Superhero Monogram

If you were a superhero, what would the symbol on your cape look like?  We had this conversation recently with Krystopf, Atlas, and Atlas’ sister, shortly after Izod was born, and so I had the idea to design Izod a little logo — you know, just in case he ever ends up being a caped crusader.

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“Izod” in Farsi means “angel,” so it was super easy to come up with an idea that would suit.  And there’s this stress test they use for the breakage point of metal called the IZOD test so I figured I would toss that in as well.  Accordingly, I made a giant “I” out of clay, stuck screws in it as it dried, and sprayed it silver to make it look like a piece of metal (sort of).

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Then I took a wing graphic I found on the internet and made it into a sort of stencil.

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I cut out the shape and used craft paint to fill it in.

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Then it was a simple matter to hot glue the clay piece in place. And some keys I nabbed from a mini keyboard.

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And that is it.

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Big Beauty Box

Happy New Year!

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For Christmas, Teedz requested a repeat of the Beauty and the Beets package she received last year, namely, another couple jars of those luxurious shower scrubs.  So in addition to some more coffee sugar scrub and salty citrus scrub, I made a big beauty box with more aids to relaxation in it: bubble bath, bath tea, and a crowning achievement, homemade LOTION.  I’m not even kidding.  My major regret was that while every woman in my family got a jar of the luscious stuff, there wasn’t enough left over for ME.  I guess I’ll have to make some more.  Let’s begin, shall we?

Rose-Lavender Bubble Bath

We’ll start with the easiest one and get trickier, okay?

For a bubble bath, you need to start with a soap base.  You can use unscented dishwashing liquid, which is super cheap, but I like castile soap because it’s so cool and old-fashioned.  I bought a rose-scented one to use as my base.  Then you need some glycerine for slipperiness and good bubble staying-power.  I picked this vegetable glycerine up at a health food store in the beauty section, but you can also find it in the first aid aisle of your local pharmacy.  To get the lavender part of the rose-lavender scent, I also got some lavender essential oil and some dried lavender, both from the health food store.  And of course you need a container for mixing.

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Pour 1 cup castile soap and 2/3 cup glycerine into your container (I doubled this recipe because it was going to two people).

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Give those a stir, because they won’t automatically mix.

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Next, add a few drops of essential oil and stir again.

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For visual variety, add a few teaspoons dried lavender to the mix.

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Give that a stir and let it sit for a few days.  The lavender pieces will start to break down in the liquid, infusing it with more lavendery goodness.

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I decanted the resulting emulsion (you will have to shake it up a bit before using) into two glass bottles.  This is them sitting next to the new batch of salt and sugar shower scrubs.

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Bath Teas / Foot Soaks 

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These little sachets of salt are great for their versatility.  You can toss them in the tub, hang them from the faucet while it’s filling, or plop them in a little foot bath for whenever you have a few extra minutes to relax.  The epsom salts are a good healing soak for new mothers and the oatmeal and sea salt make for a skin-smoothing experience.

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I made two different flavours of these.  In the first, I started with a base of 3 cups epsom salts and 1 cup coarse sea salt.  Then a few drops lavender essential oil.

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To that I added 1 cup dried chamomile flowers and 3/4 cup dried lavender flowers.

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All stirred up!

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To the other one I started with the same 3:1 ratio of epsom salts to sea salt.

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Then I added in 3/4 cup dried peppermint leaves and 2 cups ground oatmeal.

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(To make the oat stuff simply chuck some rolled oats — not instant — into a food processor and give it a good whaz.)

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All stirred up too!

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Then I set up an assembly line.  I used some organza we’d rejected from our screen printing exercises, some hemp twine, and an old plastic easter egg as my container-holder.

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I scooped 3-4 tablespoons of the salt mixture into each little pouch and tied it tightly with the string, making a loop so that it can be hung from the faucet.  I used green twine for the peppermint ones and blue for the lavender.

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Luxury Lotion 

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This is probably one of the greatest things I’ve made.  I played around a bit with the original recipe from Girls’ Guide to Guns and Butter and came up with two separate flavours.  With the ratios I used, the resulting lotion is thick and creamy.  It will leave a bit of grease on your hands that absorbs relatively quickly, and the best part about it is that it doesn’t wash off very easily, which, during cold season when you’re washing your hands constantly, is a very good thing.  Anyway, I suggest you give the above post a bit of a read, just to understand the science of the whole thing a bit more.  I’m just going to plunge right in.

