Handmade & Homemade Gifts

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It’s Monday, my fellow hackers! Hope you all had a restful and restorative weekend. I know I did!

It’s getting round that time of year and gifts are on everyone’s minds; both giving and receiving. Trying to find great gifts for the people you love can be stressful but it doesn’t have to be. If you want to add in a little something extra to those gifts (and give something that can be natural and healthy), here are three easy recipes you can whip up in no time.

All these recipes utilize essential oils so please remember when choosing your brand of essential oils, purity and therapeutic value are of high concern. If you’d like to learn more about what to look for when purchasing your essential oils, The Herbal Academy has a wonderful blog post here that covers this.

First up is a little recipe I use around my own home a lot lately. It’s colder and thusly, the windows don’t get opened anymore. No fresh air flow tends to make the home a little…stagnant. Instead of spending tons of money a year on fabric deodorizers, you can simply make a fabric and air spray to make your home smell however you’d like. This one is SUPER simple and cheap (the most expensive thing will be the essential oils you choose as some cost more than others). It is also a great little stocking stuffer.

Homemade Fabric Refreshing Spray

Ingredients & Supplies:

*2 oz distilled water

*5-10 drops of your choice of essential oil (you can use multiple oils for a combination scent!)

*2 oz dark glass fine mist spray bottle

Directions: Simply fill the spray bottle almost to the top with your distilled water, add your essential oils, replace cap and give a shake. Ready to go! (You should shake the bottle before each use since the oil and water will separate.)

Next recipe is essential (ha..hahaha, see what I did there?) for those of us who have cold and dry winters we have to weather through (man, I am on a ROLL today). Dry skin can be downright painful but there is a way to combat it and that is with body butters. This recipe is quick and simple to make.

Handmade Body Butter

Ingredients & Supplies:

*3/4 cup shea butter

*1/4 cup coconut oil

*1 tsp vitamin E

*10-15 drops of essential oil (again, your choice and you can mix multiple oils together for custom scents)

*2 tbsp melted beeswax

*8 oz amber or dark glass jar

Directions: Combine the shea butter, coconut oil, and vitamin E in a mixing bowl and mix in a standing mixer or with an electric hand mixer. Scrape all the sides of the bowl and then whip again until the mixture doubles in volume (think whipping eggs to meringue). Add your essential oils and whip for about 10 more seconds. Put the mixture into jar (or jars, if needed) and voila! (This body butter, if stored in a dark place that doesn’t get too warm (below 76 degrees) will last for anywhere from 12-24 months!)

Last up is a slightly more difficult one (I promise, not much, though). This is also a great gift idea for winter months as the colder weather can really chap you lips. So what better to gift to people than a tube of lip balm? (You can certainly purchase the ready to use tubes for this one but this can also be put in to small, sealable tins as well).

DIY Moisturizing Lip Balm

Ingredients & Supplies:

*7 grams avocado oil

*5 grams shea butter

*5 grams beeswax

3 grams coconut oil

1 gram vitamin E

2 drops vanilla extract (or an extract that compliments whichever essential oil you choose)

3 drops essential oil (again, combinations are cool)

Directions: In a double boiler, combine avocado oil, shea butter, beeswax, coconut oil, vitamin E, and extract. Stir until completely melted. Remove this from heat and stir in your essential oils. Then you can simply pour into your lip balm tubes or tins and let cool. Make sure to cool completely before using!

Whatever the season, whatever the reason, each of these recipes is simple and cost-efficient. But most of all, they are natural and beneficial. And they make great gifts for yourself too.


Feature: 42 Nerdtastic Place

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Happy Monday, Hackers!

Today I want to tell you about a wonderful place you should all visit: 42 Nerdtastic Place.

Last month, I was working at a convention out in Schaumburg, IL for the television show, Gotham. It was a small show, it only had a few vendors but there was a new booth that I hadn’t seen before. I was intrigued. A friend of mine and I went over to check it out on Friday night during pre-registration and the young woman I spoke to was an absolute delight. She told me all about her products and that they are all handmade. I told her about my quest to become truly cruelty-free in my product usage and asked about that. She said that not only are her products cruelty-free, they are 100% vegan. What caught my eye was the comprehensive selection of lip balms she had out (and it wasn’t even all that she offers). I had found out that the balm/chapstick I had been using most of my adult life wasn’t something I was comfortable using anymore (short version: the company itself is cruelty-free but the parent company is not). So I had been looking for a balm to replace it and was finding it difficult. You don’t want to spend money on something like that only to discover you hate it and you have this whole tube of it you won’t use. So a lot of the online options I was finding, I was hesitant to purchase. But here, I had testers.

