Thursday, April 28, 2011

This Tangerine Soap from good ol' Martha caught my eye.  Fresh tangerine zest is used in this soap; because fresh fruit products are used, this soap should be consumed within 3 to 4 months.  This soap was molded in a juice container; as the soap set, the color -- from pureed zest -- became more intense at the top and bottom

Tangerine Soap - Martha Stewart Crafts

Tools and Materials
  • Assorted citrus peels, berries, and herbs
  • Paper coffee filters, if using herbs
  • Clean, dry containers, such as milk cartons, drink boxes, juice-concentrate cans, or yogurt cups
  • Heat-resistant glass measuring cup or bowl
  • Vegetable oil cooking spray or petroleum jelly
  • Dough scraper
  • Glycerin soap base
  • Spray bottle
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Paring knife
Fruit and Herb Soaps How-To:
1. Make PureesWash and dry all fruits and herbs; use whole berries, herb leaves, or citrus rinds with pith removed. Puree separately in a food processor. To make the herb purees, you may need to add 1 to 2 tablespoons water; place pureed herbs on a coffee filter, and wring out excess liquid before mixing into soap. Set purees aside.
2. Prepare MoldsTo determine how much glycerin soap base you need, fill mold with water, then pour the water into measuring cup or bowl. Note the amount, pour out the water, then dry mold completely. Evenly coat interior of mold with cooking spray or petroleum jelly; wipe out excess.
3. Melt SoapUse dough scraper to chop soap base into 1/2-inch pieces. Microwave soap in a glass measuring cup or bowl covered with a paper towel on medium in 30-second intervals until melted but not boiling. (A double boiler can be used instead.) Add more soap pieces as needed, and continue melting. Remove from microwave, and stir until smooth.
4. Mix In PureesStart with 1 teaspoon puree per cup of soap. Add more as desired. The color will intensify as the purees steep in the warm soap; stir frequently to keep soap from setting. Heavy additives may settle at the bottom, while light ones float to the top. For consistent distribution, let the soap cool (but not solidify); then stir in puree, and pour into mold.
5. Pour Soap into MoldsFill small containers 3/4 inch full with soap; for cartons, fill partially to form 1 bar at the bottom, or completely to make a block for slicing into bars. Spray surface with alcohol to eliminate bubbles. Let soaps set, 20 to 60 minutes, depending on size. Transfer molds to freezer for about 2 hours (this will help the soaps release from the molds).
6. Release Soap From MoldsTear away cartons to unmold bars. For hard containers, pry soap away from the sides, and press bottom of container to release. Neaten soap edges with paring knife. Slice large bars into smaller ones. Use soaps within 3 to 4 months.
From Martha Stewart Living, April 2011

Read more at Fruit and Herb Soaps How-To - Martha Stewart Crafts

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Aromatherapy eye pillows

This project combines two of my favorite hobbies - knitting (or crocheting) and aromatherapy!
The pattern is free from Lionbrands Yarn.  Here's the link but I've also copied and pasted below as I think you have to log in to get the pattern.  This one is in the queue but will be a while before I can start as I have mystery knit to finish plus 3 others.

