Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Robinella's Craft Corner

or reindeer and soldier ornaments.

List of supplies:

  • doll and no roll clothespins

  • pipe cleaners

  • pom-poms

  • rick rack

  • thin gold twine

  • craft paints and brushes

  • google eyes

  • hot glue

  • scrap material

I'm not giving step by steps because they are so easy kids can do them. (with proper supervision of the hot glue gun, of course) And I think a picture does the trick. If not, feel free to email me with questions.

Let me start by repeating that it is so easy a kid can do it, but if you have boys, they may do their own thing.

My nephew thought Ozzy and Sharon were more fun to make. Have you seen that new commercial where Ozzy uses text messaging to translate? HAlarious. Does The Osbournes come on anymore? BN and I used to laugh our hineys off watching that. So where was I...

Pete started with soldiers then gravitated towards villains. I am partial to that swirly one.

RePete went right for the bad guys. With such names as Bubble Gum man and Glow Man.

So mom and I did all the rest (after we replenished our supplies at the local craft store).

The soldiers do not have faces. We could have painted them on but we too worn out by this time to care.
 (missing photo)

Here's the only remaining deer from when my sister and I were kids.
(missing photo)

And here's the new and "improved" version. Doesn't the one on the right look like he's trying to edge away from the one on the left. He looks a little uneasy.
(missing photo)

It was a lot of fun having my mom help us make these again. A little walk down memory lane and all that.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Friday, November 21, 2008

Robinella's Craft Corner

I love, love, love ornaments. I found this great idea for recycled aluminum ornaments in Natural Home magazine (Nov/Dec 2008). I've always loved jewelry, wind-chimes and Christmas ornaments. With this craft you can do them all.

Here's a peak at some of the supplies I used. You won't need them all, but many are helpful. For instance if you don't have a punch, a nail will work just fine. No tinsnips? Just use scissors. You get the idea.


First, I cut the cans to remove the tops and bottoms. You should wear gloves to protect your hands. I couldn't find my leather work gloves so I was just very, very careful. The aluminum is so thin, it was so easy to cut.


Here are the cans all cut up. Pretty sloppy since it was awkward to cut a straight line. But not a problem since you'll just trim that up when you cut your shapes.


Pete sneaked off with my camera. Thanks, Pete. Proof that I was actually doing this craft and one of the few times you'll ever catch me sitting during the day. Oh my aching legs.


Good Lord! Look how old my hands are getting. Anyhoo, here's where I used the ruler as a straight edge to draw my edges. The source I got this idea from suggests using a little paper template for nice precise shapes and sizes, but I didn't get my nickname from BN by using templates. That's right, just call me Half-Assed. I like to "eyeball" things.


Here are the two cans that have been trimmed. I'll be making TWO ornaments from these. The backside of the ornament uses the smaller squares and the front side of the ornament uses the larger ones.


See? Small square with wrong side facing the larger square. You'll need that little overlap to fold over and hide the sharp edges. It also gives you an aluminum front and back. No cola logos showing. You'll need to snip the corners as shown.


Now, fold the larger edges over the smaller square.


Then pound out all your frustrations. I also rubbed the hammer along the edges for a little more smoothing.


And voila! This is the front side. It's amazing how that half-assed thing comes back to haunt me with irregular shapes. That's okay. What's my motto? Say it with me... Handmade isn't perfect. It's charming.


Phew! I feel better. And so relaxed. Moving on.

Use that handy-dandy nail to punch any holes you need for hanging or just for decoration.



Oooo. Look how it is coming together. You can use floral wire or any gauge wire to hang all the doo-dads on. I saw these red glass medallions at the craft store and had to have them. Very funky. Looove it!


Here's the back of the ornaments. Also nice looking. Note to self: Do not use permanent markers unless I plan to cut all the ink off. Oopsie.


Drum roll please. My Christmas tree is not up. I'm not that loony. So I used Mother Nature and with all the golds and reds available I think these would make fine outdoor accessories. Does aluminum rust? Hmm...


Or hang several together to create a sun-catcher. Or if you watched my gift wrapping video, you know I love handmade gift tags. These would be great for that. Just use the nail to punch the name or initial of the giftee. YES! A gift on the gift. You are so giving. I love things that have dual purposes. Helps reiterate that whole recycle thing.


Can't wait to put up the tree and see how they look.


Next week will be a blast from the past. My mom is coming down and she's going to help the boys make ornaments she made with my sister and me many, many moons ago. Grandmas are awesome.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Robinella's Craft Corner

or Soap Making - Part III

I peek a lot. I'm sure that doesn't help the process, but I can't help myself. I just have to peek. On day four, I gently woke the soap mold and boy did it get heavy. It that possible? Would the hardened mix weigh more than the liquid mix? Probably not, but it definitely felt solid which was a good sign.

I removed the soap from the mold by pulling on the freezer paper.


Then I removed the paper from the sides which wasn't easy. I ended up slicing the ends off. How you cut this is up to you. I happen to have a very nice chef's knife that was the perfect length and the soap is not super hard yet so pretty easy to cut through. The texture or pliableness (is that a word) reminds me of clay.

You can use a ruler or eyeball it like me and cut into even sized bars. This batch made 36 bars.


Here they are all lined up on the cooling racks.


See why getting your paper all smoothed out might be necessary?


That's okay. I'm keeping him. Some soapers use potato peelers and other utensils to smooth the edges or make them more uniform and "perfect" but as I say time and time again, handmade isn't "perfect". It's the little character flaws that make a handmade gift, handmade. I like to think of these imperfections as charming. These bars will need 3-4 weeks to set-up completely.

And how about those scraps I cut off. Remember those.


My mother always taught me not to be wasteful. I let my boys help make those scraps into soap balls. Ever notice how your kid's soaps always end up looking like this anyway. Why not start out that shape.


