Monday, January 31, 2011

Flea Market Find That your Dog wil Love!

Is your furry friend always trying to get on your sofa, chair, bed, or other furniture?  With a vintage luggage dog bed, Fido will have a new favorite spot!  This is a great way to give something from the flea market or grandma's attic a new life.
Suitcase dog bed.  Photo via Houzz

Interior designer Brian Patrick Flynn, in spectacular fashion, upcycled a vintage suitcase (pictured, left) to make a stylish and functional piece of canine furniture (pictured, right, as enjoyed by Gidget). Now this pampered pooch is lounging in high style -- and keeping her grubby paws off of the sofa!

Go fetch the step-by-step, fully illustrated instructions to make your own suitcase pet bed over at Houzz!
In addition to vintage luggage, you'll also need a screwdriver, 2 pieces of pre-cut 1x4 pine lumber, T-nuts for wood, threaded furniture legs, a drill and a cushion.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Flower for your Finger

At Tara's house earlier this week, Ann completed some felt flower projects.  She was kind enough to give me this gorgeous felt flower ring, which matches my purple sweater.  I wore it to work the next day and got lots of raves.  Thanks Ann!



Felt Flower Ring from Ann

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Home Cleaning Products

Last Saturday I taught my first class in eco-friendly home cleaning products.  All the students made and took home a scouring powder, glass/mirror cleaner, and a multi-purpose bathroom spray!  It's a great beginner class for those just entering the world of making your own cleaning products.  Often times, you may be unsure about using home cleaning recipes - I've done all the leg work for you and in the class you get tried and true recipes to get your home sparkling!  You not only get a clean smelling home, but bonus points for helping the environment!

Student feedback was positive, and based on questions asked in class, I've got several ideas on how to make the class better!  These changes will be incorporated in my next class in June.  I'll be sending an email to the class with this information so that they can take advantage of it when they make the recipes on their own.

Let the cleaning party begin!
Products from Class

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Chinese New Year - coming soon!

February 3 is Chinese New Year! 2011 is the year of the rabbit.  I ventured into China town yesterday to buy some baked breads and red envelopes.  Baked bread was for my dinner, and the red envelope is for Chinese New year!!  Who doesn't love red envelopes?  My little nephew has already planned what he wants to get with his Chinese New year loot!

Okay, back to the educational part of our post...

Chinese New Year is the celebration of a new lunar year. It is a fifteen day holiday that starts on the evening of the second new moon after the winter solstice. This is sometime in January or February each year. This holiday ends with the Lantern Festival on the 15th day.

In China, this holiday is also called Spring Festival 春节 Chun Jie since it marks the change in the weather from bitter cold to the coming of warmer weather.

Moon Cakes are eaten during Chinese New Year because the Chinese New Year is based on the lunar calendar (and the little treats look like the moon).  They are also eaten as part of an autumn, harvest type celebration which falls on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month (typically in September).

There are many variations of Chinese Moon cake - some have red bean paste, or lotus seed paste, eggs, a mixture of fruits and nuts...lots of options and room for creativity.  This one is simple for the kids to help with and is more dessert-like. 

thanks to Shirley for sharing the recipe and photos. 
Here's what  chinese moon cakes look like:



Here's what yours will look like:




and here's the recipe (makes 24).  Hope you make it and enjoy! 

Easy Chinese Moon Cake
Ingredients:

1/4 cup sugar

2 egg yolks
1/2 cup salted butter

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup strawberry (or your favorite) jam (traditionally red bean paste is used so if you want a more authentic version, you can use a can of red bean paste instead of the jam).
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Combine the butter, sugar and 1 egg yolk and stir.

Mix in the flour.
Form the dough into one large ball and wrap it in plastic wrap. 
Refrigerate dough for half an hour.

Unwrap the chilled dough and form small balls in the palms of your hand.

Make a hole with your thumb  in the center of each mooncake and fill with about half a teaspoon of jam.

Brush each cake with the other beaten egg yolk and place on a cookie sheet.  (We didn't have a brush to do this, so skipped the brushing step)

Bake for about 20 minutes or just until the outside edges are slightly brown.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

You can have your cake, and eat it too!

My crafty friend Annie has a new creation!  It's perfect for your sweet tooth cravings as you can stare at your favorite food, and have it near you, without the calories (or cavities!).  Take a bite of cute and clever to liven up your day!