Long story slightly less long, I fell in LOVE with these balms. It was like smoothing silk onto my lips and the scents were unique but still heavenly-scented. The best part was that they are GEEKY. This woman taylors her recipes and products to a myriad of fandoms.

I walked away from that convention with four new lip balms (two of which were Gotham-themed).

Now, I want to share this fabulous person and her equally fabulous products with you all!

Amanda Mayer launched 42 Nerdtastic Place on Etsy in 2014, starting out with fandom-themed jewelry and coasters. But Amanda’s crafty mind didn’t just stop there. She branched out, wanting to provide a plethora of items for shoppers. She started making other items, like scented candles and melting waxes, lip balms, room sprays, etc in addition to original items like necklaces, bracelets, and bag clips. Her site’s About page states that they “wanted the feel to be of a place you would go to when shopping for your Hogwarts school list or a place you might go to cozy up to fellow enthusiasts.” Amanda and her crack team have accomplished this goal resoundingly!

42 Nerdtastic Place sells both online and maintains a presence at local fan conventions so you have different ways to purchase products. They are also always expanding. The Gotham blends, for example, were created specifically for the Gotham convention (though Amanda had been asked by shoppers in the past). And it doesn’t just stop with television and movie fandoms. There are products that feature animation (both American and Japanese), fantasy creatures, literature, even musicals (I personally need to try the Forgotten Spot in the Caribbean – Hamilton body spray).

42 Nerdtastic Place offers the following items: Bag clips, bracelets, necklaces, Hogwarts House combs, air fresheners, candles, hair care & grooming products (like Asgards’s Finest Beard Oil…You too can have the beard of a god!), lip balms and lip sheers, perfumes, and wax melts. They also have some lovely gift sets and they offer samples (not something you come across for online stores much, in my limited experience).

Amanda has also generously provided all our Craft Hacker readers a discount code for 15% off any regular priced items. Simply input code CRAFTHACKER15 to receive 15% off any of their regular priced items!

Hope you all enjoy as much as I do, Hackers! Be beautiful to each other.


The Great Experiment: Pie crust edition

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Good morning, beautiful crafty people!

Yesterday, our fabulous Laura and I got together to test a recipe we’d been discussing. Now, I’m a big-time baker. I love to bake confectionery treats and goodies but I have only made one fruit pie in my life (and I cheated there and bought the pre-made dough that you just lay into the pan). Pie dough is quite daunting to me. Laura has made many and was kind enough to help me in working with this new-to-me medium.

I thought it would be fun to share with you all what I learned in my first real foray into making pie dough. Pie dough is not like cookie dough. My first moment of “Oh dear, am I doing this right?” was when I was mixing the butter into dry ingredients. The recipe called for cubed butter and I just sliced off the stick into rectangles, thinking that would be ok. Laura suggested actually cubing the slices as well, stating it would make the hand-mixing much each and would blend more thoroughly and easily. She was right. We had also discussed the use of a pastry blender, since this recipe specifically called for hand-blending/kneading. As I worked the ingredients together, I felt that the reason this recipe called for hand-kneading was so that you have a real feel for when the dough is blended enough. I wouldn’t be opposed to trying it with the pastry blender though, if for no other reason than it may be a little easier on my upper body muscles. (Also, I’m short and Laura’s counters are tall, LOL.)

Next, Laura talked me through the roll out process. This recipe called for you to roll the dough out to about 8 x 13 and fold like a business letter. Then you roll it out again to 8 x 13 and fold like a business letter again. At this point, you wrap the dough and chill it for 30 minutes. This was the next point where I got confused. The roll out cookies I’ve made in the past didn’t require chilling. It was especially nerve-wracking when we took the dough out and I tried to roll it out again. It was tough & required a bit more effort than a cookie dough to get rolled out. I recommend definitely only chill for the suggested time in the recipe. Laura and I left ours in longer (we had to break for dinner, we were starving) and she thinks that may have contributed to the difficult roll out.