Free Knit & Crochet Pattern from Lion Brand Yarn
Lion Brand® LB Collection® Cotton Bamboo
Aromatherapy Eye Pillows
Pattern Number: L10058
SKILL LEVEL: Intermediate
SIZE: One Size
About 4 x 7 in. (10 x 20 cm)
CORRECTIONS: None as of Apr 15, 2011. To check for later updates, click here.
• 487-098 Lion Brand LB Collection Cotton Bamboo: Magnolia
1 Ball
• Lion Brand Double-Pointed Needles - Size 5
• Lion Brand Crochet Hook - Size E-4
• Lion Brand Split Ring Stitch Markers
• Large-Eye Blunt Needles (Set of 6)
• Additional Materials
Fabric piece, 7 1/2 x 9 in. (19 x 23 cm) one for each Pillow
Sewing needle and thread
Sewing machine (optional)
Dried lavender (available online or at health food stores)
Flaxseed (available at most grocery and health food stores)
Materials Note
1 ball of yarn is sufficient for 2 Pillows
Exact gauge is not important to this project
shell (2 dc, ch 1, 2 dc) in indicated ch or chain-space
Leaving a 12 in. (30.5 cm) yarn tail, cast on 40 sts.
Divide sts onto 4 needles.
Place marker for beg of rnd. Join by working the first st on left hand needle with the working yarn from the right
hand needle, being careful not to twist sts.
Rnds 1 and 2: Knit.
Rnd 3: K2, (yo, p1, p3tog, p1, yo, k2) 3 times, k to end of rnd.
Rnd 4: Knit.
Rep Rnds 1-4 until piece measures about 6 1/2 in. (16.5 cm) from beg.
Bind off, leaving a 12 in. (30.5) tail.

Leaving a 12 in. (30.5 cm) yarn tail, ch 26. Join with a sl st in first ch to form a ring, being careful not to twist ch.
Place marker for beg of rnd, move marker up as each rnd is completed.
Rnd 1: Ch 2, (sk 3 ch, shell in next ch) 3 times, sk 3 ch, dc in each ch to end of rnd; join with sl st in first st.
Rnd 2: Ch 2, (shell in next shell) 3 times, dc in each st to end of rnd; join with sl st in first st.
Rep Rnd 2 until piece measures 6 1/2 In. (16.5 cm) from beg.
Fasten off, leaving a 12 in. (30.5) tail.

Dampen knit or crochet piece, then pin out to 7 in. (18 cm) in length. Allow to dry.
Fabric Insert
Fold fabric in half with RS together to make a 4 1/2 x 7 1/2 in. (11.5 x 19 cm) rectangle.
By hand or machine, and using a 1/2 in. (1.3 cm) seam allowance, seam long side and one end of fabric.
Turn insert RS out through open end.
Insert a funnel or paper cone into opening, then fill insert with flax and lavender.
Sew opening closed.

Place filled insert inside Pillow and adjust so that stitch pattern fits neatly on one side.
Use yarn tails to sew Pillow closed.
Weave in ends.
Click for explanation and illustration
beg = begin(s)(ning) ch(s) = chain(s)
dc = double crochet k = knit
p = purl p3tog = purl 3 together
rep = repeat(s)(ing) rnd(s) = round(s)
RS = right side sk = skip
sl st = slip stitch st(s) = stitch(es)
tog = together yo = yarn over
Every effort has been made to have the knitting and crochet instructions accurate and complete. We cannot be responsible for variance of individual
knitters and crocheters, human errors, or typographical mistakes.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Greener Thumb?

I posted a photo of my African Violet a few weeks ago.  Look at her now!!  Can a greener thumb be possible?  She has sprouted more flowers - 5 in total, although only 4 are visible in the picture.   I am thrilled at the progress and seeing mother nature at work.  All I'm doing is watering regularly...don't ask to see photos of the other plants I am taking care of ...not all of them are thriving as much as this one :-(

Monday, April 25, 2011

Vanilla beans and homemade vanilla extract

I recently got some vanilla pods...they are available at Whole Foods, Costco (seasonally), local health food stores, online and other places.  They need to be stored in an air-tight container in a cool dark place.

Making your own Vanilla Extract seemed extremely easy, so I thought I would give it a shot.  I used
- 4 whole organic Vanilla Beans
- 1 cup vodka (although you can also use bourbon or brandy)  I just happened to have vodka at home.