Take a big bite!
Annie's Cute and Clever Cake

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Dry skin/heel sticks

I made these dry skin/dry heel sticks over the weekend.  My skin was dry and I wanted to make a little something extra for the swap that I was in.  I've held onto the box for a long time (considering my first few posts on the honey almond cream!) These sticks are perfect for heels, elbows, knees, knuckles and other spots that get a little dry or cracked in the winter.  The essential oil blend is lavender, mint and tea tree.  As an added bonus, I've used organic tamanu oil, a "miracle" oil (click on the link to read more about it), and is known for its skin smoothing and softening properties.  Now, in our litigious society, I need to make a disclaimer -  I'm not medically claiming that this stick does anything, but it does contain tamanu oil which has healing properties. Tamanu has a spicy, nutty aroma which still comes through a little but has been slightly muted by the essential oil blend.  I hope the recipients enjoy this skin treat as much as I do.  Yes, I'm a messy pourer.  LRK, does the tray look familiar?


Monday, January 24, 2011

Bright Stars

These colorful stars will chase the winter doldrums away!   These two stars were made by Newman and Osbaldo, two kids in my class, using Perler beads.  One made a solid star while the other did an outline pattern - both are pretty neat.  Some of the other kids played with shrinky dinks.  Will post those pictures soon.  In the meantime, have a bright and shiny day!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

My Eco Friendly Cleaning Class is today - wish me luck!

Today, I'm teaching for the first time ever my new class: eco-friendly cleaning products class.  To be clear, it's not my first time teaching - just my first time teaching this class.  I did the majority of my prep work yesterday but still have some odds and ends to pack in the car.  I also have to remember to bring DH's camera so I can take lots of photos to share.  And also the studio keys (yes, I have forgotten them before!)

At least this time, I got my handouts and labels printed ahead of time.  I'm not going to share the story behind this today but needless to say, the lesson learned was that FedEx/Kinko's doesn't open until 10 am on Saturday, and if your class is at 10 am, you are up a certain creek...

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Colorful Twist to Marshmallow treats

Homemade rice krispy treats are one of my all-time favorite snacks.  i recently came across this colorful twist using fruity or cocoa pebbles.  I haven't made this yet but will add it to my list.  It was originally called Wilma's Holiday Tree but I think it would also make a great birthday cake alternative as it looks like a stack of colorful presents!  Just make the squares a little larger and substitute the star on top with a candle.  This is a great craft to make with the kids.
Enjoy!

Photo from Post Foods, LLC.  THE FINSTONES TM & (C) Hanna-Barbera

Ingredients:

1/4 cup (½ stick) butter or margarine
1 package (10 ½ ounce) mini-marshmallows
1 package (11 ounce) Post Fruity Pebbles or Cocoa Pebbles Cereal
1 container (16 ounce) ready to spread vanilla frosting
Set of star cookie cutters OR if making the multi-layered birthday package alternative, you can just cut squares out of different sizes and then stack them on top of each other.
 

Directions:

  1. Spray 13x9 inch pan with cooking spray.
  2. Melt butter over low heat in large saucepan. Add marshmallows, stirring until completely melted. Add cereal and mix to coat well. 
  3. Press mixture firmly and evenly into prepared pan. Cool 1 hour in cool dry space.
  4. Using cookie cutters (star cutouts), carefully cut 2 of each size for a total of 10.
    Spread ½ of frosting on tray to resemble snow. Use remaining frosting to attach stars, stacking largest to smallest and rotating the points to make a tree. Decorate as desired.
Serves: 1-4. 

For more cereal-y recipes, visit www.postcereals.com/recipes.  Note that they need to beef up their photos to make the finished food items more appealing - in most cases they just show a bunch of kids around a kitchen table.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Pepperoni and cheese please!

One of my favorite foods is... you guessed it!  PIZZA!  My crafty friend Annie sent this photo of her stuffed pizza.   Apparently it's one of her favorite foods too.  This one is extra special because you have all the fun without the calories!


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Uplifting or Happy books?

I've read my fair share of books with depressing topics.  Sometimes it seems like there are more books about depressing, negative, violent issues than there are nice, normal, "happy" books.  I wonder what that says about our society?  Our recent book club book has to do with teenage suicide; the prior book involved a women's cells being used without her permission or knowledge, and with no remuneration to the family; the book before that tells the tale of a nigerian refugee who witnesses several deaths, is stuck in an immigration detention camp for two years, and also does not have a great ending to her story (but the writing was beautiful); Daughter of Fortune features an illegitimate child who travels across continents to find her lover (who she never finds) and suffers a miscarriage along the way, etc.  anyway, you get the picture. 