The next thing I discovered is the thickness of the dough. This recipe called for me to roll out the dough to 14 x 14. I’m used to cookie recipes saying something like, “roll dough out to about 1/8 inch thickness.” I think for the next time, I will gauge my roll out this way. We found after baking that the crust was a bit thick along the bottom. I also noticed it was a bit more difficult to slice venting slits in the top through a thicker dough. However, unlike with cookie dough, I noticed that the dough did not get consistently tougher as I re-rolled. And adding flour didn’t dry out the dough.

We also discovered that we had a little awkwardness during the crimping edge process. Laura and I exercised a little trial and error and eventually felt that the following method seemed to work best. We started off pushing the edges down and then, as you pressed the fork around the edges to crimp, you put a finger over the top of the fork as you press down. However, for next time, we also want to try putting  a little of the egg wash around the bottom edge before covering and crimping to see if that helps seal it a bit. 

Overall, the recipe/experiment was a resounding success, resulting is a light and flaky dough, and I learned a lot about making pie dough from scratch. I hope that these little tips and lessons we learned help you all in your future baking journeys!

Have a delicious Monday, Hackers!

~Scribe Sarah~

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Fall & Halloween-Themed Knits

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Happy Eve of All Hallow’s Eve, Hackers!

With this being my favorite season and tomorrow being my favorite holiday of the year, I decided to focus on some cute, themed knitting patterns for today’s post. (I am focusing my post on knit patterns since we have some other, more experienced posters to focus on crochet patterns.)

I may not have human children of my own (and my cat, Helo, isn’t thrilled about wearing things I knit for him) but I just love some of the adorable ideas that people come up with for babies and toddlers. For example, this pattern for a little fox hat and baby mitts is not only one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen, it also is a fairly easy pattern. Both beginners and experts would have little to no difficulty following this pattern and this would be a fantastic shower gift for a baby due in the fall. You will need to have knowledge of your basic knit and purl stitches but you shouldn’t need to go in to the detail of increasing/decreasing stitches. The pattern is currently marked down in price but even at it’s regular price, it is pretty affordable.

This next pattern does have at least a little crocheting, however, you can adapt it with a knitted strand instead. This too-cute pumpkin hat for babies is simple and wouldn’t require a ton of your time. And with a little change here and there, you can make it for toddlers or even adults as well.

One of the things I am most obsessed with in the fall is that it’s the perfect time of year to wear shrugs and ponchos. And for those of you who are big-time Outlander fans, this pattern from Ravelry for a Claire-inspired shrug will give you that Sassenach look with little effort and time. Find the free pattern here. (This may be the next thing on my “to knit” list since I think it’s simple and elegant and because my office building is usually set to sub-arctic temperatures.) Depending on the type of yarn you choose and the pattern, shrugs and ponchos can be worn year-round as well.

Because the fall weather can be crisp, I wanted to share one more pattern to help keep you warm from head to toe: leg warmers. While this may bring some of you flashbacks to the days of Flashdance, these simple items are a great way to keep toasty in the brisk weather, whether going out on a blustery day or just bumming around you home with a mug of tea or cocoa. A lovely pattern for chunky yarn leg warmers can be found here.

The best part of fall is the crisp, clean weather, in my opinion. Knitting and crocheting provide stylish ways to keep warm and it’s a great skill to have and hone. And as usual with my posts, these items all make for great gift ideas too!

Keep warm, Hackers! And stay stylin’.

~Scribe Sarah~

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Halloween-Themed Snacks

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Hello my Halloween-y Hackers!

One of my very favorite things to do each Halloween is to make yummy treats. Well, I like doing that year-round but it’s most fun at Halloween. To me, there’s something deeply satisfying about making a hot dog look like a bloody finger. So this week, I wanted to share some fun recipes and tips for making your Halloween party treats the talk of the night.