Let's see how this handmade soap looks next to my all-time favorite organic bar of soap.


Pretty darn spiffy, I think. If you want to give these as gifts, just wrap them in a handmade wrapper. Get creative with this. If you start your soap making this weekend, they'll be ready just in time for the holidays.


**We aren't fond of colorings and dyes, but you can add these at the same time you add your essentials oils.

Next Friday, I'm making recycled aluminum ornaments. So funky, yet earth friendly!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Soap Making - Part II

Okay, so the lye is cooling, the solid oils are melting on low heat and the remaining oils are measured. The molds are lined so at this point, I measured my essential oils. I chose not to use as much as most recipes call for due to our family's sensitivities to smells. This will also save me money because essential oils are not cheap. Most of the ones I used are available in the health food stores and they are organic as well. I used a mixture of Peppermint, Lemon and Eucalyptus oils and they each cost just under $10 an ounce. This resulted in a great refreshing smell that will be nice this winter when everyone gets all snuffy and stopped up.

Once the solid oils melt, I added the other oils and took a temp reading. About 140 degrees. This oil mixture also has to get down to about 100-110 degrees. Since the lye was still at around 160, I filled the sink and added ice and it started cooling at about the same rate as the oils. I stirred the lye from time to time to keep it constant and I gently stirred the oils to get it to cool down faster.

When both temps were in the 100-110 range, I poured the lye mixture into the oils as I gently stirred with a spatula. Then I started mixing with the hand mixer and boy did it incorporate everything quickly. I used the mixer for about a minute, then turned it off and used the mixer to stir by hand for a quick bit. This process takes up to 15 minutes, although mine took less time. You want to make sure and mix a bit and hand stir a bit. This keeps the mixer from burning out, helps keep bubbles out of the mix and also helps identify true trace.


Trace happens when the lye and oils are mixed perfectly for soap making. The surface of the mix will get a satiny and smooth appearance and the mix will leave a pattern on the top when it drips from the spatula. You'll also notice how it coats your utensils. Like a thin pudding. Technical stuff here.


At this point you'll need to incorporate any essential oils into the mix and immediately pour into the mold(s).


Now it is time to put your soap to bed and let it work it's magic - saponification. Oooo - big word. It just means the oils and lye chemically react and turns into soap.

For bedtime, cover the mold with a piece of cardboard and wrap the whole thing in a nice warm blankie or big towels. Night night little soap concoction. Let it sleep for 3-5 days.



Come back tomorrow for the exciting reveal. You'll pee yourself!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Soap Making - Part I

Organic soaps are not cheap! And I am married to an organic snob who also has smell and chemical sensitivities.

So I set out to make my own. Well, actually I thought about it a lot, like almost a year. Then about two months ago, I tried my first batch the old fashioned way - by hand stirring. I missed the point of trace and my first batch failed. I was so depressed over this failure that it took me almost two months to try again. Last Wednesday, in fact.

All of my reading about soap making and that failure resulted in me buying a hand mixer. What a difference!

Without further ado, I'll talk about how to make your own soap. Since this is lengthy, I'll break it down over a few days ending on Friday for the Craft Corner post.

I started by just googling "how to make organic soap". Tons and tons of info out there and everyone pretty much says the same things. Then I googled soap supplies and essentials oils based on the ingredients I needed and found a plethora of sites for these as well.

I should add a note here that I did not want to use Palm oils due to the controversy over that and I only wanted essential oils because my BN and Pete are so sensitive to smells and chemicals.

Here's the list of ingredients and necessary items: There are wonderful, professional molds and accessories out there. I wanted to keep cost down so got a little inventive.

Necessary Items:
Mold (I bought very small shallow cat litter pans from Wally)
Huge glass Pyrex measuring cup (to mix lye)
Freezer paper
Double sided tape
Hand mixer
Cookie cooling racks
Piece of cardboard to cover mold
Scale that measures in ounces

36 oz Olive oil
12 oz Coconut oil
26 oz Soybean oil
14 oz Canola oil
24 oz Distilled water
12 oz Lye (used this site for calculations)

At this point, I lined my litter box fancy soap mold with freezer paper and used the tape to hold it in place. I wasn't as neat as you should be. Just wasn't feeling it that day.


Then I donned my gloves for safety and measured 24 oz water in the Pyrex measuring cup and 12 oz lye on the scale. **VERY IMPORTANT** Lye is caustic. It will burn your skin, eyes, lungs, etc. Wear gloves, goggles and work in a ventilated room. Read cautions about lye that come with it.

Okay now that you are too scared to go on, pour the lye into the water (not the other way around) and stir for at least 30 seconds to make sure you don't get any lumps. Here's a before and after of the lye process.


See how cloudy the water is when the lye crystals are first poured in. I recommend holding your breath during this time of mixing. This stuff is CAUSTIC and can burn you internally.

lye-tempNow notice how clear it is and WOWZER check out that temperature. 180 degrees! This stuff reacts chemically with the water and gets HOT HOT HOT and still CAUSTIC at this point.

The lye-water needs to get back down to a temp of around 100-110 degrees. I mix my lye solution in my deep kitchen sink to catch any splatters, because I can open the window right above the sink for ventilation, and because I can stop up the sink and add water and ice to help the lye cool faster.

While the lye is cooling down, I use my scale to measure out any solid oils, like coconut. I use a big stock pot to melt the oils on low heat.


With my solid oils melting, I use the scale to measure the remaining oils. You must use a scale for this process. The measurements needed for the lye and oils are by weight NOT volume.


This has gotten long, so I'll stop here and pick it up again tomorrow. Start googling and reading up on soap making. It's not as hard as it looks and the results will get you excited - I promise.