Thursday, January 31, 2013

recycled paper chains

Phew! It's been quiet around here lately, hmmmm? The So You Think You're Crafty competition has been keeping me busy during the hours I'm not hanging out with my kid, or designing book covers, or making robot party stuff, or, you know, sleeping.

It's Upcycling theme week over at So You Think You're Crafty, and I'll get to post my project here tomorrow since voting ends tonight; I think you'll like it.

In the meantime, here's an easy little project you can use to recycle (or, more properly, reuse or upcycle) some envelope liners, paper sacks, and wrapping paper into decorative paper chains.

Using scissors or a paper cutter, cut your envelope liners and wrapping paper into strips. I used strips about 3/4 inches wide and 9 inches long for these Christmas chains, but if you want to use wider strips, just try to keep them under a couple of inches wide so you won't have any trouble linking.

After you've made one circle (using glue dots or double-sided tape to connect the ends), just loop the next strip of paper through the circle and start making your chain, just like you did with construction paper back in grade school!

Keep going until you have plenty of length. Like with most party or holiday decorations, multiples look better than singles, so go all out. Spend a couple of afternoons and you'll be able to make a few 25-foot lengths. When the party's over, you can save your chains for next time or put them in the recycle bin.

The chains in these photos were some we made at Christmas, but you can make them for any holiday or for party decorations. If you have a specific party theme or color you're aiming for, you can accent with some rings made of construction paper or scrap-booking paper, while still keeping most of the rings recycled. It makes for a really cool look that's easy enough for even really little kids to help make.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 25, 2013

knock-off "antique" mercury glass lamp

It's official! I've lived to compete another week in the So You Think You're Crafty competition! Thank you to everyone who voted for my "Antique" Mercury Glass Lamp. It's a joy to be in the final seven. I'll let you know when voting is live for next week's Upcycling challenge; as a frequent upcycler (you may have noticed) I'm eager to see how the other crafters interpret the theme!

I love mercury glass. Love it. It's shiny and vintage-looking and meant to look imperfect, all of which make it work well in my house. I especially love the way mercury glass lamps look, and the contrast of a rustic burlap shade really sets off the shiny mirrored glass. What I don't love is the price-tag.

For quite awhile, I've had the desire to try and make a mercury glass lamp with thrift store cast-offs, on a super small budget. Thanks to the "So You Think You're Crafty" competition, I had the motivation I needed to pull it off!

First: the originals and the low-cost knock off:

Originals from Restoration Hardware ($174 w/o shade) and Pottery Barn ($269 w/ shade). My copy: $18, w/shade.

I built it using an extra-tall glass thrift-store vase, a repurposed pan lid, the light kit from an old lamp, and some Looking Glass paint. The drum shade is one I stripped down and re-covered in coffee sack burlap. The Edison-style bulbs were a ReStore score for 50 cents apiece.

Mine has a more rustic shade than the Restoration Hardware version, and straighter lines than Pottery Barn's, and it suits me pretty perfectly.  I hope it suits you, too! At a savings of over 90%, you can't really afford not to make one!

Linking up to:

Junkin' Joe Vintage Finds

Saturday, January 12, 2013

thrift store finds: steel storage box

Update: voting for "So You Think You're Crafty" is completed for the week (as of today, January 11th) and I've made it through to the next round!

Thank you all for your votes, and please check back; I'll have a full tutorial for my project up within the next few days. Woohoo!

I found this great steel box with a sliding lid out at Bring awhile back ($4) and have had it sitting in my carport on top of a set of lockers for a couple of months now.

Finally, right before Christmas, when we were expecting house guests and I was trying to get things just a smidgeon organized, I went out and cleaned it up and decided to finally hang it on the wall like I'd intended to do since finding it. Its purpose: to hold cleaning supplies and the kitchen fire extinguisher.

I don't know what purpose it served in its previous life, though it looks to be from the first half of the 20th century. I thought at first it might be a flammable liquids storage box, except the vent on the front (or top, depending on how it originally sat) wouldn't make much sense.

My sister-in-law suggested that it might have been a bread box, which would make sense. Maybe one that stored inside a drawer or something? The sliding lid could still have functioned that way.

At any rate, there were no holes or hangers on the back, and a note (written in marker on bright pink paper) attached to the side (with masking tape) read, "curtains to mend". Not that those two clues narrow it down much.

I admit it: I drilled holes in the back and tried hanging it with picture hangers, but that was just a temporary fix and was really unstable; it needed to be hung with drywall anchors, screws, and washers. I'd normally woman-up and do it myself, but I didn't want to brave the shed right now to find the drill. When the mister offered to take care of it for me, I let him.

I always like the character that beat-up old things add to the house. And it inspired me to put in a little more time priming the kitchen walls, so hey, double points for me!

