Baking Tip: The Importance of a Trial Run

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Good morning, Crafty Hackers!

This week I wanted to focus on my love of baking. Last week, my office had a pre-Valentine’s Day Bake-off Contest. I love contests like this for two reasons; first reason, you get to eat a bunch of yummy treats that you might not have otherwise had the opportunity to try. Second reason, you have an excuse to try new recipes.

I sat down with a stack of my newer cookbooks, flipping through to find the recipe I wanted to enter to our contest. I decided on a recipe for “Unicorn Poop Cookies” from Rosanna Pansino’s cookbook, Nerdy Nummies (of which you can obtain a copy here if you are interested). I thought it would be a fun and funny entry to the contest (would make people laugh and would stand out), but more importantly, it appeared to be a simple, easy recipe. Well, while it wasn’t a difficult recipe to follow, it did remind me of why it is always important to do a trial run of a recipe first.

To start, this recipe was a simple cream cheese sugar cookie recipe so it wasn’t hard or expensive to make. What it was, though, was TIME-CONSUMING. Having never made cream cheese sugar cookies before, I didn’t know that the dough was not as tough as a roll-out cookie dough. Had I just been making the standard, base recipe, this would not have been a problem. But to craft these cookies into “unicorn poop,” there were several steps that required multiple rounds of chilling in the refrigerator. Had our contest been on a Monday, I could have used all the Sunday prior to make these and would have had plenty of time for all the steps. But, alas, our bake-off was on a Tuesday and I didn’t get home from work on Monday night until around 5:30 pm. Long story slightly less long, the cookies didn’t even go into the oven until about a quarter after 10 pm. I had pre-read the recipe but didn’t put together in my head how long the process might actually take.

Secondly, the recipe only ended up making 12 cookies. TWELVE. For an office of about 35 people. A trial run of the recipe would have shown how big those cookies ended up being and that minimizing the amount of dough used in the “shaping the poop” step would have yielded more cookies. They also would have baked better if smaller. I noticed that a number of the cookies were still just a bit doughy in the center.

Finally, while the cream cheese sugar cookies were tasty, they were also rather blasé. A test run would have given me an opportunity to taste-test first and decide on little tweaks to the recipe. For example, next time I make this recipe, I’d like to try adding a touch more vanilla extract and some nutmeg to add a little more flavor and pop.

When it comes right down to it, this whole thing was a learning experience but I could have had the lesson, applied what was learned and still won that contest. So next time, I plan to plan ahead and make a test batch first. Who wants to be my taste-testers?

“Piece” out, Crafty Bakers!

~Scribe Sarah~


The Wyrmwood Adventurer’s Arsenal

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Wyrmwood is back with another Kickstarter!

The Adventurer’s Arsenal is the latest modular tabletop gaming system from Wyrmwood, and we designed it to be the perfect companion for players of role playing games.

All three components of the Adventurer’s Arsenal are available in our beautiful line of domestic and exotic hardwoods, with pricing determined by your wood selection.

Want to see more?  Head over to their Kickstarter to take a look!

-Toni


DIY: T-Shirt Rug

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Good morning Thursday Crafthackers!

I came across this tutorial and loved it because it reminds me of old rugs that grandparents had and it is a great way to upcycle your old tshirts. The original tutorial can be found here at My Poppet and your supplies are pretty minimal. I’ve posted some pictures here but be sure to visit the original tutorial for lots of other shots!

So, to prep, you’ll need to cut your t-shirts into 2″ strips to make into “yarn”. If you are mixing thinner and thicker fabrics, cut the thinner t-shirts into wider strips so that they will be a little more substantial. Here is a tutorial to follow if you have not made t-shirt yarn. And roll your yarn into balls. You can absolutely make a ball of yarn per t-shirt.

Work with the yarn like you would braid some hair. You can choose if you want to braid and sew the rug as you go, or if you want to finish all the braiding before you sew. To start and change colour you can either sew your strips of fabric together or use a no sew option of making a little hole in one strip and looping the other colour through.

