Archive | January, 2013

The Gift of Thrift-Jewellry Holder DIY

26 Jan

Hello all,

I hope the new year is going okay for everyone so far. Mine has not been without some excitement (i.e drama) but I’m (mostly) always grateful to be alive and healthy.

Tonight I’m blogging about some DIY-ing I did a little while back. I’ve always been a bit of a DIY-er, even before I knew that term existed. Now I embrace the culture, I love it! As I mentioned in an earlier post I have taken to making many of the gifts I give, mostly because I love doing it and feel it’s more personal but also because when done with a bit of thought, it’s actually cheaper than most store bought stuff.

2 Christmases ago, I gave 3 of my female friends jewelry holders that I made and decorated myself.

MAKING OF THE HOLDER

If only I had anticipated all that time ago that I’d blog about this someday then maybe I would have whipped out my camera and taken shots from start to finish, but alas I did not. So I’ll show you what I have:

I used clay (as in real clay from the earth- which I bought not personally dug up or anything) Any durable variant of modeling clay found in a craft store should do.

 

 

Here is where the pictures (mercifully) begin:

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Those are my pieces of clay and a bowl of water for working with. The first thing I had to do was knead the clay relentlessly in order to make it easy to work with and more importantly remove all the air bubbles which if left, would compromise the integrity of the piece once dry.

Then I rolled the clay into long cylindrical pieces and coiled them while scoring the edges to form the shape I wanted.

After that, using my fingers and some water I smoothed and smoothed until the surface was….well..smooth. Then I let them dry (I left them for months but it only took a few weeks). Whatever material you use, make sure it’s completely dry before proceeding to the next step:

Many moons later when I was ready for them I got back out my now very dry handmade jewelry holders (at a cost of mere cents each) and got ready to make them special.

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If you know a bit about clay you’ll realise I didn’t have them fired (it’s still brown and not red) and that’s okay. Firing isn’t necessary for small items like this (and it’s costly unless you have your own kiln and you’re doing these in bulk), once they’re completely dry, it’s fine.

Using acrylic paint, I first painted it white as a base coat, since whatever colour I put over it I want to stand out.

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I then painted the outside and all the edges of the compartments black for some contrast to the bright colours I then painted each compartment. I went with a kind of abstract-esque mexican inspired colour scheme but feel free to use whatever colours or style tickles your fancy.

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Each compartment was a different vibrant colour.

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The full view of the finished product.

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I went for more geometric patterns with these ring holders painting them colours I thought suited the personality of the recipients.

These gifts were beautiful,imperfect,functional,appreciated and one of a kind. And the cherry on top is that they literally cost me under $1 US in materials-very much in keeping with my life on a budget. As for the labour, well it was a labour of love.

I hope this post inspires any DIY-ers looking for something fun,useful and thrifty to give as gifts or even for yourself.

Have an awesome day!

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Red Velvet Pancakes and New Years!

1 Jan

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Happy 2013!

After a quiet night of watching new years around the world on tv and sipping Prosecco and munching cocktail shrimp and chocolates with my mother I got up ready for the new year!

We tried to start off the year on the right foot (feet) and went for a brisk morning walk around our neighbourhood. It was pretty refreshing. We intend to watch the Rose Parade on the tv a bit later on. So that left the rest of the morning for us to laze around and have some breakfast. Many people go out for breakfast/brunch on New Years which is awesome. However we don’t need a big over the top meal to start the year, just something delicious and filling.

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Bottle of Prosecco (Champagne’s cheaper cousin I like to call it) and 2 glasses to ring in 2013.

BREAKFAST

For brekky (breakfast) I decided to try something I’ve wanted to for a while……Red Velvet Pancakes. Sure I’ve done red velvet cupcakes and cakes before but I’ve never tried red velvet-ing anything else.

A WORD ON RED VELVET

I spent a great deal of energy some time ago researching what red velvet really means.Boy is this a controversial flavour!

