Category Archives: Crafts

A Merry Little Gift Guide

Having trouble figuring out what to give some of your family and friends? Some of these ideas may help you out! And all of these items can be purchased online if you don’t like fighting the holiday shopping crowds! There’s still a few weeks before Christmas, so you should be able to purchase any of these items!

  1. The Coffee & Chocolates Gift Basket. Who doesn’t love coffee and chocolate? This gift basket has a collection of fine chocolates, truffles, cookies, biscotti and more, along with a collection of premium ground coffees. It’s always fun to receive a gift like this in the mail! Have this basket of goodies sent right to your recipients’ home! Mug not included. At GourmetGiftBaskets.com.
  2. Local Hive Honey. Natural, raw, unfiltered honey…created by bees as if “it was from your own backyard.” Give honey from your local area or from your recipient’s local area—choose from 16 different local varieties like Local New England, Local Colorado, Local Florida, Local Texas, and more. Makes a great gift for people who love honey and who love to eat healthy! At LocalHiveHoney.com.
  3. A new Christmas album by pianist and composer Paul Cardall. Simply titled “Christmas,” this soundtrack has a stunning instrumental collection of timeless Christmas classics, such as “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and “Joy to the World.” Some selections feature vocalists, including CeCe Winans’ extraordinary performance of “O Holy Night.” A wonderful collection and a great gift…you may want to buy a one for yourself, too! At PaulCardall.com. Also available at Amazon.
  4. An Old-Fashioned Christmas. A holiday gift book filled with a collection of inspirational, humorous, and classic Christmas quotes that celebrate the meaning and spirit of the Yuletide season. Perfect for any book lover—and it makes a great stocking stuffer too! At HatherleighPress.com. Also available at Amazon.
  5. Handcrafted Lip Balms. The perfect gift for the DIY-ers in your life: a great make-your-own lip balm kit that includes 5 lip balm pods, beeswax, easy-release silicone mold, and instruction booklet for making all-natural lip balm. All packaged in a handy kit! At Quarto and Amazon.
  6. (in)courage Devotional Bible. Features 312 devotions by the (in)courage community writers. Includes resources for women to explore the Bible and dive deep into Scripture, with 10 thematic reading plans, stories of courage about 50 women of the Bible, and journaling space for personal reflection. At DaySpring.com and Amazon.

Happy shopping and hope you are enjoying the holiday season!

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Easy Knitted Scarf

I love knitted scarves in the winter–there’s something comforting about having a bundle of cozy softness around you to help keep you warm! We had a little break in our chilly winter weather for about a week, but now it’s cold again, and my knitted scarves will once again come in handy! They are so easy to make, especially this particular type of knitted scarf, and I’ve made quite a few of them.

The directions for this scarf are quite simple:

  1. Use large size knitting needles for a thick, soft scarf–I used size 15.
  2. Cast on 34 stitches. You can increase or decrease the stitches by 4, depending on how thick your yarn is, and how wide you want your scarf to be. For a medium weight 4-ply yarn, 34 stitches will give you a scarf that’s about 6 1/2″ wide.
  3. Row 1: Knit 2, Purl 2
  4. Row 2: Purl 2, Knit 2
  5. Repeat these rows until your scarf is as long as you want it. This scarf is 6 1/2 ft., which took 2 skeins of yarn to make.
  6. Cast off your stitches (which is how you finish off the scarf)

If you don’t know how to knit, there are lots of books for beginners and lots of tutorials on the web, too. This tutorial over at wikihow.com shows you how to cast on, do a basic knitting stitch, and cast off.

The photo above, of the most recent scarf I knitted, shows one way you can wear your scarf, and here’s another way:I like both ways–either way you wear it, you’ll feel nice and warm!

Do you like to knit? Or crochet? Do you have any projects you’re working on now?

Olive Oil Soap

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Photo courtesy of The Best Homemade Natural Soaps: 40 Recipes for Moisturizing Olive Oil-Based Soaps by Mar Gomez, 2014 © www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission. Available where books are sold.

Have you ever made your own soap before? I really like the idea of using homemade soap with natural ingredients and have been interested in trying to make some myself. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to review the new book, The Best Natural Homemade Soaps: 40 Recipes for Moisturizing Olive Oil-Based Soaps (Robert Rose, softcover). 

UnknownThe book starts off by sharing some interesting history about soap making. In ancient times, soap mainly consisted of a mixture of boiled fat and ashes. The first people to make olive oil soap were the Syrians, several thousand years ago in the city of Aleppo. “The women of Aleppo realized that by adding ground bay leaves to soap, skin infections were reduced considerably; the leaves from the bay plant possess an extraordinary natural antiseptic.” And other soap-making discoveries continued over the centuries.

This book also includes preparation tips and utensil and ingredient guides so you have everything you need to make your own olive oil-based soap. The step-by-step instructions seem easy to follow and include information on therapeutic qualities of the natural soap additives in each particular recipe–additives like essential oils, beeswax, cocoa butter, kaolin clay, seaweed, and goat’s milk. Some of the 40 different soap recipes include Kiwi Soap, Lavender Soap, Marigold Soap, Seaweed Soap, Green Tea Soap, Chocolate Soap, Coconut Soap, Cinnamon Soap, Rosemary Soap…and many more great-sounding versions!