When you’re braiding, think about how you want the rug to look – for solid bands of colour, two of the three strands of braid should be the same or similar colour. If you want a more random look, you can do whatever combination you like.

You can sew a circular or oval rug. For circular, start rolling from one end. For oval, circle around a straight length of your braid. The initial length will determine the final shape, so adjust accordingly. When you lay out and sew your rug, run the new braids clockwise around the rug so that you will always have a small piece of fabric in the space underneath your machine. Start sewing where the arrow is pointing (see photo) and use the widest zig zag stich and a medium stitch length.

Push together the edges of the braid and use the zig zag stitch to hold them to each other. When you get to the first turn (the first end), loop the braid around, and tuck the start of the braid underneath and sew around it to fasten the end. Continue sewing around until you have the size that you like!

Finally, to finish off the rug, just tuck the end under and sew it so that it will be held in place.

And there’s a lovely tshirt rug and it’s a great way to use some old clothing.

Happy crafting!

~Megan

 


Shelf Life of Your Homemade Products

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Good morning, Hackers!

I have posted a lot about DIY and homemade products like bath salts and body scrubs, but I want to stress in today’s post that these products are made from natural materials. Unlike those store bought products, natural ingredients and can and will go bad so, for your health (and the health of anyone you sell or give your products too), it is important to understand what the shelf life of your products will be.

Today, I’m going to focus on two things that can affect your products. The first is mold and bacteria. We all know about these lovely little buggers because we all have bathrooms and no matter how meticulous you want to be about cleaning it, somehow, mold still occurs. That is because water is present. There is nothing mold likes more than moisture.

If you are making products that have water present in them (like lotions or emulsified scrubs), mold and bacteria are likely to occur. In this instance, a preservative should be used. There are a number of preservatives that you can buy to add to your product but if you want to stay as natural as possible in your product, there are two things you need to help preserve you product; antimicrobial preservatives and antioxidants. Coconut oil is an antimicrobial as is the carrier oil apricot kernal seed oil. There is some debate on if grapefruit seed extract is an effective preservative due to the revelation a few years back that most grapefruit seed oils contained other, harmful products. As with anything, be sure you know what you are using/buying. Read the labels, ask questions, sometimes you might even want to call the company that produces the product to find out what may not be listed on the label.

Antioxidants like vitamin E and rosemary oil extract are also great things to add to your products not just for the mold/bacteria repelling properties but because they are good for your skin. Just remember that if your product has food in it, like avocado, a preservative is not going to prolong the shelf life of the product. Make these types of things in small amounts that can be used well within the few days shelf life of this type of product. And remember to refrigerate these types of products or they’ll just go bad all the faster.

The second thing you want to be aware of is rancidity. A lot of people think that bacteria and something being rancid are the same thing but they are not. Your product can grow mold and bacteria at ANY time (because of the water). However, if you use a preservative to prevent mold/bacteria in your product, that product can still go rancid. Rancidity doesn’t necessarily mean your product isn’t safe to use, it just means that the benefits of the natural products may have depleted. (Mold and bacteria on the other hand, DO make the product unsafe and you should chuck it out immediately if you find mold.)

So now you’re probably asking yourself, “how do I know when I should use a preservative and when I don’t have to?” Just remember the water. Anything that doesn’t have oils, butters, waxes, etc in it but is a cream or lotion should have an preservative. Basically, creams, lotions, toners, moisturizers, emulsions…those need preservative. Things like lip balms, salves, ointments, body and facial oils, oil-based body butters… those do not require a preservative.

You can also extend the shelf life of your products by following a few simple steps in your making and storing process. Use clean, sterilized containers and tools, use distilled of boiled water (or water substitutes), and store your products in dark or opaque containers in a cool, dry place.

Making your own products can be fun and easy and safe when you understand what to watch out for.

Stay safe and healthy, Hackers!