The below proportions make about three cups of lotion each, which makes them ideal sizes to give away as gifts.  If you’d like to be selfish and just make some for yourself, then adjust the amounts accordingly.

Rose Water Lotion:

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For this one I cut up a bunch of beeswax.  This is the emulsion that holds everything together.  You’ll need about 4 tablespoons beeswax.

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Plop the beeswax in a double boiler or a microwave-safe container (you can do it either way) and start adding in your other liquids.  Here I’m adding about 2 squirts of vegetable glycerine.  This is what makes the lotion all slippery-feeling.  Don’t add too much or it will be too slippery.

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Scoop out 3 tablespoons shea butter, which I didn’t realize was powdered until it got EVERYWHERE.

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Then 12 tablespoons (3/4 cup) sweet almond oil and 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) avocado oil.

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And then 3 squirts of vitamin E oil.  Not only is this good for damaged skin but it will also extend the shelf life of your lotion.

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Melt the beeswax/oil mixture in your microwave or double boiler until there is nothing solid left in it and it’s all mixed together.  Pour it into a tall narrow container (like a wide-mouthed mason jar) that will fit an immersion blender and leave it to cool for a bit.

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Basically, lotion is an emulsion of oil and water, and the beeswax is what freezes it into its emulsified state.  So now we need water for this to work.  For this first one I used 1 1/2 cups rose water (you can get this at the grocery store) and 1/2 cup filtered water (if you’re on a chlorinated city water system you’ll want to use filtered or distilled water).  The water and the oil have to be the same temperature in order to mix properly, so what I did was heat up the water to the same temperature as the cooling oil, which was about 130°F.  It just meant that I didn’t have to wait as long for everything to cool properly.  I’m not a patient person.

Now you stick your immersion blender in the oil mix and start whizzing it up until it gets light and foamy.  It will fly everywhere, which is why you should use something narrow to mix it in like a jar.  I used a bowl and things got messy.  I’ll show you a picture in a minute.  Anyway.  As you’re mixing, ever so slowly trickle in water and get it mixed in, a little bit at a time.  If you put them in at the same temperature, you can get all the water mixed in perfectly, though towards the end you’ll have to mix a bit harder to get it all combined.  I wish I had more pictures of this part to show you how cool it is, but I only have so many hands.

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It will look like rich, thick icing.  It looked so much like icing, in fact, that my mother walked past it and though that’s what it was.  So she stuck her finger in it and tasted it.  BAD IDEA.  Apparently it tastes awful.  So resist the urge to eat it.

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This is the still-warm lotion spread on my hand, so you can see the texture.

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Plop it into little jars for storage, or leave it in the jar in which you mixed it, if you’re that clever.

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But here is a dobble of the stuff after it’s cooled, and you can see how thick and rich it is.

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Orange Whip Lotion:

Here’s the mess I left after the second mixing session.  There’s lotion and oil everywhere.

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I didn’t take pictures of the mixing process for the second batch, but I’ll give you the ingredients here and you can go to town.  Just remember that the water and the oil have to be the same temperature (not exactly, but close) in order for the whole science thing to work.

In a heat-proof container, mix together and melt 4 tablespoons chopped beeswax, 2 squirts vegetable glycerine, 3 tablespoons shea butter, 8 tablespoons coconut oil, 4 tablespoons avocado oil, 4 tablespoons sweet almond oil, and 3 squirts vitamin E oil.

Add 8 drops sweet orange essential oil to 2 cups hot distilled or filtered water and drizzle into hot oil mix, blending to emulsify.

Store your lotion in a cool place, maybe in the fridge to be on the safe side.  I’m not sure how long this stuff lasts, with the antibacterial beeswax and vitamin E in it, but you’ll probably use it all right away because it’s awesome, anyway.

It’s relatively easy to clean up, as long as you wipe out your oily-waxy containers with paper towel before washing them in soapy water.

