Home Made Watercolour Paints

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This is a great gift for the artist in your family, young or old, or a neat thing to have on hand for any young visitors over the holiday season. They can be made with materials you probably have in your cupboards, which makes for a cost-conscious addition to your holiday crafting.

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And because it’s all easy-peasy and non-toxic, I’m sure that kids will enjoy making their own colours – provided you don’t mind a little mess! This is a rather time consuming project, with all the stirring of tiny pots of colour, so if you do it with smaller children be prepared to finish the job once they get bored.

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In terms of hardware, you’re going to need two plastic ice cube trays. I picked these up in the clearance section of Target. You can also use silicone trays, and then pop the solidified paint out to use somewhere else. You will also need some disposable stir sticks (one, or one side, for each colour).

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And lots of food colouring. You can use both liquid and gel paste for this. I also added some metallic powder pigment to the mix.

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Now grab a couple measuring cups. Scoop up 1 cup baking soda, and plop it in large (~4-cup) measuring cup or bowl with a pouring spout.

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Pour in 3/4 cup white vinegar.

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Keep stirring until all the fizzies are gone.

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Next dribble in 2 tablespoons lily white corn syrup (the darker stuff will discolour the paint).

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Then dump in 1 cup corn starch.

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Mixy-mixy. You want this as smooth as possible, as it will settle quickly.

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With everything mixed up, distribute the white liquid evenly amongst your trays. I found the given recipe to fill each section a little more than 3/4 full, but it depends on the size of your trays.

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Now start colouring! Dip the end of a stir stick into your colour and drop a little bit into the tray.

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Stir, stir stir!

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I added a bit more because this was my black one, after all, and I wanted it to be dark. Again, make sure to scrape up the bottom as you stir, because all the powders are starting to settle.

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With the gel paste colour, as you can see here with my red and brown, you will get little solid pieces that float while you stir. Don’t worry about them. Stir in as much as you can, then leave them alone for a few minutes and let the liquid get into the colour. They’ll dissolve if you go and stir them again a little bit later. I promise.

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The liquid food colouring was much easier to mix in. Don’t forget you can easily create your own colours!

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I did find that some of the colours kind of settled and separated, so I ended up re-stirring them a few times. I needn’t have worried, however: as the water in the liquid evaporates they will all come back together again.

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I cleaned up the edges of the trays with a damp cloth after the mixes were starting to settle and dry. It was super quick. I ended up leaving these alone for a whole week just to ensure they were dry all the way through, but you may find you have dry paint within a couple of days.

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To test the paints I created a colour guide. I had fun with the names.

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I’m actually really pleased with how the metallic ones turned out. All I did was add the plain metallic powder to the liquid, without any other pigment.

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And added some brushes to complete the gift.

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Homemade Sugar Cubes

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This quick DIY comes from nifty thrifty things and would make a great last-minute gift for someone who likes a little bit of sweet in their tea. It’s simple, it’s easy, it’s something you can customize with your own flair, and, my favourite: it’s as cheap as you want it to be.

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The basic ingredients you need for this are crystallized sugar and water, though you can dress the sugar and water up as much as you want. Here I have an organic coconut sugar, which adds a bit of flavour to things you sweeten.

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Grab your sugar, a small bowl of water, another small bowl for mixing, and a pretty ice cube tray or candy mold. And some wee tea spoons.

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Pour about 1/2 cup of the sugar into the mixing bowl, and use one of the tea spoons to dribble a little bit of water onto the sugar. Like, very little. Mix it in with the other spoon. Keep adding a little bit more at a time, a few drops here and there, until you kind of have a sugar paste, but the sugar has not yet dissolved. If you get that far, then you’ve gone too far.

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Spoon the sugar paste into the ice cube tray or candy mold and press it down with your fingers to compact it. Then do the whole thing again until you’ve filled up the entire tray.

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I spritzed a bit of water on the top of this tray to tamp things down a bit.

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Leave that to dry overnight, then pop the cubes out and enjoy! Make sure they’re totally dry before you remove them, or they will crumble …

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Other options: if you’ve ever made vanilla sugar before, by whazzing a dried vanilla bean with granulated sugar in a food processor and leaving it to “steep” for a week or so, then I’m sure you’d love the option of making vanilla sugar into cubes.