Using a paring knife, cut the vanilla beans lengthwise, leaving the seeds inside intact.  Drop your vanilla beans in a jar, cover with vodka, and screw the cap tight.  Store the jar in an easily accessible location as every day for the next 4 to 6 weeks, you will need to shake the jar.  Not for a long time but the motion helps the flavor migrate from the beans to the vodka.  Depending on how strong a vanilla flavor you want, you can add new vanilla beans to make a stronger extract.  Once you've got the flavor of the at the desired strength, strain the Vanilla Beans out (using cheese cloth or a fine sieve) and bottle the extract. For added visual appeal, use a clear jar and put a Vanilla Bean in each bottle.
Vanilla extract lasts indefinitely, and becomes more aromatic and flavorful as it ages (just like a fine bottle of wine!).   You can use your homemade Vanilla Extract in exactly the same way you would use your store-bought extract.  

What else can you do with vanilla beans?

Vanilla Sugar: Place a vanilla bean in a jar filled with sugar, it tastes delicious in coffee or sprinked over sugar cookies.  My friend Andee made me a jar!

Vanilla Liquor: Add Vanilla Beans to liquors. They are especially wonderful in whiskey, bourbon, or vodka. This one's for Alton:-)

Vanilla Ice Cream: If you have an ice cream maker, you can add some of the vanilla seeds to your base.

Vanilla Honey: Gently heat honey with a Vanilla Bean in it to create Vanilla infused honey. Simple and delectable for dipping fresh fruit or drizzling over desserts.

Vanilla Lemonade: Drop a vanilla bean in a pitcher of lemonade.

Vanilla infused coconut oil: I put a pod in some virgin coconut oil and let it sit for a while.  Then I used it to make gluten free mochi cake...yum!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Recycled Ribbon Bookmarks (great gift for book club friends!)

A specially chosen book is always the perfect gift, and a handmade ribbon bookmark makes it all the more personal. These lovely keepsakes can be embellished as you like, and the directions can be modified to use any type or width of ribbon you desire.

Tools and Materials2 1/4-inch-wide ribbon (16 inches long)
1 1/2-inch-wide ribbon (14 inches long)
Utility knife
A needle and thread

Bookmark How-ToCut ribbons to a length a bit longer than the book they're intended for. On the wrong side of the wider ribbon, use a ruler and pencil to make evenly spaced horizontal lines 1 1/2 inches long.
Using a utility knife, and the edge of the ruler as a guide, carefully cut slits along pencil marks. Weave thin ribbon through slits on wide ribbon. To hold ribbons in place, stitch straight across the top and bottom edges of the bookmark.
To create a fringed edge, stitch across the bottom of the bookmark, about 1/2 inch from the bottom; then pull away the threads running crosswise. Or adorn an edge with a button, bell, or charm.

Read more at Ribbon Bookmarks - Martha Stewart Crafts

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Making Your Own Blueberry Jam

Blueberries are packed with antioxidants and one of my favorite fruits.  I've been thinking about jams lately and found this recipe on making your own jam.  You can use blueberries, figs, raspberries, strawberries, marionberries, mangoes, apricots, peaches, plums, grapes, orange marmalade...lots of different fruit options.  Here's a great link with step by step instructions.  You can make jam in 12 easy steps!

What you need:
  • blueberries
  • Pectin
  • lemon juice
  • water
  • sugar
  • canning supplies
  • large pot

Friday, April 22, 2011

Spice Up Your Life

I recently obtained some bulk spices - white pepper and curry powder from Malaysia to be exact.  While I love to use spices to liven up my food, the quantity here is way too much for me and I wanted to share this with others.  I purchased some spice bottles, and began the bottling process.   I should have gotten smaller spice jars so I could share with more people but oh well.  It was a fun and quick project.  I also have extra spice jars so I may do this again. 