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For the Birds: Edible Holiday Ornaments

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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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Grape Crate Pet Beds

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We currently live in an Italian neighbourhood and in the fall a good many of our neighbours squished their own grapes to make wine.  The result was that there were plenty of these nice wooden crates at the curb when they were done.  I knew I HAD to have them, to make SOMETHING, but I didn’t know what, exactly, I was going to do with them.  Then my brother-in-law got a cat.  Then my brother got a cat.  Then my sister-in-law mentioned that she was going to get a cat.  And cats like boxes.  And these boxes are cat-sized.  So there you go.

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First I had to clean them off and scrape off the labels and sand them a bit.

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The sides of the crates were made from particle board, so I didn’t sand too much, naturally.

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I did wonder how the porosity of the particle board would affect my ability to stain it.  I guess the only way to find out is to do it!

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I used a variety of stains for this, the dregs that were in the bottoms of cans from previous projects.  One was a gel stain, which I had never used before.

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You can see how dark it goes on.

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It almost covered up the ink on the sides of the crate, but came back through once I wiped off the excess.

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Here you can see the other two stains, which were more translucent.

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Wiping off the excess with a rag after painting it on.

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It came out darker depending on the roughness of the wood.

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And I forgot about the whole STAINING part of stain, and forgot to wear gloves.  Oops.

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Once they’d dried, I painted on a quick layer of varathane.

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Again, because I didn’t sand them too much, we weren’t looking at baby’s bottom smoothness here.

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The completed boxes.

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I bought three pillows, each 13″ x 20″, which nearly fit the inside of the boxes.

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Fortunately my mother has what amounts to a fabric store in her basement, so I had plenty of patterns to choose from for cushion covers.

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I made the cushion covers in the same fashion as I make all my other cushion covers: with the simple overlap in the back that eliminates the need for buttons or zippers, which are beyond my skill level.  I double-sewed all the seams because I wanted them to last through being removed for washing.  I got the whole thing done super quickly, too, because I was using my grandmother’s sewing machine, which has two settings: terrifyingly fast, and supersonic.  And I didn’t sew my thumb to anything, either, so I count that as a win.

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The cushions, stuffed inside the covers.

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And inside the box.  There’s a little gap on the sides, but once the pillows get squished down by the cats they’ll fill the whole space.

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I decided they were too tricky to wrap (and a waste of paper), so it’s more of a token wrapping job.

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New DIY Gift Tab

Hi folks!  I had such an overwhelmingly positive response about my DIY gift guide that I decided to make it a permanent addition to the website.  If you’re stuck for a good gift idea at any time of the year, just check out the new tab above — more gifts are being added all the time, so check often!

Treats Week: All Truffles, All the Time

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I think I would lead a happier life if every Wednesday was a truffle day.  Just sayin’.

I have an easy kind of truffles for you today, delicious to the max.  They make great nibblies to have on hand for guests who drop by, and also elegant little gifts.  And the best part of this recipe (which I have modified from here and here), aside from its simplicity and versatility, is that they’re totally vegan and gluten-free.  So you can make everyone happy.  Serve them with chokladboll for fika and it will be even more impressive.

Soak about 15 medjool dates (those are the big ones) for about 15 minutes.

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While the dates are relaxing in their nice bath, take about 1 cup dessicated coconut, and chuck it in your food processor.  Pulse that until you have teeny flakes, and set half of it aside for coating the finished truffles.

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Do the same with 1 cup walnuts, almonds, pecans, or nut of your choosing, reserving half for coating.  I toasted these ones first.

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Dump the other half of the coconut and nuts back in the food processor.

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Add the soaked dates to the food processor, as well as 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/4 cup full-fat coconut milk.  Alternately, you can use a few tablespoons of coconut oil.

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Now what you should know here is that I both doubled the recipe and my food processor is really small, so I did this in batches and mixed it together in a bowl.

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Pulse that gooey mass until it’s all finely combined and forming a huge ball.  Chuck that in the fridge for about 15 minutes.

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Then you can start making truffles balls with your hands.  Take about 2 tablespoons of the mixture and roll it in your palms to form a rough sphere. This was my hand after doing the whole batch.

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Roll about a third of your truffles in unsweetened cocoa powder (with an extra sprinkling of cayenne if you wish), another third in your coconut flakes, and the last third in the crushed nuts.

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Keep these in the fridge, or freeze them for later on down the road. My doubled recipe made 48 truffles.

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They’re so pretty and tasty and spicy!

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Fat Quarter Napkins

Happy Birthday Rusty!