One thing I make every year (both at Halloween and Christmas) is soft sugar cookies with either a buttercream or royal icing. My recipe for the cookies is from my Hy-Vee Employee Cookbook (courtesy of the lovely Linda Myers of Mt. Ayr), included below, and the buttercream icing that I favor is Wilton’s recipe, found here. Royal icing can be whipped up from a box mix from the store (Michael’s will almost always carry it). This recipe is best for rolled & cut-out cookies. Decorate how every you like. A big tip though is that royal icing works best for cookies you’ll need to transport. Royal icing will harden and your designed cookies will not get destroyed in transit. Buttercream pairs with the soft sugar cookies better because the frosting does not harden. So really, it’s a choice for you which would work best for you and your situation.

Another fun and easy thing to put out for a party is a party mix. This is easy and inexpensive to make (or if you really have a time crunch, you can buy bags of pre-made Chex Mix). Then it’s as easy as adding a little Halloween themed candy to the mix. I prefer candy corn or the pumpkins but you can also use orange and brown M&M’s or Reese’s Pieces. Harvest Hash Chex Mix recipe on Pinterest can be found here.

Other fun finger foods to try out are Deviled eggs, Halloween pretzels, Rice Krispie treat pumpkins, and Ghost Strawberries.

If you are having a smaller soiree with a sit-down dinner, a wonderful dish to serve is Eyeball Pasta (recipe found here). You can also find some fun and frightful ideas for dinners here.

If you want something to set out that is of the healthier snack variety, a simple veggie tray can be set out and arranged in fun designs. There is a Jack’O’Lantern pattern found here and a lovely owl design found here.

As always, imagination is key in your food creations. See that can of black olives? So easy to turn it into black spiders that can be put on top of a pizza with just a few slices of a knife. Those pretzel sticks? A little white almond bark drizzled across them makes them mummy sticks. With that imagination, your Halloween party can be filled with feisty food and tantalizing treats.

~Scribe Sarah~

 

Soft Sugar Cookies

Ingredients:

1/2 c. margarine

1 egg

1 c. sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 c. thick sour cream

3 1/4 c. flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

Directions:

Cream margarine, egg, sugar and vanilla for 2 minutes. Add sour cream and beat for 1 1/2 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients. Do no chill; roll out and cut. Bake at 350 degrees for 6 minutes.


Halloween Out of Doors (DIY Decorations)

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Happy Monday, my crafty little minions!

Last week, I gave you all some ideas and tips for fun and freaky Halloween decorations that can spruce up the inside of your abode. But what about the outside? If you live in a home with a yard or porch/balcony area, this provides a fantastic addition to showing off your Halloween-y adoration.

The website HomeBNC has a lovely article that you can check out here if you want some great tutorials and ideas. A couple of my favorites from this site include Hanging Spider Sacks and Haunting Hooded Ghouls.

    

Another thing that is quick and easy to do and helps creepify your porch or balcony is just pulling some cheesecloth or natural cotton scrim around the railings or from the ceiling, hanging down. If you’re feeling extra crafty, you can dye this black, grey, or tan to give it an extra edge.

Nowadays, you can purchase orange colored string lights. These are just as fun to simply wrap around trees or through bushes as they are to hang across your porch. However, you can also take small plastic hollow pumpkins (usually found at places like your local craft or dollar stores), poke holes in the tops or bottoms and slip them over the individual lights. Viola! String o’ lighted pumpkins! (You can also hood the lights with orange Solo or Dixie cups. Draw Jack’O’Lantern faces if you like.) This can be hung or strung as usual or you can tape/staple it down to the top of your balcony or porch railing to display a cute row of glowing pumpkins. (Make sure that you don’t leave them on all night because the plastic could become too hot and melt, creating a fire danger.)

Want something a little extra creepy? Go buy a skeleton head and arms and stick it into the ground. You can have it look like it’s crawling out from under that big old oak in your front yard or it can be clawing its way out from under the front porch. If you have a felled log or slab of rock in your yard that you consider a terrible eyesore, use it to your advantage. Have this be the thing your skeleton is emerging from underneath.

The best thing I can suggest for your yard or outdoor areas are to use your imagination. Every space has unique aspects to it; use the items around you, incorporate them into your decorations. It can make it feel more authentic!

Happy decorating!