Empty bottles and spices

Filled, sealed, labelled and ready to gift!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Photo from my last candle class

Here's a picture from the class I taught earlier this month.  The class was full and the energy was high!  We had fun learning to make candles.  One of the students made a mustard yellow color by combining brown and yellow.  There were great scent combinations as students combined various essential oils to make custom scents; some of my favorites were lavender-lemongrass, lemon mint, orange clove, and eucalyptus lemon mint.   I look forward to hearing about their future candle adventures!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Squeaky Clean Projects

cool soap projects
Over the weekend, Debbie came and taught a two-day soap project class - highlighting soaps from her Soapylove book.  I had made a few projects from the book and wanted to see her go through her process live.  It was a lot of fun, and I bought popsicle molds as well as a tray mold to enable me to do more of the projects in the book.  Here are some of the soaps from Sunday.  She even signed my book!!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Give a Hoot

Owls seem to be popping up everywhere these days...they seem to be the new "it" bird.  Here's a fun owl craft to do with kids, or to decorate your office cube.

Photo and craft idea from Amanda Formaro

2 paper plates
brown craft paint
paintbrush or sponge
construction paper: yellow, white, black, and orange
glue stick
owl patterns

1. Paint the paper plates brown and let dry.
2. Trace the patterns onto the construction paper as follows:
2 large circles - yellow
2 medium circles - white
2 small circles -  white
1 triangle - orange

3. Cut out the patterns. Glue the white circle to the center o the yellow circle, then glue the black circle to the center of the white circle. Repeat.
4. Cut one of the paper plates in half for the wings. Trim the top of the remaining paper plate to form two ears at the top.
5. Glue the eyes to the front of the plate and glue the beak directly below the eyes. Glue the wings to the back of the body plate.
6. You can tape a piece of yarn to the back to create a hanger if you wish.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Piggy Bank for your Tax refund!

Great craft for kids (or you) from our pal Martha.  Teach your little one the value of saving and recycling in one fell swoop.
This little piggy (bank) started off at the market as a bleach bottle. To make one, rinse an empty bottle with hot soapy water; let dry. Cut features such as eyes, ears, and nostrils from construction paper (ears should have tabs). Attach with double-sided tape, as shown. Tape patterned paper around body. Hot-glue empty thread spools on for legs. Cut a slot at the top for coins, and a hole in back to insert a pipe-cleaner tail.

Read more at Bottle Bank - Martha Stewart Kids

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Melt and Pour Pantry Soaps

Raid your larder for materials that add texture, color, and fragrance to handmade soaps. The long, thin box shown holds a number of delectable bars.
Tools and Materials:
  • Glycerin, Michael's  (or melt and pour soap base)
  • Honey
  • Ginger
  • Cinnamon
  • Ground clove
  • Oatmeal
  • Chamomile tea
  • Yogurt Cups, 1 1/4 inches deep, or cottage cheese containers
Pantry Soaps How-To:From top: Honey-ginger (for each cup of glycerin, add 1 teaspoon honey and 2 pinches ginger);cinnamon-clove (2 pinches cinnamon, 2 pinches ground clove): Oatmeal-honey (use only clear glycerin in this soap; add 1 teaspoon honey, 2 pinches ginger, 2 teaspoons oatmeal); Honey-ginger; and chamomile (1/4 teaspoon chamomile tea). 
Use common household items for your molds. We filled round yogurt cups 1. inches deep; oval yogurt or cottage-cheese containers create other shapes. After each soap has set, press on sides of mold to loosen the soap and on bottom to release it.
Read more at Pantry Soaps - Martha Stewart Crafts

Friday, April 8, 2011

Eggshell Flower Pots

An egg-scellent craft idea from good ol' Martha

Young gardeners can use eggshells as pots to start seeds and coffee-stirrer tags to foretell what will pop up where. Plant seeds according to package instructions, and nestle planters in an egg carton on a sunny windowsill, where they can be watered easily. The first leaves to sprout will be the cotyledons or seed leaves, which supply nutrients to the young plant until the first true leaves (resembling those of the parent plant) appear. When plants have grown to about 3 inches and have at least two sets of true leaves, they are ready to be transplanted to the garden. (Remove them from the eggshells first.)

Read more at Eggshell Flowerpots - Martha Stewart Crafts

Seeds that are larger and quick to germinate are best for kids. These include tomatoes, zinnias, and marigolds to name a few.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Green Thumb?