I think it's time for a few uplifting books so I went online to find a few.  Here are some of the titles that others found uplifting/funny, and a great read. 

1. The Magicians by Lev Grossman. Grossman describes his book as a mash-up of Harry Potter and Narnia but set in the real world.

2. Juno & Juliet A Novel. Its incredibly funny without being trivial. Its also uplifting thought-provoking.

3. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. Read this book for a lovely tale of two women from different backgrounds, one very young and one much older, who learn to find meaning in their lives

I'll let you know what I think when I've read them.  In the meantime, if you have any books you've read that are uplifting/happy, please share the titles!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Soy travel tin candles

I was thrilled to receive this photo from Gwen, a student in my candle class last fall.  She made lavender scented soy candles in a travel tin.  Aren't they gorgeous?  I love seeing students apply the knowledge they've learned in class to make beautiful candles.  Have you taken one of my classes?  I'd love to feature your photos here - it will be inspirational for us all!  And if you haven't made anything yet, what are you waiting for?  There's no better time than the present!  My next candle class takes place in Half Moon Bay on February 12.  Bring a friend!

Gwen's Gorgeous Lavender Candles

Saturday, January 15, 2011

My Green Cleaning Journey

At the start of a new year, we typically focus on organization and cleaning.  Hence my post earlier this week on re-organization, and now this post on cleaning.  Hubby and I are in full force (last week we donated 5 bags of books to the library, and also 4 bags of stuff to Goodwill...and the scary part is that we still have more stuff to declutter!)  Today, I wanted to share my journey into green cleaning and encourage you to take the same one.  I started with baby steps...

My shift to green cleaning didn't happen overnight.  It started in 2005 when I was searching for ways to keep my stone countertop clean without the harsh or acidic chemicals.  After some research, I tested a few recipes and found one that I really liked.  Soon after, I was looking for a way to sanitize my yoga mat after practice; the wipes  being sold at the studio were expensive and contained parabens...so I decided to make my own using essential oils.  At the time, I was spending a lot of money buying carpet powder (since I have pets), so, with two successes under my belt,  I decided to try making it myself.   I incorporated green cleaning gradually and today, I predominantly use homemade products in my cleaning.  After using these recipes and tweaking them over time,  I gained confidence to try other recipes and to expand my green cleaning repertoire.

Today,  I can say that cleaning is fun for me - it wasn't always that way!  It's fun now because there's a sense of pride in using products I've made and in  caring for the environment by not cleaning with toxic chemicals which can pollute our water and air.  I also make variations of my standard recipes and am eager to try them out so being able to try new scent combinations or variations in ingredients keeps it interesting.  And, by using essential oils in cleaning products, I can take advantage of their aroma-therapeutic properties as well.  The act of cleaning smells fresh (and not so chemical-y and toxic) and also relaxes, calms, energizes, and uplifts me...depending on which essential oil combinations I apply.  Because I use the same containers when I replenish my cleaning products, there is less plastic waste as well.   

In my new eco-friendly home cleaning products class, I am thrilled to be sharing tips, tricks and recipes to incorporate green cleaning in your daily life.  You'll make your very own scouring powder, multi-purpose bathroom spray, and window/glass cleaner - three basic products to keep your home smelling great and sparkling clean! 

GREEN CLEANING TIP: Did you know that several essential oils, including Lavender, Lemon & Tea Tree are not only anti-bacterial & anti-fungal, but also anti-viral & anti-biotic? Amazing!



.

Friday, January 14, 2011

What do I do with old greeting cards?

We had a stack of greeting cards and I re-cycled them creatively.  Some became gift tags using my handy dandy paper puncher, others became new greeting cards (if the back side doesn't have writing, you can cut it out and fix it on a new blank card, others became bookmarks.  I'll post pictures of some of these soon - part of the problem is I gave a bunch away before I took pictures of them.  Note to self: photograph first before gifting!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Need a new puppy?