~Scribe Sarah~


Easy DIY Halloween Crafts and Decorations

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Hey Crafty Peoples! Sorry about my absence last week; I was on vacation but I’m back and ready to hit you with some sweet sweet Halloween decorations and crafts. Y’all, this is my favorite holiday of all the holidays. I would celebrate this one all year round. Nothing is better than the creepy, the scary and the Halloween-y. In my opinion, that is.

This week, I wanted to focus on some easy and cost-effective ways to decorate the interior of your home for the spookiest of holidays. Next week, I shall direct you to some wonderful sites with ideas for outdoor decor.

There are a lot of crafty folks out there so the majority of these ideas I saw via Pinterest or Facebook. Most of these are ways to re-purpose old household items into fun crafts to keep the kiddies busy or to decorate the house/apartment when you’re pinching those pennies. Some of these are as simple as getting some construction paper or poster board and cutting out Halloween-y shapes. For example, you can cut out bat shapes and either just tape them to your walls (make sure you use painters tape to protect your walls!) or you can pinch them near the middle, attach a string and suspend them from your ceiling. I personally like this way because it looks like there’s bats flying ’round your house and it scares the crap out of people who come by to visit or take care of your cat. You don’t have to stick with bats either. Pumpkins and Jack’O’Lanterns are fun and festive but easy to cut out. If you’re feeling particularly artistic and ambitious, you can cut out witches on brooms, ghosts, mummies, zombies…the possibilities are endless!

For those of you who can’t seem to bring yourselves to toss out those empty pill bottles, you can use them to make some fun and creepy-looking, old-timey apothecary bottles. Magia Mia has a wonderful tutorial here that walks you through making that garbage into Halloween gold. Also, environmentally friendly because you’re reducing the amount of trash you toss. Recycling at it’s crafties.

Another quick and inexpensive way to dress up a room is to give your candles a little makeover. I saw this on Pinterest but the original idea was posted by the wonderfully hilarious (and stylish!) Big Ang Raiola of Mob Wives fame. You can add flourish to small candles in glass by gluing lace around the glass. These have a gothic Victorian feel to them but you can add any kind of ribbon or lace you’d like. Customize to the theme of your Halloween abode.

If you want some scary spiderwebs around your house but you don’t want to deal with that sticky, hard-to-clean fake webbing from the party supply stores you can either just not clean for a really long time (hey, realism in decorations is KEY) or you can make these fun balloon spiderwebs. They are easy to make but it does take a little longer to make than some of the other crafts I’ve posted about here. You’ll want to make sure you have ample time to complete them properly. You can find the instructions here.

And for my pièce de résistance, a little something for all you Harry Potter fans out there. Ever want your home to look like the Great Hall at Hogwarts? I don’t know about you, but I wanted candles magically hovering above my head from the first moment I saw it in the movies. Well, here’s a way to accomplish this feat, at least for a few weeks. Follow these easy-to-understand instructions over at The Sway to make your home into your very own Great Hall.

These are just a few ways to make your home more festive for this spooky holiday. I highly recommend checking out Pinterest for more ideas and remember to think outside the box. Something you see someone else having posted may inspire you to create your very own unique Halloween decorations.

Next week, I’ll talk about some truly terrifying decorations you can add to your porches and yard (should you be lucky enough to have a property with either of these things) to make your house the most frightening on the block.

Happy decorating, Hackers!

~Scribe Sarah~


Recommended Knitting Tutorials

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Grandest of Mondays to you, fellow Hackers!

I hope that all of you enjoyed a restful and enjoyable weekend and that most importantly, you fit in a little crafting time. This week, I wanted to share with the knitters out there some of my favorite places to learn more about knitting. Most are YouTube channels and I highly recommend subscribing so that you can get alerted to when there are new videos up. But there are also a couple websites that I check out occasionally to learn new stitches or find out the latest about new yarns on the market.

One of my favorite YouTube channels to follow is Joanne’s Web. There is something really lovely about Joanne’s tutorials. She is very good about going slowly through each step so as not to confuse newer/beginning knitters. She is also the adorable older lady and from the very first of her videos that I watched, I just loved her. It felt like sitting down and learning to knit with one’s grandma (who is ironically who originally taught me how to knit when I was just a preteen). She not only teaches things like how to actually do different types of stitches, but she also has specific patterns she teaches you. I use her fingerless glove pattern all the time because they are quick and easy to make. Another benefit is that a number of her videos are in Spanish as well.

