Thursday, September 30, 2010

Let's Make Some Magic!

Living with boys as we do, we know the messes they can make. We often marvel at the creative ways the guys in our lives make these messes. We also marvel at how in the world we will get some of these messes cleaned up! But often the miracle product Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and others like it have made cleaning some of the toughest messes (like magic marker on the computer keyboard) a breeze. It really does work like magic!
But having just bought some, we wondered if it was possible to make a homemade version. Was is possible to make a little magic of our own? As with most things, the answer is YES! After a little research we found that all these products are is melamine foam! Apparently, melamine foam is an open cell foam that, when mixed with water, acts like a super micro-fine sandpaper easily removing the toughest stains around your house!

We looked into purchasing some melamine foam from our local big box hardware store, but was told they don't carry it. Because melamine foam is used as a soundproofing material, we found you can find it at stores specializing in that area (we were also able to find it on!).

Who knew making a little magic would be so easy?
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Monday, September 27, 2010

Wax On, Wax Off - Homemade Hair Removal part 2

Growing up, Rebecca and Maggie had a friend whose family was from Egypt. She told them about how her family made a sugar dough that they used to remove all their unwanted hair. The dough would be spread on their skin and then pulled off to remove the hair and then used over and over again. No strips needed. Unfortunately their friend and her family moved away before she could share this recipe. We searched the internet and found what we think must be a recipe like they used. It is called sugaring paste.

It is a little more complicated than the last recipe, but once you get the hang of it is great! You don't need strips and it is gentler on your skin. Unlike the last recipe, you can go over the same area more than once. The paste can be used on any part of your body with unwanted hair.

It may help to read up on candy making - basically you are making lemon candy to remove hair.

What You Need:
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 1/4 cup of lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • a candy thermometer

Mix all the ingredients in a heavy sauce pan. Heat on med-high until it reaches a boil.

Turn down to a simmer for 25 min. Stir often! Don't rush the cooking process. You want it to cook low and slow!

The mixture will start to turn a dark amber color. It will be ready when the thermometer reaches firm ball stage - 245-250 degrees.

Let the mixture cool for 10 min. Pour into an airtight container. Be careful, it will still be really hot!! Let the mixture finish cooling.

When you are ready to wax, make sure you skin is clean and dry. Some people found that lightly dusting their skin with corn starch made the sugar paste stick better to the hair, and not to their skin. (We didn't really notice a difference.)

The sugar will be pretty firm at this point. You want to grab a blob and roll it into a ball and flatten. Try not to over work it. The heat from your hands can make it sticky. Press the paste onto your skin, keeping it 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch thick for easy removal. Now flick up one end and quickly pull off skin in the opposite direction of hair growth. You can keep reusing the paste until it gets too gooey.

Because this is just made out of sugar and lemon juice clean up is a breeze! Just use a little water.

Don't worry if the dough doesn't come out just right the first time. Our first try went past the firm ball stage and was a little hard (this was before we had a candy thermometer). We found it still worked if we warmed it in the microwave for 10 seconds. Another batch was undercooked so we just put it back in the pot and heated it again.

If you find you prefer using strips of fabric, you can warm this recipe in the microwave and use it like our last recipe. However, once we got the hang of this recipe, we found we preferred the sugaring paste method .
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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Wax On, Wax Off - Homemade Hair Removal part 1

Unfortunately sisters Rebecca and Maggie come from a very hairy family. So when we saw recipes for homemade waxing we said, "OW!!" and then, "We gotta try this!" We spent Tuesday morning trying a couple different recipes with great results. We liked them so much we decided to do two posts on them.

If you have ever tried products like Nads, this recipe is just like that. With only a few ingredients that you probably already have at home you can make a similar product for less than 2$. This is also a very simple recipe to make. Because the strips are made of fabric you can wash and reuse them next time.

Here's What You Need:

  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/4 cup of honey
  • 1 ounce of lemon juice
  • a drizzle of molasses (optional)

You Will Also Need:

  • cotton fabric strips (we used an old bed sheet) 3 in. x 10 in.
  • popsicle stick or butter knife

In a microwave safe bowl, mix all the ingredients together. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Carefully remove from microwave - it will be HOT! Stir the mix. If it is a smooth consistency it is ready to use. If the sugar hasn't dissolved completely, microwave for additional 30 seconds until it has. Let the sugar cool off until it is still hot, but cool enough to put on your skin. Please don't burn yourself!!

Make sure the area you are going to wax is clean and dry.
Now, using your Popsicle stick spread a very thin layer down your leg in the direction of the hair growth.

Press your strip of into the sugar. Rub several times.

