measured and at hand. Do this in a well-ventilated area. As I mentioned above, the first time we did this I sat on our balcony in the fresh air. In subsequent times I just put everything on top of the stove and did it with the window cracked and the stove fan going at full blast. But this looks way more dramatic.

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When you’re ready, grab one of your spatulas and your lye crystals and ever-so-slowly pour the lye into the distilled water. SLOWLY. Stir gently the whole time.

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At first it will look like nothing is happening. I feel like my neighbours were suspicious at this point.

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But then the lye will start to dissolve and the water will turn cloudy and begin to steam. DO NOT INHALE THIS STEAM. IT IS NOT GOOD STEAM.

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Make sure to get every last crystal into the solution.

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Continue to stir the solution until it starts to clear, then take its temperature. The lye/water reaction means the liquid will get really hot, really fast. You want to cool the lye solution down to the same 110-120 range as the oils, and that’s what the ice bath is for. Feel free to use it (because we were doing this particular batch outside in November, it didn’t take long for it to cool).

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When the lye solution and the oils are the same approximate temperature, you can add them together. Slowly. Stirring the whole time. And ALWAYS add the lye to the oils, not the other way around.

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Now you keep stirring. Only crazy people do this by hand because it can take up to four hours for this stuff to start working. Use your immersion blender in thirty-second bursts to emulsify the mixture. There is some spatter involved, so make sure you’re still wearing all your safety equipment. I find it useful to do the blending with the bowl sitting in my empty sink. What you’re looking for – and this may take a while – is what is called “trace”. This is when the mixture thickens and starts to resemble pudding, and when you drip a bit of the mixture on top of itself (like it falls off the blender back into the bowl), you can see the trace of the drip on the surface). At this point, you have to act quickly (hence the blurry shot).

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Now you add in your solids and your essential oils and blend it up again.

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Pour your new almost-soap into your milk carton and tape down the top. Wrap it in a towel and put it somewhere warm (like on top of your fridge or near a heating vent) for 48 hours. The carton will feel warm and then actually hot over the next little while as the saponification occurs.

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Neutralize your dirty dishes with vinegar before you wash them. And keep your gloves on while you do it, just to be safe.

Now, sometimes, you don’t get a trace, no matter how hard you try. Sometimes this means you weren’t mixing hard enough (so that’s why you use an immersion blender). Sometimes the temperature isn’t right – the ingredients don’t have the same temperature, or they’ve cooled too much. If you are having trouble achieving trace, try putting the bowl back on the double boiler and heating it up a little more again. And if that doesn’t work, then just shove it into the carton anyway, and hope for the best. You’ll know in 48 hours if it worked or not. In this case, the olive oil combo we used, combined with our inexperience and inexpert technique, meant that when I ripped open the carton 48 hours later I had a chunk of soap and then a bunch of oozy liquid. Always wear your gloves when you open a mould, just in case something like this happens. There’s no way of knowing how much of that liquid is reactive lye.

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But this is fixable! Just mush it all up (newly saponified soap is very soft).

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And put it back on your double boiler to melt it down.

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You won’t get the same smooth texture you had before. In fact, it’s kind of weird.

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And then you can shove it into a new milk carton, seal it up, and wait another 48 hours.

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Now it looks a little bit weird and rough, but it’s real soap! You can always trim off the rough bits.

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So after 48 hours, you can cut your soap into manageable pieces. It’s very soft, so it’s not a difficult task. Make sure to wear gloves as you do it, in case there are pockets of lye hidden in the soap, and also because freshly made soap is really drying.

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Set your soap upright on a rack or in a box (you want as much airflow around it as possible) and put it in a cool dark place to cure for at least 3 weeks. After that time, you can buff it to a shine with a soft cloth and wrap it for gifting!

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I made six different batches of soap in my experiments. Here are the percentages and shots of the finished product, for your edification.