Wool And The Gang is another fun channel to subscribe to. They also offer easy-to-follow tutorials so it is great for beginning knitters and novices. They also have a number of free patterns that they offer. Wool And The Gang is an actual company so in addition to their YouTube channel with wonderful tutorials, they have a website and blog. You know what else they have? A mascot… Meet Al The Alpaca.

Those are my main go-to YouTube channels when I’m either looking at learning a new stitch or trying to find a new pattern to try out. Some others that I subscribe to are RJ Knits and Sheep & Stitch.

Most of us are not only aware of Craftsy, we practically LIVE on their site. This is fabulous place to find patterns (they offer free and priced, but I have yet to see a bad pattern on that site). I also am a fan of LoveKnitting because they also sell yarn (like Craftsy and Wool and the Gang) and offer coupons and special pricing almost daily. (I recommend signing up for their email list to see what’s new and what specials they’re offering that day).

I hope that, for any beginners or skilled knitters out there, these resources not only help to continue your ever-expanding knitting knowledge but also provide you with a bevy of new projects for your horizons.

Happy Knitting!

 

~Scribe Sarah~


DIY Fall Floral Arrangements

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Happy Monday, Hackers!

My favorite season is now upon us and most people seem to be super-duper excited about Pumpkin Spice Lattes. I, however, most look forward to two very important things related to fall: Fall decorations and Halloween (my favorite holiday so be forewarned…my October posts will ALL be Halloween-related).

I usually put up fall decorations right around Labor Day and most of these I procure at Dollar Tree because they are cheap and easy and well, we all love cheap and easy. But there is one thing that I do every single year not only because they add lots of those beautiful fall colors to my apartment but they are also really cheap and easy and FUN to make. Floral Arrangements!

Using fake leaves and flowers are a wonderful way to dress up your space without having to maintain a plant. It’s also beneficial for those of us who have furry friends and family (since many real plants can be toxic to our beastly brethren). You can customize these easy arrangements to your specific decorative vision. Unlike real bouquets and plants, you can create something that you know you’re going to love.

All the supplies I gathered for the small piece I made for this post were obtained at my local Dollar Tree. They always have a pretty broad and diverse selection of flowers and leaves to choose from and it’s an inexpensive place to find the foam forms and floral moss you’ll need to stick the pieces into and dress up your arrangement. Other stores that you can find great and usually inexpensive supplies at are Michaels and Joann Fabrics. But also check out your local craft stores, especially those independently-owned ones. Support local businesses!

 

For this piece, I wanted something small for the little table by my recliner so I chose this lovely white ceramic bowl with a festive fall leaf design around the rim. I then placed my foam form into the center of the bowl. You’ll want to find a form that is just slightly smaller than the dish or basket you are placing your arrangement in. It should almost fill the space, leaving room for you to dress with moss around the edge and over the top. There are also large forms that can be cut down and shaped to whatever you need.

 

I like to choose a center focal point for my arrangement. This gives me an idea of what colors I’ll want to use, the different levels I’ll want to achieve and where the rest of the flowers and leaves will be placed. While you don’t necessarily want your arrangement to be perfectly symmetrical, you do want to have a sort of uniformity to the piece. Using a focal point helps to accomplish this.

Then, I put my floral moss around the edges and over the top of the form to hide it. Once you have that finished, let your creativity flow. Play around with what flowers, berries, or leaves you want where. Use different lengths to the stems when you cut them (you can use a regular scissors to cut them but it is a little tough to get through the wire stems so I recommend having a wire cutter handy). Poke the stems into the form to place the flowers; don’t be afraid to angle the stems, bend them to place the flowers exactly where you want.

 

Move the pieces around as you go, play with the arrangement until each item is exactly where you want it.

Once your arrangement is complete, all you need to do is set it out in whichever room you want to display it. Don’t forget you can also redo them anytime you like. Just take the flowers out and rearrange them or add new ones whenever you feel like a change. You can make small arrangements, like the one I made here, or you can make them as large as you like. I made this slightly larger one last fall and still love it. It will definitely be a part of my fall decorating tradition for years to come.