I'm notorious for having plants die under my watch.  I don't know how many orchids and other plants we have had to bury...and I don't even want to admit the number of times I've had to re-start my planter boxes.  Anyway, I think all that hard-won experience is finally paying off...
Check out this violet which seems to be flourishing under my care - I can't believe it myself!
I think my mom would be proud!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Several REALLY EASY Bird feeders

So we were talking at work today about bird feeders and I thought I would look for a few quick and easy bird feeder ideas.

Plastic Jar Bird Feeder
Here is a list of the things you will need.
  • A small plastic jar like a peanut butter jar.
  • 3 inches of 1/8 inch dowel (round wood).
  • 8 inches of wire or string.
  • Waterproof glue or hot melt glue.

Wash out a small empty plastic peanut butter container or something similar.
Remove the label using hot soapy water. If you let is soak a while it will come off a lot easier.
Cut a 1 inch hole so the bottom of the hole is about 1 to 1 1/2 inches up from the bottom of the container.
Make a small hole just below the 1 inch hole, big enough for the piece of wood dowel.
Poke the 1/8 inch dowel into the small hole and glue it in place.
Poke another small hole in the middle of the lid for the wire or string to go through.
Run the string or wire through the hole in a loop and tie it off in a big not so it won't pull out.
Put the lid on the jar and there you have it, a bird feeder.

TIP: If you don't like bird seeds sprouting in your flower gardens, spread the bird seed out on a cookie sheet and bake in a 250 degree oven for 1/2 hour.
Here's another idea for a bird feeder using an empty half gallon milk or juice jug

1 gallon milk jug with lid (a half-gallon milk jug or a regular bleach jug should work, too)
2 wooden 1/2 inch dowel rods, each about 10 inches long (you could also use tree branches that are sturdy_
2 pieces of pliable wire, at least 8 inches long each
1 2- to 3-foot length of rope or an old narrow belt
Box cutter or sharp knife
Nail or heavy needle
Baking soda if needed

Wash and rinse the jug. If there is a strong odor of spoiled milk and/or stubborn milk residue, fill with hot water, add a tablespoon of baking soda and let sit for a couple of hours before proceeding. Rinse well and let the jug and cap dry.
Draw your doors on two opposite sides and where you want the dowels for perches. The perches should be centered beneath the doorways. The first perch should be about 2 inches from the bottom and the door about 1/2 inch or so above that. One side will need to be about 1/2 inch lower than the other so the perches have clearance to cross each other in the center.
Using the point of the knife, make a cut at the center of your door large enough to get a blade of your scissors through. This will make cutting easier. Cut outward and at an angle towards the line you've drawn. This makes following your outline, rounding the corners and getting the shape you want easier.
Fill with wild birdseed up to the bottom of the lowest opening.
You can also make a feeder with just one opening/perch, as shown in the photo here.

Decorate your milk jug!

Source for plastic jar feeder:

Source for milk jug bird feeder photos and info:

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Bee a Friend

The honeybee thanks you for your support!
I love honey, bee propolis and beeswax candles.  I use honey not only in my teas, but also in some of cream and body products.  One of my favorite emulsions includes olive oil and honey, and of course, I love the glow and aroma from a natural beeswax candle.  You can make very simple beeswax candles by rolling beeswax sheets.  I also got these great glass flower pots from world market that I have poured some beeswax into for a cute little all natural beeswax candle. 

Since I am a fan of so many bee-related products, i want to do my part to support our dear little honey bee friends.  Spring is here, and bees are leaving their hives to begin foraging again.  When bees visit your plant, they are looking for mainly nectar and pollen:
  1. Nectar - nectar is loaded with sugars and it’s a bee’s main source of energy.
  2. Pollen - pollen provides the balanced diet of proteins and fats
By growing plants rich in nectar and pollen, we help our honey bee population by providing them food and energy they require to sustain themselves.  Also remember to use natural pesticides and fertilizers - lady bugs, praying mantises and spiders are great options for keeping pests away.  Herbicides contaminate bee’s water sources and pesticides can be fatal. So if you must spray, please take care to spray well away from the bee’s food and water sources.