Olive Oil

  • Coconut Oil 34%
  • Olive Oil 34%
  • Avocado Oil 23%
  • Castor Oil 9%

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I cut off some rough bits from this soap after we re-melted it, and saved them to use as inclusions in another recipe.

Lavender / Rosemary Mint (two separate batches with the same oil base)

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  • Coconut Oil 34%
  • Crisco 30%
  • Castor Oil 14%
  • Sweet Almond Oil 11%
  • Avocado Oil 11%

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Ground Lavender flowers and essential oil added at trace. Dried Ground Rosemary and Mint added at trace with Peppermint essential oil.

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You can see in the pieces on the left that I originally forgot to add in the ground herbs before I poured it into the mould, so I emptied it out, stirred them in, and poured it back in, leaving trace amounts of plain soap on the bottom. You can do this on purpose too, to layer your soaps.

 

Chocolate Orange

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  • Crisco 40%
  • Coconut Oil 30%
  • Canola Oil 20%
  • Cocoa Butter 10%

Sweet orange essential oil added at  trace. Turmeric added at trace for orange colour. Cocoa added and swirled in.

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Coffee Cocoa

  • Crisco 40%
  • Coconut Oil 30%
  • Cocoa Butter 10%
  • Sunflower Oil 10%
  • Castor Oil 10%
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It’s hard to see in this photo, but it is more of a brown than the chocolate orange, which has a ruddy undertone. They do look very similar, however!

 

Lye solution made with chilled coffee (to learn how to make lye solutions using other things than water, read this article). Lemongrass Oil added at trace, together with 2 tsp cocoa and 2 tsp oatmeal.

Guinness Oat

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Those lighter patches are the inclusions of plain olive oil soap.

 

  • Crisco 40%
  • Coconut Oil 30%
  • Shea Butter 15%
  • Castor Oil 8%
  • Sunflower Oil 7%

Lye solution made with chilled, flat Guinness Stout. Sage oil added at trace, together with 2tsp finely ground oatmeal. Inclusions from Olive Oil soap added.

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Coconut Lime Sugar Scrub

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When I saw this sugar scrub on The Idea Room I knew I had to give it a try. I ended up modifying it a little bit to suit my personal taste, but the end result is just as delightful: a luxurious scrub that eliminates the need for post-shower moisturizing and makes you smell absolutely edible. And if you feel you need to actually taste the scrub because it smells so amazingly, I won’t judge. I may have eaten a small amount myself (it’s yummy!).

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Start with a little bit of unsweetened dried coconut, about 1 tablespoon coconut in total.

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Give it a good whaz in your spice grinder or food processor until it forms fine crumbs. These will be great exfoliants.

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Mix the ground coconut with 1 cup granulated sugar in a bowl, together with about 1 tablespoon freshly grated lime zest (you’ll use 1 whole lime, if you double the batch, which I did).

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Give that a good stirring, then drop in about 8 drops of your favourite essential oil (that matches with limes and coconuts, of course – I went with lemongrass, to offset the sweet fruitiness of the citrus). I also squeezed the lime I had zested, adding maybe 1 tablespoon lime juice to the mix.

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Melt 1/4 cup coconut oil and pour that into the sugar.

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Stir until you have this lovely grainy wet sandy kind of thing. By now you are probably also hungry because of how amazing it smells.

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Scoop that fluffy luxury into wee jars to give as gifts or to keep selfishly for your own use.

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I gave all mine away but I’m definitely making this again!

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Salted Butter Caramels

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I had planned to include some form of caramels as part of my holiday baking this past season, and when I saw this one posted on A Beautiful Mess I knew that this was the version I would try out this time round. I quadrupled the amounts below because I have a lot of people clamouring for my candies, but this recipe will give you about 20 or so caramels, depending on how you cut them. My four batches yielded about 102 whole pieces and a handful of broken ones or end bits.