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Another idea would be lavender sugar, which you make the same way as vanilla sugar (but with lavender flowers, silly, not vanilla beans). I added 2 drops pink and 2 drops blue food colouring to make it purply.

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You could also do this with brown sugar, as opposed to white sugar, though the darker the sugar is the less water I would use, as it’s already pretty sticky with molasses.

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Finally, what about changing up the water options? You can use rose water or orange blossom water instead of regular water to add a lovely aroma to your sugar cubes. I added a drop of food colouring to the rose water to add a tint to the cubes.

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Ash’s Mother’s Peanut Butter “Fudge”

I remember making this after a sleepover at Ash’s house, standing with Ash and her mother in their kitchen in the middle of a forest on Vancouver Island.  I haven’t seen Ash in person in about 16 years, but I still have this recipe at the beginning of my magic cookbook, and I think of the cedars outside the kitchen window every time I make it.  The Pie, who doesn’t have this memory, nonetheless loves the peanut butter aspect of this easy peasy sweet treat.

It was kind of like this. (Credit: Marine Eco Tours.com)

This isn’t real fudge, so don’t be deluded here.  It doesn’t require cooking over a hot stove with a candy thermometer at the ready, for one thing.  And it’s like instant pudding in that it’s ready to eat almost as soon as you’ve finished making it.

Which makes it all the more awesome.  I do apologize in advance, however, for the photos.  There’s no way you can make chocolate fudge look like anything other than, well, poo.

Butter a baking dish generously and set it aside.  I have also tried lining a dish with plastic wrap, which works well too, if you’re okay with your fudge looking a little wrinkly.  Waxed paper probably works well too.  In fact, I’m going to try it with waxed paper.

In a bowl, mix together 3 3/4 cups icing sugar and 1/2 cup cocoa.

To this add 1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter (I bought smooth by accident, alas) and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Melt 1 cup butter and stir that in as well.  Use your hands if you have to.  Make sure to get all the icing sugar at the bottom.

Press your fudge mixture into the pan and flatten it out.

I smacked mine around a little with a spoon.

And stuffed some into novelty ice cube trays.  Why not?  Obviously I need more ice cube trays, for variation.

Refrigerate until hardened, about half an hour, before slicing and eating it all.  I like to put mine in the freezer overnight for extra hardness.  If you don’t eat it all, then keep it in the fridge or it will melt.

Peeling and Pureeing Kiwi

I bought a box of kiwis a while back.  With the stress of getting the second draft of my research proposal out and starting my new transcription project, I kind of forgot all about them and they got a little over-ripe.

Not to worry.  I decided to purée them and freeze the purée for later use.  Easy peasy.

Now we all know that Kiwi is one of those super-foods, loaded all sorts of good stuff, including more vitamin C than an orange.  They’re handy things to keep around.  What you may not know is that the kiwi originated from China in the 14th century, and only slowly made its way to New Zealand, where it was renamed from gooseberry to kiwi, after the fuzzy bird it so resembled.  What you may not also know is that there is something called the Arctic kiwi that comes out of Nova Scotia.  It’s kind of like a cross between a gooseberry and a kiwi, and it’s about the size of a grape.  It’s green and missing most of the fuzzy stuff, but tastes pretty much exactly like a sweet bite-sized kiwi.  I think they’re cool.  So does some one else.

This is an interesting fact for you: I am allergic to kiwi skin.  No joke.  If a little hair from that fuzzy stuff touches my tongue it swells up and it’s exceedingly painful.  I have to be very careful about how I prepare kiwi so that I can avoid that discomfort.

To make sure I get all the skin off at once, I first slice off the top and bottom of the fruit.  Then I take a teaspoon (a tablespoon if it’s a bigger kiwi) and insert it in between the skin and the fruit. I run the spoon all the way around to separate the skin from the fruit in one piece.

Then you can simply squeeze out the fruit and compost the peel.

I popped my little kiwis in my blender.

Look at them whir away.

Then I poured the pulp into some novelty ice cube trays for freezing.  I plan to add them to smoothies, drinks, and even soups later on.  When you pop them out they look super cool.  Hen told me this is how she makes baby food, as well.

Fun fact: you can use kiwi purée as an antioxidant exfoliator.  Simply rub a few tablespoons of purée onto clean skin.  Leave 7 to 10 minutes, then rinse and pat dry.  Blamo kablam: a kiwi facial.