For some, it’s simply red cake; add some red food colouring to white cake mix and that’s it! For others the focus is on the reaction between baking soda and vinegar that many put into their mix and coco powder; apparently coco powder of the past (which was processed slightly differently to what we use today) reacted with these ingredients and gave the cake a reddish hue (rather than the brilliant red we associate with it today).

Many other people have varying views about what red velvet cake should contain and how it should taste: I’ve heard people say it’s like eating red chocolate cake and for others it doesn’t taste like anything at all.

Well I did my homework, I read recipe after recipe, watched you  tube videos of people making red velvet cake, researched the history and views on this mysterious flavour.

My humble opinion based on this research is this;

1) Red velvet did originate from the colour produced from the reaction between cocoa and baking soda/vinegar hundreds of years ago-this won’t work with the average dutch processed cocoa we use today.

2) Red velvet should have a MILD chocolate flavour- so no you shouldn’t feel as if you’re eating red chocolate cake or just red plain cake, it should have that nice cocoa taste without overpowering the flavour.

3) Use apple cider vinegar and baking soda to “velvet”(Yeah I made it into a verb) your cake- I have been made to understand that the vinegar/baking soda mixture allows the cake to have a fluffy texture. To this end I actually use it in lots of other cake mixtures to “velvet” them.

4) Use a recipe with buttermilk-Again this can be used in almost any other basic cake recipe. It gives a smooth,moist cake which is exactly how I expect red velvet to be.

All in all when I envision red velvet cake I think of a rich,moist mildly chocolate yet decadent flavour.

In recent times, people have made red velvet a flavour not just for cake but pancakes,cookies,brownies,ice-cream, even yogurt!

This brings me to this morning’s breakfast-red velvet pancakes.

BACK TO BREAKFAST

Here’s what I did;

4 CUPS of pancake mix (I make just about everything from scratch but never pancakes)

2 CUPS H2O (Use the amount of water required for your particular pancake mix)

1 1/2 TABLESPOONS of cocoa powder- Mix in-batter will be only slightly brown

Red food colouring to suit- Make it as pale or deep red as you wish

1 TEASPOON vanilla essence

PINCH of cinnamon

2 TABLSPOONS granulated sugar -The cocoa makes the mixture a bit bitter

1 TEASPOON baking soda and 1 TEASPOON apple cider vinegar(or white vinegar)-mix these together quickly and add to mixture to “velvet” it.

Mix everything well ensuring your sugar is mixed in well.

Heat skillet and make pancakes!

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The Red Velvet Pancake Batter

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Pouring batter into pan.

TOPPINGS

What goes great with red velvet? Cream cheese of course!

Instead of a pat of butter I softened some cream cheese (in the microwave for about 20 seconds) and put that on the top of my stack of pancakes.

Syrup

These were no ordinary pancakes, so we couldn’t use ordinary syrup. I decided to try another first. I made a strawberry, balsamic vinegar reduction. I know there are numerous recipes for this kind of thing but I just decided to wing it, and it came out fine.

Here’s what I did:

1) 1 CUP frozen strawberries-I defrosted them then cut them into chunks and let them sautee for a few minutes.

2) 1/2 CUP white balsamic vinegar (I’m sure regular balsamic vinegar works the same)

3) 1/2 CUP sugar- Add more for a more syrup-ey consistency

4) Intermittently I added a few teaspoons of water to keep everything going. This is really a done to taste kind of a recipe.

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Strawberries sauteeing.

This came out tasting fruity and sweet but with that acidic kick you get from balsamic vinegar. I drizzled it over the top of the stack for that perfect finish.

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Yummm.

Wishing you all a great New years and have an awesome day!

Happy Holiday-The Late Edition

1 Jan

Hey there everyone, Happy Holidays! This includes Christmas, New Years, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and really any other holiday observed around this time of the year.

Boy did I have blogging plans for this season, I was going to post about decorating for Christmas, about homemade Christmas gifts and frugal ways to enjoy New Year’s eve. But alas, the hustle and bustle got the better of me. When I wasn’t too  busy I was too tired to even turn on my laptop.