[In case you ever marvelled at my magic efficiency, please note that I started this particular project on Labour Day Weekend and didn’t finish it until the 12th of December.  If that makes you feel better.]

I love fabric.  I am the worst sew-er in the world, but I seem to adopted a love of pretty cloth from my mother.  It’s both a blessing and a curse.  To assuage my inability to live without fabric and to compensate for the utter lack of storage space I have for it, I buy fat quarters.  These are squares of quilting fabric (usually cotton).

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So a metric fat quarter is 50cm square, or 20″ x 20″.  But an American fat quarter (and alas, most of these are), is based on another archaic system and so the pieces are either 18″ x 22″ or 18″ x 21″.  And it’s all approximate anyway.  I’m not really sure of the logic there.  Something to do with yards and standard widths and blah blah blah.

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You can also get colour-coordinated fat quarters (usually in packages of four or five).  The nice thing about these is they all go together, so you can hand someone a set of napkins, but they’re all different enough that people can tell theirs apart when they want to re-use them.

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A handy home-made napkin ring will also help to differentiate.  The Pie made all of these himself by bending spoons with a set of pliers.  We then sprayed them with a metallic copper paint.

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You can also use fabric remnants as well.  You can pick them up for a dollar or two in a fabric store, or use the scraps from another project of yours.

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Speaking of fabric remnants, I picked this one up at Jo-Ann last year and didn’t unwrap it until now.  I chose it because turquoise and teal are my favourite colours, and I thought the design on this was pretty.

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Then I unwrapped it.  WOW.  Talk about a hidden gem!  This will NOT be going into a napkin.  I gotta think on what to do with this one.  Suggestions are welcome.  Just barely not enough to make a skirt, if that gives you an idea of the size.

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Anyway, back to the napkins.  First thing you need to do is wash and dry your fabric.

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Don’t be alarmed — they will fray.  Oh mercy did these ones ever fray.

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And then this one has a slash in it.  I will have to come up with an artful patch of some kind.

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Then you have to iron them.  I hate ironing.

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Then comes the actual napkin-making.  It involves hemming and sewing in straight lines and nice edges and stuff and MORE ironing.  None of which I’m particularly good at.  But Maia from Glass Beach has a fantastic and clear tutorial on hemming napkins here that you should check out.  It’s brilliant in its simplicity.  I will try to re-create her instructions as best as I can, but hers are better.

First I used a rotary cutter and a ruler to trim all the squares so that I had right angles.  They don’t necessarily all need to be the same size as their partners (unless you’re making napkins for the Queen or something), but right angles make things a lot easier to deal with.

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I highly recommend using a rotary cutter and mat for this job.  It’s very hard to get straight lines with scissors alone, and it’s easier on your hands.

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Gren helped by sitting on the fabric as I was trying to cut it and making off with the scraps once I cut them loose.

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Save the scraps to stuff a toy later on.  Or do something else with them.  I made mine into a placemat, which you will see on Friday.

Then I gave myself a 1″ seam allowance and traced that with a fabric marker.  Actually I couldn’t get to the fabric store and so used a Crayola washable marker.  It washes out just as well, if not better, than a fabric marker.  Guaranteed.

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Then you cut 1/2″ tips off all the corners.

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Fold the edge of the fabric so the cut line matches up with that line you drew and iron it to create a flat edge.

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To get a nice mitred corner, unfold one of those new flaps at the corner.

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Fold the other flap over itself, along that marked line.  This seals in your raw edge and prevents fraying.

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Now take the corner bit and fold it down so the edge of the folded part lines up with the drawn line on the side with the unfolded flap.  If you have big fingers or are in general not the most dexterous, you could use an awl or a seam ripper to hold things in place for you, like I did in this photo.

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Then you can fold down the unfolded part again, and then fold it over itself again to seal in the raw edge. You can either iron these new edges flat, or simply pin them.  Either way, I’d add a pin or two in the corners just to hold everything in place.

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And look at that — it looks like you know what you’re doing!

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Now all you have to do is sew that down, making sure to backstitch at the beginning and end to keep your thread from unraveling.  Use an awl or seam ripper to hold the corners in place while you’re sewing them down, too.

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And what a pretty napkin you’ve come up with. They look nice with these copper-sprayed spoon napkin rings, don’t they?

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Tie them up in a nice little bundle and give them all away!

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