~Scribe Sarah~


Smooth On Feature: Sorta-Clear Series

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Nicole and I have had the opportunity to play and use a lot of the Smooth On products through the years.  We have had great experiences with them and so I want to share some of the products they have and what they can do for you and your crafting.

Today’s feature is on the Sorta-Clear Series.

SORTA-Clear™ Series rubbers are premium water white translucent silicone rubbers (platinum catalyst) which cure at room
temperature with negligible shrinkage. SORTA-Clear™ silicones are ideal for making prototype, jewelry or other molds of any configuration where model visibility is important (i.e. extracting a model from the mold via cutting). Materials such as urethane, epoxy or polyester resins can then be cast
into SORTA-Clear™ silicone without application of a release agent.

Want to see how it works?  Smooth On has a tutorial on how to create a one piece silicone mold using Sorta Clear® 12.


DIY: Valentines Day Ornaments

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Good morning Thursday Crafthackers!

I have a couple small tutorials for you for making some Valentine’s day ornaments. I think that it’s a neat idea to have a little “tree” where you can hang themed ornaments. Now we’re not talking a Christmas tree. I mean branches gathered into a vase to give you a bare tree. My mother always has done those and I just love the idea of themeing those trees to the season. So here are a couple wee tutorials that are super cute and pretty easy to dress up the trees.

This first one is from Dozi Design and you can find the original tutorial here, as this will be a condensed version of it.  Basically you will need some coloured construction paper of your choice, and you will need to cut a 4″ x 4″ circular spiral – you can also make different sizes for different flower sizes.

You’ll need to cut out your spiral and then begin rolling it up to look like a rose starting from the outside, rolling to the middle, and then gluing it closed. Just make sure you’ve left enough room in the centre for it to be popped onto a branch.

The second tutorial is from Some the Wiser and the original tutorial can be found here. In this tutorial, you will be using a corn starch glue to mould some yarn ornaments. You will need yarn of your choice of colour cut into 12 inch pieces, heart shaped cookie cutters in the sizes of your choice, parchment paper and ribbon. You’ll also need to make a corn starch glue which is done by combining 1/4c of cornstarch with 1/2c of water and some glitter of your choice. Combine the cornstarch and water in a saucepan and stir until smooth. Heat over medium heat, constantly stirring until it’s thick and smooth. Remove from the heat, stir in 1-2 tbsp of glitter and allow it to cool enough so it’s cool to the touch. If the glue becomes too thick, just add water a tsp at a time until it is easier to work with.

Lay your cookie cutters on parchment, and when your glue is warm, rather than hot, coat a piece of yarn with the glue. pull the yarn through your fingers to remove any large clumps and then arrange your yarn in the cookie cutters. Keep adding gluey yarn to the heart until it’s the thickness you’re looking for.

Add more glitter,and then remove your heart mould. Repeat until you have as many hearts as will fit on your parchment paper (that’s on a cookie sheet). Place in a warm oven (150 degrees F) for 2-3 hours until the hearts are hard. Remove from the cookie sheet, let them cool, then string them up to decorate with ribbon.

Hope you enjoyed these quick and easy ornament tutorials.

Happy crafting!

~Megan


Bathroom Cleanliness — The Homemade Way

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I don’t know about you guys but nothing makes me happier that a spic-n-span bathroom. Over the last year, I have been endeavoring to be completely cruelty-free and as natural as possible in all my product usage. Alas, almost all of the highly rated and well-known cleaning products are not cruelty-free and are also choke full of chemicals. So I started researching and found some store-sold alternatives (Method and Seventh Generation are good options). But then, I started wondering if, like my bath salts, could I make cleaning products out of more natural ingredients? And guess what? I CAN! And so can you!

One of my favorite sites to research and find recipes to try is The Soap Queen. (Seriously, check out this site. It is super useful and tons of fun!) I found two recipes off this site to assist in creating a sparkling clean loo. The first is for a Natural Soap Scum Cleaner.