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As with most candy, it’s handy to have all your ingredients at the ready before you begin, because you often have to act fast. So gather together 3/4 cup granulated sugar (divided), 7 tablespoons heavy cream, 2 tablespoons honey, 3 tablespoons butter, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

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You may also want to have some more salt or fleur de sel on hand for topping the caramels when they’re done. Now that your ingredients are ready, you should line a loaf pan with parchment paper.

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Now, take half of the sugar (3/8 cup sugar) and plop it in a saucepan with 2 tablespoons water.

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With the burner on medium, heat the sugar and water until they start to bubble and turn a deep amber brown.

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Then remove the pot temporarily from the heat and add in the rest of the ingredients – they will fizz up on you. Return the pot to the heat and stir to melt and combine all the remaining ingredients.

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Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pot and let the mix bubble away. Stir it occasionally so it doesn’t burn. You want the temperature to reach 260°F, which is the “hard ball” stage. It won’t take very long, so pay attention.

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Pour the finished caramel into the prepared loaf pan and sprinkle the surface with salt. Let that cool for at least an hour, but probably not much longer than that.

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Cut it into little pieces (it’s easier if you don’t let it sit much longer than an hour).

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Then you can wrap the little pieces in twists of waxed paper and either hoard them to yourself or give them all away! Or both.

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Raspberry Red Grapefruit Lip Balm

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I found this tutorial for making lip balm with freeze-dried raspberries from Hello Natural and thought I’d give it a shot, with a few Ali Does It modifications, of course. I love making home-made lip balm. I find it feels much better and more luxurious on my face than the commercial brands, and I love experimenting with different oils to various effects. As long as you keep a general ratio of 3:1 oils:wax, you’re pretty much golden. The measurements I use below resulted in over 2 cups lip balm, so if you use the same ones, make sure you have plenty of containers to put your balm into.

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As for the raspberries, well, those are optional, and I think next time I’d leave them out. They settled mostly to the bottom (though that looks pretty, too), and when I mixed them up in some pots they felt grainy against the skin. They taste great, though, and you can easily and quickly lick the grains of raspberry away, but I think if I’m aiming for a tinted lip balm next time I’ll start by staining the oils I’m using rather than adding any other solids and liquids to the mix. Or I’ll try this version, with Crayons. Or maybe not. Anyway, if you’re going to use raspberries, find some freeze-dried ones. Krystopf and Atlas popped down to NYC to visit Ando and Teedz so I asked them to stop into Trader Joe’s to grab a bag or two.

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I shoved as many raspberries as I could into my spice grinder (it’s a coffee grinder dedicated to all things not coffee) and whazzed them up until they formed a fine powder.

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Be careful not to breathe that in! One 34g bag of raspberries produced for me about 1/4 cup raspberry powder.

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But look! Those seeds are no good!

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So I actually sifted the powder, a wee bit at a time, through a tea strainer to get out the seeds. I think it was worth it.

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Now that you’ve finished with that nonsense, get your melty bits ready. In the bowl of a double boiler, dump in 1 cup coconut oil, 1/2 cup sweet almond oil, and 1/2 cup beeswax. I also had about 1/2 tablespoon shea butter in the bottom of a jar that was asking to be used so I added that in as well.

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Once it’s all melted, tip in your raspberry powder as well as about 20 drops essential oils. I used grapefruit. I love pink grapefruit.

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Then you start pouring. I ended up filling like 27 little pots of varying size.

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As well as half a small canning jar. I later decanted this into three wee plastic pots and kept it for my own use. I like the balm: raspberries aside, it’s nice and smooth on the lips without being goopy and provides a decent shine for a decent amount of time.

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As it sets, the raspberries will settle to the bottom. You can stir them up with a toothpick if you like.

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But I kind of like the ombre effect. Makes a great stocking stuffer/gift!

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A Better Hot Chocolate

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The Pie found this recipe from Jamie Oliver and he thought it was worth a try. I think it will also make a great wintry gift.

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The interesting thing about the original recipe is it involves Horlick’s, a malted beverage very popular at the beginning of the 20th century and through the 1950s. Horlick’s is hard to find in Canada, but a close equivalent is Ovaltine.