The best part of this fun and simple DIY is that it is not season or holiday specific. You can use any color or type of fake flowers, add touches like holly for Christmastime or eggs for Easter. You can make them with school colors for graduation parties or as gifts. The possibilities are endless.


Labor Day Celebration: Relax yo’self

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Hello my beautiful Monday Hackers! And a happy Labor Day to you all!

In honor of the holiday, I wanted to spend a little time on relaxation and rest. It is important to maintain a balance in our lives, which is part of the reason our country celebrates this holiday. As such, I wanted to give a few ideas for things you can do to help rest and restore yourselves from the stresses of every day life.

One of my absolute favorite ways to relax is to take a long, hot bath. Adding bath salts and fragrances add a lovely level to your relaxation time. In a post a few weeks ago, I posted a recipe for making your own bath salt. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s inexpensive and you can find that recipe here. Some great relaxing scents you can use for this (or for a spray that can be misted over your bed before you go to sleep) are lavender, rose, ylang ylang, bergamot, chamomile, and frankincense.

In addition to the salts in your bath, having a good book with you can be a super addition to your rest time. Sometimes, taking a journey into a fictional world while inhaling calming scents is just what a human needs to fully decompress.

Another way to pamper yourself is to mix up a homemade facial mask. Many of these can be made with items you have in your kitchen, some are a little more detailed. But sometimes, unclogging your pores can really help unclog your mind. This may be construed by some to be a rather ‘feminine’ thing to do but I feel this is a great thing for any gender. Clean skin makes anyone feel better about things. Below is a quick and easy hydrating mask for dry skin.

Cocoa Dream Hydration Mask:

Mash up one quarter of an avocado and add one tablespoon of honey and one tablespoon of cocoa powder. Apply the mixture to a clean face and let sit for about 10 minutes. Rinse with lukewarm water and pat face dry. (I like to follow things like this with my favorite toner, Pacifica’s Coconut Micellar Water Cleansing Tonic, which can be bought at Target, Ulta, and Sephora or online at Amazon. Pacifica’s products are also all cruelty free and 100% vegan!)

Another fabulous homemade mask ingredient is bananas. Bananas are great for skin as they are high in antioxidants and moisture. This mask is super easy and great way to get glowing skin.

Organic Banana Face Mask:

Mash up half a banana and add one tablespoon orange juice (fresh squeezed is best!) and one tablespoon of honey. Apply to a clean face and leave on for 15 minutes, then rinse with lukewarm water.

One of my favorite ways to relax and de-stress is by doing a little yoga. Even the most novice yoga practitioner can accomplish these basic poses for relaxation. As with any physical exercise, make sure that you are trained on how to do these poses correctly by a licensed yoga instructor. Doing yoga poses incorrectly can actually damage your body. This webpage has five easy to achieve and fully relaxing yoga poses. Other poses that I enjoy and that help relax and relieve tension are locust pose and supine leg twist. For anyone who is a yoga practitioner who wants to have yoga on the go, I highly recommend the apps FitStarYoga and Asana Rebel. They are easy to use and show videos on the poses as well so it’s great for people who are not yet proficient.

I’d like to end my post on the most efficient way to de-stress, relax, and recharge. It’s quick, it’s easy and you can literally do it anywhere. Deep Breathing. Some people call this meditation and it is. However, all you really need to do is take in oxygen in order for your body to naturally relax and find serenity. Sit somewhere where you won’t be disturbed. If you can’t find a somewhat quiet spot, put in earbuds and start whatever relaxing music you like (I personally go straight for Chopin’s Nocturnes). Close your eyes and take one slow, deep breath in, then slowly let it out through your mouth. Repeat this for 5 minutes, 10 minutes, however long you feel you need to fully let go of your stress and find peace. Don’t think about anything; no mental lists of what you still have to do for the day, what you’re going to have/make for dinner, if you need to stop at the store on the way home for toilet paper. All those things will be there waiting for you when you’re done breathing. Just focus on the slow intake of oxygen and the release of breath out. Imagine all the bad thoughts and feelings you have exiting your body with the exhale. Even just 5 minutes of this can make all the difference in your mental state and how you approach or deal with your day.

Our weekend is long and for that, we are all grateful. Who doesn’t love a day off work? But remember the real reason for it and that is to take care of and treat yo’self. Happy Labor Day, kids!