So: what fun old stuff are you bringing into the house these days? Anyone getting any eye rolls? The mister is a master of hiding his, if he's rolling them at all. He's a good guy.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

chocolate stout birthday cake

This year, unlike in past years, the mister requested a specific cake flavor, instead of a cake theme (like the Fallout cake here, the Zelda cake here,  and the Skyrim cake here). This year, he wanted a chocolate stout cake, like the one an old friend of ours made for his own birthday a couple of years back.

Now, I'm not as good a baker as our friend, but I can fudge it. (Ha!) I used Jamie's recipe from My Baking Addiction, with a few alterations.

First: I halved the recipe to make a 6-inch, 3-layer cake instead of an 8-inch 3-layer cake. All that high school math served me well (thanks, Mr. Tutland!) as I was calculating to see if a half-recipe would be enough batter; it was close enough for my purposes, so I went ahead with it. I did this because chocolate stout cake is very rich (the "icing" is just chocolate and cream, for heaven's sake) and we were only needing enough for five people . . . and still only ate half of it on the mister's birthday. A 6-inch cake is just enough for a couple of days, without anyone getting sick of cake.

Second: I substituted a mixture of lowfat milk and whipping cream for the sour cream in the original recipe, and didn't notice any lack of richness, taste, or texture.

Third: I left off the decorative chocolate curls and used sprinkles to decorate instead. (And it's kinda pretty, but I wouldn't recommend it. The crunchiness of the hundreds-and-thousands detracts from the experience of the icing.)

So here's the recipe I used. You can find the original here.

Six-Inch Chocolate Stout Cake with Chocolate Ganache Frosting

for the cake

3/4 cup Chocolate Stout (Trader Joe's makes a great one, which I used)
1/4 cup strong black coffee
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups all-purpose flour (I used 1 cup whole wheat  flour and 1 cup all-purpose)
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup whipping cream
1/3 cup milk

for the icing

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 pound chopped semisweet chocolate (I used chocolate chips)

Directions for the Cake

1) Set oven to 350 degrees F, and grease three 6-inch cake pans. LINE THE BOTTOMS WITH PARCHMENT PAPER. Very important. The cake is very moist, and you'll need the parchment to help get the cake layers out of the pans.

2) Melt butter in a medium saucepan with the chocolate stout and coffee until simmering. Stir in the cocoa powder and whisk till smooth. Remove from heat.

3) Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. 

4) Using your electric mixer (or a lot of elbow grease) beat eggs, vanilla, milk, and cream together, then add the COOLED stout mixture. Add flour mixture and beat on low speed until combined. Divide batter between the three pans. Bake until cake tester comes out clean; approximately 35 minutes. Transfer cakes to cake rack to cool.

Directions for the Icing

1) Simmer the whipping cream in a small, heavy saucepan. Remove from heat and whisk in the chocolate until melted and smooth. Refrigerate until spreadable, approximately two hours.

2) Use a small smear of frosting on the cake plate to stick first layer in place, then spread a small amount of frosting over it. Top with second cake layer, and spread with more icing. Repeat for third layer, then spread remaining icing over top and sides.

I used a stencil cut from parchment paper to get the sprinkles to stick in a specific pattern.

As noted in the original recipe, this cake tastes best fresh the first day, but it can be refrigerated and warmed for leftovers. 

Thanks for reading!  Enjoy your cake!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

freezer paper stencil viking t-shirt

I had a falling out with the owner of a local shop recently. I'd gone there to buy a specific t-shirt for my kiddo, one with a cuuuute viking pattern screen printed on it by a company I like, but can't always buy (because good sense dictates that I don't buy too many $30 toddler t-shirts).

But I left without it.

It's all too bad because I like to support local business when I can (even if it means waiting for a sale) and I especially like to support mama-owned businesses. More than that, I like to support good graphic designers, and this particular clothing manufacturer hires great ones.

In the end, though, the idea of stenciling a viking design onto a t-shirt isn't copyrighted. In fact, this tutorial that Cheri wrote over a year ago could have inspired the (more recent) designer t-shirt, for all I know. I know it inspired me!

Freezer paper stenciling is something I've posted about before, but this viking design is a whole lot less complex. As you can see, I made it in two different sizes, one for the mister and one for the kiddo.

I also (word to the wise) accidentally cut it into wax paper the first go-around (which DOES NOT WORK, and I knew it) and had to re-do it, so it's a good thing it's so straight-forward.

Cheri mentions in her tutorial that you can find some free-use images on-line and cut them with your Silhouette cutter; you'll be happy to know you can also free-hand the drawing and cut it out with a craft knife if, like me, you're artsy and don't own a Silhouette. You can see my pencil lines on the paper in this next photo.

Cut on FREEZER paper, iron onto t-shirt (plastic side down), paint, and let dry.

If your beard is too close to the color of your shirt, lighten it up, dry again, and remove the wax paper.

Heat set, and you're ready to go!

I used a Gap t-shirt from the Goodwill for this design, so the project was really inexpensive and fast. And we like it! I hope you'll link to your freezer paper stencil projects in the comments section below, if you have the urge!

Happy New Year, and thanks for reading!