You can bolster our shrinking bee population by including these nectar and pollen-producing plants in your garden or back yard.  Try to grow plants that are native to your area as native honey bees like native plants.  Here's a starter list, and you can click here for more details.  If you'd like to see even more plants than what is listed below, a more comprehensive plant list is available.
  • Raspberries
  • Blackberries
  • White Clover
  • Sage
  • Mint
  • Deciduous Fruit Trees
  • Cabbage
  • Dill
  • Dandelions
  • Basil Ocimum
  • Cotoneaster Cotoneaster
  • English lavender Lavandula
  • Giant hyssop Agastache
  • Globe thistle Echinops
  • Hyssop Hyssopus
  • Marjoram Origanum
  • Rosemary Rosmarinus
  • Wallflower Erysimum
  • Zinnia Zinnia

Monday, April 4, 2011

Candle Class Coming UP - April 10

My next candle class takes place this Sunday on April 10...stay tuned for pics as I get ready for class.  I've checked my inventory and ordered new tins, which should arrive on Friday. 

The class will cover everything you need to know about making candles: basic safety considerations, necessary equipment and materials, different types of wick, how to color your candles, how to scent and mold them, as well as ideas for how to package them.

You'll take home thorough handouts, enough information to make natural wax candles on your own as well as a pair of beeswax rolled taper candles, a 6 oz. aromatherapy soy container candle, and 2 aromatherapy scented soy wax votives. Just to be on the safe side, please don't wear your favorite outfit (in case wax gets on them).

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

My cactus garden

Since my trip to Arizona, I have begun a love affair with succulents!  I love all sorts of cacti now and even have a dish cacti garden.   I will graduate to a bigger dish soon, or maybe fill one of my planter boxes with cacti - baby steps!  At the recent Home and Garden show, I saw these really cute cacti balls...anyway, here are a few shots of my favorite new plants. 

Here's a cacti planter that started my cactus craze...I really love this and may even buy one when I go back to Arizona

My cacti garden

A cute little cacti ball hanging from a fence...

Friday, April 1, 2011

Hong Kong Style Iced Tea - Make a cup today

Photo by Tao
It is Spring and we are having heat waves reminiscent of summer.  The last two days in the bay area have hit record highs...82 degrees on a spring day yesterday.  These hot days are perfect for iced coffee, frozen yogurt or iced tea.  Since I'm not really a coffee drinker, and I don't have a frozen yogurt machine, I thougth I could at least do a nice iced tea recipe.

I typically take a tea bag, add some agave sweetener or honey, drop in the ice cubes and call it a day.  BUT today, I was inspired to search for a real nice iced tea that was also simple and stumbled upon this Hong Kong Style tea from Tao in Seattle.  click on that link for his original recipe.  Below is my variation.

You will need:

  • 2 orange pekoe tea bags (or other type of tea - orange pekoe for authentic Hong Kong Style tea; 2 tea bags for the heavyweight caffeine lovers - it is very strong!  1 tea bag for regular peeps)

  • 1 cup boiling water

  • 5 ice cubes

  • 1 teaspoon sweetened condensed milk (evaporated or regular milk will work too)

  • 1 teaspoon honey (add more sweeteners if you have a sweet tooth)

  • Directions

    1. Steep the tea bags in hot water until the color turns dark red, about 3 to 5 minutes. Discard the tea bags and let the tea cool.
    2. Combine the ice cubes, sweetened condensed milk, and honey in a glass or cocktail shaker. (Here's a creative use for your martini shaker!!)  Pour in the tea and mix well. (If the tea is still warm, the ice may melt; add more ice if desired.) A strong, flavorful milk tea is ready for you to enjoy.