Pull your skin taught. Grip the strip from the bottom. Quickly pull upwards (opposite of the direction that the hair grows). Repeat on the rest of your leg. Just don't repeat on the same patch of skin. Then admire your smooth leg. Make sure you moisturize your skin after you wax.

We did find that it took a little practice getting this technique down, but once we did we found it worked really well. The wax cleans up easily with a little water. The extra wax will keep for a long time. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.
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Monday, September 20, 2010

Ice Cream: It's In The Bag

A couple weeks ago the kids had a day off form school, so Rebecca and Maggie took their boys to the Kohl Children's Museum for a day of fun. When they walked in, there was an activity for the kids to do that really caught the boys' eyes: Ice Cream in a Bag! What kid wouldn't want to make that? Not having a camera handy Maggie grabbed her phone, knowing this was a project we would have to share with all of you!

What You Need:
  • 2 sugar packets (or about 1 Tbsp. sugar)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1 sandwich size zip lock baggie
  • rock salt (about 1/4 cup, but just eyeball it)
  • plastic container with lid (or a gallon-size zip lock bag would work, too)
  • enough ice to fill your plastic container
In your small plastic bag, mix the sugar, milk and vanilla. Make sure your bag does not have a leak and seal it shut tight! We had one with a small leak and wound up with salty ice cream - yuck! Place your baggie inside your plastic container and surround it with ice and rock salt. Cover tightly and shake it vigorously for about five minutes.

After about five minutes, peek inside the plastic container and see if your mixture has turned into ice cream! if not, cover and shake a bit more. Then all there is left to do is gobble it up!

As you can see, it was a hit with the boys!
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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Trick or Treat! Make a Wreath!

Fall is here, and this is the time of year when we start thinking about spooky decorations, tricks, and treats! Our project today is a combination of all of these: a spooky, sparkly Halloween Wreath! And teh best part is that all the items used to make this great wreath can be found at the dollar store!

What You Need:
  • 5 nine foot Halloween tinsel garlands
  • 1 Trick or Treat foam sign
In one easy step, alternate wrapping the tinsel garland around
the wreath until fully covered. Then stick a small nail in the top center of the wreath and loop the trick or treat sign around the nail. Voila! You have a spooky wreath for under $10!
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Monday, September 13, 2010

Let Them Eat Ice Cream Cake!

What is more lovely than ice cream and cake? They are the perfect party treat! So that would pretty much make an ice cream cake an amazing invention! And while you can buy some great ones, they get pricey. Why pay a bunch of money for something you can easily make yourself? We gave it whirl and found it was both easy and tasty! So make room in your freezer and try making one for yourself!

What you need:
  • 1 boxed cake mix (whatever flavor you prefer - we used Devils Food!)
  • ice cream (we used mint chocolate chip!)
  • frosting (in our case, chocolate!)
We first baked our cake mix according to the instructions on the box into two 8" round pans. While they were cooking, we pressed our ice cream into a third 8" round pan that was lined with foil (this helps you remove the ice cream later on). To help press it in we placed a sheet of waxed paper on top and pressed it with our hands - less messy, and less chilly on your hands! We then covered the pan of ice cream and placed it in the freezer to get good and hard.

Once the cakes were baked and cooled, we spread a layer of frosting on the top of one, placed the pan of ice cream upside down on top, removed the pan, and then peeled off the foil. we then took the second cake and spread frosting on one side, flipped it, and sandwiched it on top of the ice cream layer so that our stack consisted of cake, frosting, ice cream, frosting, cake. Then the whole thing went back in the freezer to firm back up (as you can see from the pic it was a little lop-sided, but frosting can fix all that!).

Since our room temperature frosting and warm kitchen were making the ice cream melt (and frosting does not like to stick to melting ice cream), we found that we had to frost it bit by bit while still keeping it in the freezer. We'd frost a section then close the freezer and let it sit for about ten minutes, go back and do another section. Keep repeating this until your cake is covered. Once covered, we sprinkled chopped up chocolate mints on the top of ours! Yum!

Let it sit for a few hours to make sure it's good and firm, then grab a knife and fork and enjoy! It's a little time-consuming, but is so easy to make and will totally impress your friends and family! And who doesn't like that?
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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Cutie Coasters

Jill was in need of a fun and unique gift for a couple people, and has this great idea: Tile Coasters! They are really fun and simple to make, and can be modified to fit the tastes of your recipient. Hers turned out so cute, we wanted to show you how she did it!