Annie strikes again!  Love this brown dog pillow from my little friend Annie.  She whipped this up in an evening after her homework.  Everything is lovingly hand sewn, including the facial features!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Book Club picks

Our monthly book club met this week and we had a full house!  We gabbed about our lives, the book, and more - always fun to catch up!  I really liked our dessert - sticky buns ala mode!  I typically avoid desserts in my regular life, which makes book club even more fun and special because I actually splurge on dessert!  We talked a little about our book, the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot,.  but since a few folks didn't read it or didn't finish (including me, but I read enough to hold a conversation).   The discussion wasn't as robust, and we didn't go through the  book club questions for this month.  I felt like the author did a terrific job in conveying the story not only of the cells and their contributions to science in layman's terms, but also in telling the tale of the family and how the mother's death affected the children.  She also told the story of tissue sampling, and traced the history and advances in scientific discovery quite clearly.   Her efforts in research and interviewing, and persistence, helped get Henrietta Lacks' story out.  She has also promised to channel some of the money from the book to the Henrietta Lacks Foundation to provide scholarships to her descendents.
We picked books for the next 2 months - first book up is The Pact: A Love Story (P.S.) and the 2nd book is Cease to Blush, an imported book.  I'll update the virtual book club page this week - it's got some issues and for now, it seems easier to just post on the blog page.

If you have any future suggestions for book club picks, feel free to post them.  We're always looking for a great read!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Mouse in the House

My ten-year-old friend Annie sent in this photo of her cute blue mice!  She is quite the crafter – not only does she knit, but she also sews.  Her grandma recently taught her and she has been on a sewing spree – making mice, hats, stuffed pizzas, and more.  She took a photo of these blue mice to share with you all.  Quite the entrepreneur, she sells her creations to her classmates.  One of these blue mice is 50 cents, and she has sold six so far.   If you would like one, let me know and I will send her your contact details.   I’ve created a new crafty photos section and will post this there soon.
Adorable blue mice

No sharpie markers here - The eyes are sewn on! 

Monday, January 10, 2011

RE-organization

Hope you all had a great weekend!  Ours was focused on re-organization (part 1).  My fellow craft enabler Judy shared a very timely and drool-worthy photo for those of us trying to get our crafts organized.  Judy makes and sells lovely cowls and neckwear – check out her lovely creations at her etsy shop!  I love the way she organized her yarns, books, magazines and needles – a one-stop craft haven.  I definitely could use something like this for my crafts, which are organized neatly but stored in different locations around the house (basically wherever I could find room).  It would be nice to have everything in one place (hint hint to hubby).   Thanks Judy for sharing your great storage solution.  If any of you have other ideas, please send them my way!  If or when I do get one of these, I’ll be sure to post a photo.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Yes, I'm on a cream roll...

So there are quite a few fans of my lavender cream.  When word got out that I made the honey almond cream for a swap, the peeps started clamoring for the lavender.  So I whipped up a batch.  Here are the 6 bottles I have left...the bulk of the batch is already spoken for.  Now, who is on the short list for the final six?  I may not get any of this batch.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Honey Almond Shea Butter

Here are 25 jars of my skin softening honey almond shea butter cream.  It's perfect for dry winter skin, and my contribution to a winter product swap that I am in.  I send 25 jars to the swap mistress, who in turn sends me a box back with 24 winter product goodies - I will post a pic when the box arrives.  Swaps are fun and a great way to get a variety of homemade goodness from others.  And also a great motivator as I have been wanting to make creams all winter, but nothing like a swap deadline to get you moving.  I may also make a batch of heel sticks as my heels are feeling dry.

Thanks to my wonderfully talented hubby for designing the cute labels, and taking this lovely picture!

Honey Almond Cream smells good enough to eat!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Yummy Cookies from Alex

I don't bake very often, but I do love homemade cookies.  Fortunately for us, we receive delicious treats from Alex.  He makes the most yummy-licious homemade cookies!  Last night he gave us some of his tasty treats. Thanks Alex!  He's also moving to LA next week and although we will miss him, we're equally excited as his new adventure unfolds!   We wish you well.  Alex, we've got a comfy futon with your name on it, and hope you'll visit us!

Alex's cookies

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Toasty Toes

I'm not a fast knitter, - more of a beginner, but I do enjoy knitting.  It makes me feel productive!  And I love finishing projects!  So I created a blue pair of slippers for myself, and little D wanted a pair also.  She picked reddish-pink yarn from my stash.  I modified the adult version to make a child version.  It is stretchy so she should be able to use it for a while before she outgrows it.