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Ovaltine on its own is definitely an acquired taste (I personally find it revolting), but it will add a richness to the hot chocolate that improves everything. You will need 2 tablespoons Ovaltine or Horlick’s.

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You will also need 100g chocolate (pretty much a large-sized chocolate bar), your choice.

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I made some with dark chocolate, but the Pie and I both prefer it with milk chocolate, seeing as there’s also a decent amount of unsweetened cocoa powder in this, 4 tablespoons cocoa powder, in fact. Make sure you choose a cocoa that you like – don’t go cheap on this!

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You will also need 2 tablespoons cornstarch (corn flour in the UK) to make this a nice thick beverage.

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Here is 3 tablespoons icing (confectioner’s) sugar. You can adjust this according to your taste.

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This is also a pinch or two of sea salt and a pinch of ground cinnamon, which, again, you can adjust to what suits you.

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To put it all together, take your chocolate and pop it in your food processor. The original recipe calls for you to finely grate the chocolate but who wants to sit there and grate that much chocolate? Not me, and I made six batches of this.

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So I just pulsed it in the food processor until it formed little crumbs.

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Then you simply add in the rest of the ingredients.

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Pulse it until the colour is uniform, kind of a grayish brown. The crumbs of chocolate will mix in and get smaller while you do this, too.

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To prepare the hot chocolate for two people, dump about 3 heaping tablespoons of the mix into a small saucepan.

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Dribble in about 1/4 cup milk.

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Whisk that until you get a nice paste. This will prevent the finished hot chocolate from being lumpy.

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Then pour in another 1 1/4 cup milk.

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Stir that until smooth and start heating the milk until it’s a temperature you like.

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Serve hot!

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To give the chocolate as gifts, you can pack the mix into these cute jars.

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Or you can put it in a wee bag.

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And then pop it in a customized mug.

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Or whatever floats your boat!

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Braided Suede Bracelets

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I was fooling around after my success in the aftermath of the nautical knot necklaces and I came up with these quick little bracelets. Let’s get one thing straight, though: I have never made jewelry before. I don’t know what is the appropriate thing to use in which situation. So if you do something like this but you do it better? Let me know. Either way, I’m quite pleased with how these turned out, even if they look a little silly on my teenie weenie wrists and fat hands. Bracelets drive me crazy, anyway, but these will make good gifts.

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I forgot to take pictures at the beginning but it’s pretty straightforward. I picked up some faux suede cord at Wal-Mart when I was getting the other hardware for the necklaces (I was going to get the real suede cord but it was more expensive and when I picked it up it was MOULDY, ew). I cut some of it into three equal pieces just slightly longer than the circumference of an average girl wrist.

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I used a pinch crimp/ribbon end to hold the three pieces together, then braided it up. I used another crimp on the other end.

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Then I did that two more times with different coloured cord and attached small jump rings to all the ends.

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Then I attached all three together with a slightly larger jump ring at both ends.

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And attached a spring ring clasp to that on one side.

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And this is how it does up. Though in many cases I’m sure you could just slide it on over your hand.

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Easy peasy.

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I made three, of slightly varying sizes.

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Nautical Knot Necklace

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I was trying to come up with some last-minute present ideas back in December when I came across this one on the internets. Everyone likes necklaces, right? And nautically-themed things? Yes. Yes, they do.

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So there’s some things you’re gonna need: a couple metres braided nylon cord (you can pick this up in craft and fabric stores; small pieces of felt in colours that match the cord; some tiny pliers; hot glue gun and glue; small split rings or jump rings; ribbon ends (or pinch crimps or whatever they’re called); and spring rings or lobster clasps.

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You might also need a little bit of tape if your cord comes unbraided when you cut it. The coiled stuff will come undone, whereas the braided stuff will probably stay put.