Therefore I’m going have to do an all in one post..

First off Christmas decorations

In our home, we love to decorate for any reason but most especially Christmas! We always get a “live” tree. We do use baubles and the shiny round run of the mill ornaments in between as fillers but most of our decorations are one of a kinds (to us) collected over the years.

There was once a time when I wished we could magically eliminate our old decorations each year and buy an entirely new batch with a different colour scheme each year, but somewhere in my early 20’s I think I fully appreciated the meaningfulness behind each and every “personal” decoration. There is stuff on there from the 70’s right up until now. My mother even has a decoration which once belonged to her mother (back in the 50’s and 60’s).

In addition to meaning and sentimental value etc this is far more affordable than purchasing a new set of decorations every year or so which many of us very well do.

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The tree by night.

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A lighted view of the tree. Here you can see: a mask, a stuffed giraffe, a mini snow white book (bought on my first trip to Disney World 22 years ago), a Pinocchio decoration bought from a toy store in Italy, 2 Sponge bob ceramic decorations (my sister’s fav cartoon) a shiny red apple (bought in the big apple) and much more.

Next, Gifts

This can really rack up the cash and for a poor party girl like myself that just won’t do. My advice is;

1) Make a list and check it twice- A lot of the time we find ourselves giving gifts to people that we don’t really want to or need to. Stop this! I hope that doesn’t seem mean spirited but if I don’t see or hear you for the entire year there is no need to spend a small fortune on a dust collector for your home. Revising your Christmas list alone will cut your spending.

                          2) Make it or Bake it- That’s right, homemade gifts are from the heart and when properly thought out are cheaper than many commercial items.

Maybe jewellery making is your hobby; buy some beads and go for it,  maybe you love to bake; cookies or cupcakes are a neat idea. Perhaps you have a green thumb, give your friends and family a small potted plants for gifts.

As mentioned, plan your homemade gifts budget carefully or you could end up spending more doing this than just buying ready made stuff. Crafty items and baking supplies can be very overpriced so do some wholesale purchasing and bargain hunting.

That said, no matter the cost, a homemade gift will have that personal touch ready made stuff doesn’t.

Lastly, New Years Eve

What to do?

I’ve had my time of going to fancy all inclusive all night long parties, where your dress and shoes cost more than the overpriced ticket to the event. But I no longer care much for that scene, nor do I deem it affordable, not every year at least. I would say for the past 5 years or so I’ve been doing new years on a budget.

Some ideas :

                  1) Going someplace(free) to watch fireworks (did that 2 years ago)- take a bottle of wine, a few glasses and some snacks and make a night out of it.

                    2) having an old school house party where everyone brings something-throw on some music or movies and have a chill night

                    3) just hanging out at home with my immediate family (my mother and I are doing that this year) and watching the countdowns all over the world.

                    4)  Going to church- A lot of persons I know believe in starting each new year off this way

                    5) Nothing at all-Completely fail to acknowledge anything different about this night and carry on as usual (this also works quite well)

Well I know it was rushed and late an concise but that’s my 2 cents worth on the holiday season this year. I will leave with you a few pictures of our Christmas decor and a wish for a truly blessed and awesome and successful 2013………………….the best is yet to come.

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The Dining Table with our party spread laid out

ImageA close up of the tablescape; Glass jar filled with assorted red ornaments, miniature Christmas trees, small apothecary jar filled with red decorations small red candle holder and hanging from our chandelier, more red ornaments tied onto ribbon. All of these things were reused from previous years.

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This was on the coffee table in our porch 3 candles, a red glass ornament and one huge silver spray painted pine cone on a gold charger. Simple but effective.

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Last but not least; Patronus (yes inspired by the Stag that was Harry Potter’s patronus). Last Christmas my sister bought me a ceramic reindeer. This Christmas I wrapped him in some LED lights and placed Santa on his back.

Here is looking forward to lots more blogging in 2013. Have an awesome day and year!

 

 

 

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