What You Need
  • 4 square ceramic tiles ( we used 4 1/2 x 4 1/2)
  • Decoupage glue (we used Mod Podge)
  • Paper- can be scrapbook, card stock, leftover invitations, monogrammed napkins, copies of love letters or song
  • Felt or cork board for backing coasters (Cork does make it easier to achieve a clean, professional look but will increase your cost slightly).
  • Paper cutter or scissors
  • Heavy-duty glue
  • Waterproof acrylic sealer, in a spray or paint can
First, clean the tiles with alcohol to remove smudges/fingerprints. Be sure you’re working on a non-stick surface like plastic or vinyl. The decoupage glue WILL stick to newspaper or card stock! (That’s it’s intended purpose.)

Optional: The grooves on the sides of each tile can be sanded down (we like the way they look, though). They can be painted, or sponged with waterproof ink before adding your paper. They can be gold-leafed or covered in ribbon at the end of the process.

Next,cut your paper into squares 1/4″ smaller than your tile. Have a stack of these cut to expedite the process.

Brush the tile with decoupage glue. Use a generous coat, since you want all parts of your paper to bond permanently. You must work quickly, as it begins drying immediately. Center your paper on the tile. Press the paper to the tile firmly, beginning in the middle and working your way outwards, eliminating air bubbles. Pay extra attention to the edges. These must adhere well, otherwise the paper will peel. Allow this layer to dry, 10 to 15 minutes.

Apply a layer of decoupage glue to the top of the paper. Make sure your brushstrokes are uniform and run in only one direction, as you will be able to see them (lightly) when the glue dries. Allow this layer to dry 15 to 20 minutes. Brush another layer of decoupage glue over the coaster. You can make your brushstrokes in the same direction or the opposite direction (horizontally).Continue adding layers of decoupage glue until you are satisfied with the look (we used three).

Then repeat the process of sealing with waterproof acrylic sealer, brushing on a layer and allowing it to dry. If using spray sealant, follow directions on the can. We waited at least one day before adding the sealer to make sure that the coasters are thoroughly dry.
When the coasters are completely sealed and dry, cut the felt to the appropriate size to match your tiles. Use the heavy-duty glue to affix the felt square to the bottom of the tile. The same process applies to the use of rolled cork board. Wait a few days before packaging to make sure that the adhesive no longer has an odor.
Stack and package your coasters.

We added initials to coasters & tied with a ribbon, but you can be as creative as you'd like! A creative and unique birthday gift!

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Monday, September 6, 2010

Rolled Paper Wreath

While looking around the Internet at all the wonderful crafty inspiration out there, we ran across this project from T. Matthews Fine Art. It looked simple, used recycled items, and best of all, it looked pretty! So we had to try it out for ourselves and were so pleased with the results we knew we had to share it with you!

What you need:
  • wreath form (we cut a square from a box! Yay recycling!)
  • a magazine or even some cute paper
  • scissors
  • hot glue gun
  • ribbon
First, cut medium to medium large circles from the pages of your magazine (you could trace a circle first to make sure it's perfect but we just winged it). You'll need a LOT!

Cut your circles into a spirals (again, you could draw a spiral on your circle first, but we just cut into them!).

Starting from the outside of your spiral, roll tightly inward.

Once your spiral is fairly tightly wound, let it go and you will see how it is resembling a rose.
Fire up your hot glue gun and begin gluing your "roses" to your frame. Hold them down for a few minutes to make sure they hold.
Continue doing these steps until your wreath is completely covered! Just attach your ribbon to the back of the frame and in no time you'll have a fun and pretty wreath!
At this point you can spray paint it, but we left ours as-is. We like that little bits of the different colors peek out!

Happy Paper Rolling!
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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Green Your Barbeque!

Like many of you we are planning a farewell to summer BBQ for Monday. Our local paper had a timely article about ways to green up your Labor Day Picnics. Some ideas we had heard before, but some were new to us and really made us think. It inspired us to look for ways we could make our party a little greener.

  • We plan on heading to our farmer's market on Saturday morning to pick up great organic produce from local farms.

  • Our tables will be decorated with cloth table clothes (the article also suggested using fabric remnants).

  • We will be using our everyday dishes and silverware. You could also use bamboo flatware or other compostable party ware.
  • We are going to bring our recycling bin out on the patio to make recycling easy for our guests.

Now what his article really inspired us to look at was our grilling method. Gas or electric grills are best for the earth, but if you are going to use charcoal, stay away from briquettes. We looked up what they are made of - animal and vegetation substances and often coal. YIKES!! Instead look for lump charcoal made from pure hard woods. We plan on trying Cowboy Charcoal (which can be found at Trader Joe's). It contains 100% pure wood with no chemicals, coal or fillers.

We have also said goodbye to lighter fluid. We're not sure what took us so long to figure this one out. The harmful fumes that are released aren't good for us or the earth.

We would love to hear from you!! Please share how you are planning to make this a green Labor Day!

Happy Labor Day!

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