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Next, decide if you want your necklace to be four or six strands wide. The version I saw on tuts+ had six strands, but with the amount of cording I bought (6 metres each), I ended up having only enough to make two necklaces of four strands each. So cut your cord into four (or six) equal pieces, and make them a little longer than you would like your finished necklace to be. Divide your strands into two groups.

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To create the basic nautical knot, start by making a wee fishie out of one set of strands: create a loop where the strands cross over themselves, as shown below.

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Do the same thing with the other set of strands, in the opposite direction. Lay the second loop over the first loop such that the top loop part is over the crossed strands of the loop below, and the crossed part of the top loop is over the loop part of the strands below.

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Now things get a bit complicated to explain, but once you do it you’ll totally get it. The idea behind tying these knots is that the top strands will alternate going over and under the bottom strands. So in this picture you can see that all the top strands are currently above the lower strands, and that’s not going to work.

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Here’s where we pull out the loops and start alternating the over/under part. So to the right you see the part where the bottom loop strand crosses under itself. That means the next one, in the bottom centre, has to go under. You can see that the far left one goes over, and the one in the middle goes over. So the one that I haven’t done yet therefore will have to go under. Yeah so that’s not easy to talk about.

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Basically make sure that each time your strands cross over each other, that they alternate going under and over.

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Then you do the same with the other side. Under. Over. Under. Over …

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So when your cording looks like this, with all the appropriate unders and overs, then you’re ready to pull.

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Grab the ends of your cording and gently pull them away from each other and tighten your knot.

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Keep pulling, and then you have an honest-to-goodness nautical knot!

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You can tug on the individual cords to make the knot even.

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So that’s cool and all, but I figured once I had that basic knot down, I should go a little bit bigger, and better. So I doubled the number of loops!

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This takes a little bit more finesse.

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And certainly a longer time to weave all the under/overs.

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Then you can carefully pull it tight.

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And adjust the individual cords.

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AND THEN YOU HAVE THIS AMAZING THING.

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This is the version I did with the larger coiled cord.

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So then you arrange your necklace how you’d like it to look.

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This red one is going to be off-centre. Because asymmetry is cool.

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Trim the ends of the cording straight across but at a slight angle.

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Then cut a tiny square of felt and glue your cord ends to half of it.

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Fold it over and glue it down. Trim off excess felt.

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Then you take one of those ribbon end/pinch crimp things and use your pliers to crimp onto the piece of felt.

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Do it to the other one as well.

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Add a jump ring to each side.

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DO NOT EAT THESE THINGS. I like how in the warnings it’s only the Spanish version that uses exclamation points.

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Next you’ve got the spring rings to deal with. Lobster clasps are easier, but I couldn’t find any at the time.

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Add those suckers on.

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NECKLACE COMPLETE.

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And it didn’t take long!

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Slouchy Bowl

Check out this bowl I made. It’s got a definite slouch to it.

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Half-slouch.

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Full slouch.

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My mother had given me a wad of the squishy rope you put inside piping when you are upholstering things. It’s essentially a wad of unbleached cotton loosely held together with a bit of white thread. I didn’t know what to do with it (me? upholster? you gotta be kidding.), so I made this bowl. You could also make this out of any form of cable or rope. You just need a needle, thread, and a pair of scissors to cut the thread (or your teeth if you’re hardcore).

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All I did was coil the rope around itself and start sewing it together. You can use any stitch you want, any kind of thread. I used green so you could see it but it wasn’t too flashy.

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You can change the width of the bowl by sewing the rope together at different angles. It’s hard to explain but you would see what I mean if you were doing it. It just kind of comes naturally. I made this little divot to come up through the centre to provide stability for the bowl.

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When you flip it right side up at the early stages you have a wee sombrero.

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Then I just kept going until I was happy with it and I ran out of rope. You can store whatever you want in it, provided it’s not liquid (it’s not that kind of bowl). Y’know, if you need a place for your copper-coloured pine cones.

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Or your sunglasses.  It’s up to you!

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