Ingredients:

  • Three 8 oz Bail Jars
  • 18 oz Baking Soda
  • 3 heaping Tbsp Pumice
  • 6 oz Epsom Salt
  • 2 mL Lemongrass Essential Oil
  • 5 mL Fir Needle Essential Oil

Directions:

*Add baking soda and Epsom salt to large mixing container. (Sift baking soda to unclump). Then add pumice and mix ingredients with a spoon or your hands. Add lemongrass and fir needle essential oils and mix thoroughly to combine. Transfer the mixture to the bail jars. Before use, test a bit on a hidden part of your shower to make sure it won’t scratch the surface.*

Next up is a Fizzy Toiler Freshener. No one likes having to scrub a toilet and these homemade tablets are a quick way to give your whole bathroom a boost of freshness.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup sodium bicarbonate
  • 1/4 cup citric acid
  • Witch Hazel (in a spray bottle)
  • 12 mL Lemon essential oil
  • 6 mL Peppermint essential oil (2nd distilled)
  • Spiral Flower Wax Tart Mold

Directions:

*Add baking soda and citric acid to a large bowl. If lumpy, break apart with your fingers or sift. Then add 12 mL lemon essential oil and 6 mL peppermint essential oil, 2nd distillation. Using gloved hands, mix the essential oils into the dry ingredients. The moisture level of the mixture is important; it should be wet enough that a handful of the squeezed powder will hold shape. Spritz with witch hazel if you need a bit more moisture but be careful with how much. Too much of the witch hazel will ruin the fizziness of your tabs.

Press the mixture into your molds and leave overnight. To use, simply drop one into your toilet bowl and let fizz, then flush.*

And finally, there is a recipe for the Best Homemade Bathroom Cleaner Ever, brought to you by The Wellness Mama. This is also a paste, however, the baking soda and vinegar make it highly effective. (Seriously, guys. There is no better cleaning product than baking soda. There is a reason our grandmothers all used it for, like, everything.)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 1/2 cup washing soda
  • 1/2 cup liquid castille soap (I recommend Dr. Bronner’s, it really is the best)
  • 25 drops of tea tree essential oil
  • 10 drops peppermint essential oil
  • 2 Tbsp white vinegar (optional)

Directions:

*Mix baking soda, washing soda, and liquid castille soap in medium-sized container until it’s pasty and mushy. Add essential oils and mix thoroughly. If you choose to add the vinegar, be aware that the soda will make it fizz a little. It’ll stop so don’t freak out. Then, to use, just scoop a little out with a sponge and scrub away!*

As with anything that you use essential or carrier oils in, you’ll want to store your products in either dark glass or opaque containers (steel spray bottles are good also). This will keep them from growing mold or bacteria or going rancid. Make sure you are also storing these items in a cool, dry space.

We all love a clean, sparkling and fresh-scented bathroom; even those of you out there with boys in the house can achieve this with no chemicals to harm your loved ones.

Happy Cleaning, Crafters!

~Scribe Sarah~


A Beautiful Light in the Darkness

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Happy Sunday, all!

I know I promised a tutorial this week but that is going to have to wait! I have found a new artist that I must bring immediately to your attention! This passed week I was introduced to Brittany Cox AKA Britt the Badger and I am simply blown away by her creations. Brittany makes paper cut “dreamboxes” out of what appears to be magic and rainbows.

It feels like you just walked into this secret fairy hidey hole.

Seriously, though, her very intricate scenes come to life through custom LED light setups hidden behind layers and layers of laser cut paper in surprisingly small (for all the detail she achieves) shadow boxes.

Just look at the depth (pun intended)!

The part I am especially in awe of is her artistic vision when it comes to those layers. These pieces are not just beautiful in the dark.

 

She draws and plots out each of the images and then figures out how many layers and what goes in each one plus the lighting effects (which she also wires herself). She also does original paintings and drawings of equal beauty.