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Image from The Best Natural Homemade Soaps

I was going to try making the basic Olive Oil Soap recipe. The ingredients are simple and basic enough–mineral water, lye (caustic soda), and extra virgin olive oil. However, I wasn’t able to find lye in any stores near me, so I guess I’ll have to order some from a soap-making supplier (there’s a list at the back of the book). In the meantime, I have permission from the publisher to share the recipe with you! Note: You’ll need safety goggles, a large saucepan, and a kitchen thermometer to make this soap.

OLIVE OIL SOAP from The Best Natural Homemade Soaps

  • 7.5 oz. mineral water
  • 3 oz. lye (caustic soda)
  • 1.5 lbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • Scent (optional), store-bought or homemade
  1. Wearing gloves and goggles, pour mineral water into a large saucepan. Add lye slowly, stirring gently until it is dissolved.
  2. Using a thermometer, monitor the temperature of the lye mixture until it is between 120˚F and 140˚F.
  3. Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, heat olive oil to between 120˚F and 140˚F.
  4. Remove olive oil from heat. Add lye mixture to olive oil, stirring slowly and trying not to splash.
  5. Stir occasionally, every 15 minutes or so, until the mixture thickens and congeals (it will have a texture similar to that of light mayonnaise).
  6. Stir in scent (if using). Stir for 1 minute with a spoon (or with a whisk, taking care not to create foam).
  7. Pour into a greased or paper-lined soap mold. Gently tap mold to remove any air bubbles.
  8. Cover with a blanket or towel and let stand for 2 days. Uncover and let stand for an additional day if the mold is very large.
  9. Turn soap out of mold. Wait another day, then cut into bars as desired.
  10. Dry bars for 1 month, turning occasionally to ensure they are drying uniformly.
Soap recipe from The Best Homemade Natural Soaps: 40 Recipes for Moisturizing Olive Oil-Based Soaps by Mar Gomez, 2014 © http://www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission.

 

This sounds like a great soap for your skin! Homemade soap is a great DIY gift idea, too! Do you use or have you made any olive oil-based soap, or any other kinds of soap?

Linked to Thursday Favorite Things.

Autumn Bouquets

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I am such a jar and bottle-saver! I save glass jars and bottles of all shapes, sizes, and colors. I was starting to get quite a collection and running out of space to put them, so I thought I’d make some autumn bouquets to give to my flower-loving friends.

I love the variety of sizes and colors of these bottles! Each one of them had some sort of food item in them–after the contents were used up, I removed the labels on each bottle so I could reuse them as vases and tied autumn-colored ribbons around them before filling with flowers.

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These three glass bottles were all once containers for vanilla, almond, and orange extract.

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These two jars originally had jam in them.

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Another unique-looking bottle and jar: the small clear bottle in the foreground was from Cracker Barrel (it was a miniature maple syrup bottle–the kind they give you when you order pancakes). The larger brown glass jar in the background is actually a vitamin jar. Who would’ve thought it would make such a great vase?

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This vintage-looking soda bottle was from Cracker Barrel, too–they sell a variety of vintage sodas in their country store, and some of them have such great designs, you hate to toss them out!

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This bottle is one of my favorites–it has a long neck and a rounded base, so no worries about this tipping over! This originally had some white wine vinegar in it.

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And this large bottle had some apple juice in it–I love the detail of the leaves at the top of the bottle–much too pretty to get rid of!

Most of my labels came off pretty easily just by soaking the bottle in hot soapy water–I left the bottles in the water overnight. But sometimes I come across really stubborn labels, and on those, I sometimes use nail polish remover. I’ve also heard that Goo Gone works too, although I haven’t tried that yet. If you use products like these, make sure you’re in a well-ventilated area.

Are you a glass jar and bottle-saver too? Using them as vases is one way to upcycle them. Do you have other ways of reusing pretty jars and bottles?

Linked to Inspire Me Monday at Create With Joy and Show and Share at Coastal Charm.

A Spring Branch Bouquet

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Dogwood trees are starting to bloom where I live and their blooms are so pretty! The Redbud trees are also blooming and their rich color looks so striking against the other trees that are just starting to produce small leaves.

I decided to pick a few blooming branches and make a bouquet–something I had wanted to do last spring, but by the time I thought about doing it, the blooms were past their prime. So here’s how my “Branch Bouquet” turned out–I just combined 2 Dogwood branches with 3 Redbud branches and I think the different blooms look so pretty together! You could use other kinds of blooming branches, too–Forsythias, Pear Blossoms…whatever type of blooming branches that are growing around you. It brings a nice touch of the spring outdoors into your home or office.

You could also use this idea to make a pretty Easter centerpiece for your table!

Do you have any pretty blooming shrubs or trees in your yard?

I’m linking this to Fiesta Friday, Inspire Me Monday, Wow Us Wednesday, Favorite Things Thursday.