The watercolors here just make the cuts pop so well.

So if you would like one of these absolutely gorgeous pieces for yourself (or commission a custom piece), Britt can be found on her website, Etsy, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If you would like to watch one of these emerge step by step, you can follow her on Twitch under brittthebadger.

Next week, I will attempt the tutorial, I promise!

Stay crafty!

~Laura

 


DIY Valentine’s Day Wreath

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Good morning Thursday Crafthackers!

Valentine’s Day is just one day that doesn’t get a lot of decorating opportunities around the home since it isn’t one where we really decorate the outsides of our homes. Where we like to keep things classy, I love to see a little touch of holiday decor around this gloomy time of year. So for today I have a really neat tutorial for making a heart shaped wreath out of dyed coffee filters, so not only is it pretty and fluffy, it’s also cost effective and the materials are easy to find. The original tutorial can be found here from Bye Bye Soccer Mom.

There’s some materials and tools you’ll need: A large piece of cardboard (think old boxes), a utility knife, pencil, a medium glass or plastic container for the dye bath, a Phillips head screwdriver, needlenose pliers, a package of 8-12 basket style coffee filters, some red poster paint or watercolour, a craft brush, ribbon or yarn for hanging and some strong tape.

Your first step is to prep your dye-bath.  Fill your bowl with water about 1 inch deep and dip your brush in red paint. Rinse it in the dye bath water. Divide your package of coffee filters into a few separate batches (they can be stacked in the batches, but you don’t want to do them all at once) and place them upside down in the dye bath, and then remove them immediately for a nice ombre.

Load your wet brush with a little paint and touch up the edges of the still damp filters so that there will be more pronounced colour on the edges. Put the batches of filters somewhere to dry for at least several hours, or overnight if you can.

Using the knife, cut out your heart shape on the cardboard (you can use an outline shape or a solid shape, as you prefer), and poke holes with the screwdriver about 1.5 inches apart, all over your base. You can use the pencil to mark where you’d like them.

With your pliers, widen each hole to about one quarter of an inch in diameter to make it easier to put the filters into them. You can also skip this step and use hot glue instead, it just depends on your preference. Separate your dry filters and make flowers by pinching the middle and twisting.

Feed these flowers through the holes in your cardboard.

Continue this step until you’ve filled in all the holes, and you’re done! Attach a piece of ribbon if you’d like to hang it or you can have it resting on a bookshelf.

Where red or pink is beautiful for Valentine’s day, keep in mind you can do other colours and other shapes. You could add glitter, or whatever else you can think of.

Happy crafting!

~Megan

 


World Building Assistance

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Whenever you’re venturing out to create your own world, be it for a DnD game, a book, or even just an art series, having your world fleshed out will always help strengthen your final product. Even if the details are aspects people will never see or read about (see all the lost tales book for Lord of the Rings for example), you knowing why the world has evolved a certain way, or where in it a certain character has traveled can really give your world a bit of realism and grounding; no matter how fantastical it is on the surface.

 

Making notes is a great way to get this process started and, I don’t know about you, but I have a tendency to lose journals/note pads or find them hard to navigate since it’s always being added to, but I can’t add to older sections if they’ve run out of room. To aid in this I’d like to present, notebook.ai.  

Not only does this site help you keep all your notes in one place, it goes much much deeper then a simple notepad function. This site will ask you questions about your world and save your answers. It will check to make sure you’ve made no continuity errors. If you’re working on a group project you can invite others to join and keep all your work in the same place. This site will let you go as deep as you want with your world building and keep it all nice and together for as long as you need. Oh, and did I mention it’s completely free?

There are paid tiers if you’re really into world building (ranging from $9-7 a month) but for the casual user the free subscription will be more then enough. I wish a site like this had existed 10 years ago when I dabbled in writing, lol, but if creating worlds is your thing then I highly recommend giving this site a try. The ease of access and customizing is so worth it.