Monday, December 16, 2013

Make a Draft Stopper and Stop Drafts IN THEIR TRACKS

Was the blog post headline sufficiently terrorizing?  I'm working on that whole "get their attention" thing.

Please enjoy this hazy picture of my dirty front door.  Oh, and the draft stopper.

Several years ago, I made a draft stopper for our front door, because I think drafts are bad, and our front door was a serious offender.

Fast forward to last year, when a certain vicious puppy demolished said draft stopper because apparently it was going to kill our whole family or eat his puppy chow or something equally evil such as that.

December last year.  See what I mean?  He was VICIOUS, I tell you.  Viciously cute, that is.

I mean, COME ON.  Look at him!  Adorbs.  <heart heart heart>

So this year I made a new, better draft stopper and the certain puppy has approved by way of not demolishing it.  Yet.

Pithy instructions:  Get some slick fabric.  Get some pipe insulation.  Wrap insulation with fabric.  Slide under the door.

Wordful instructions:

Do what I described in the link above, but use a longer piece of fabric and fold it over the ends to make it more "finished".

Please enjoy this non-hazy closeup of my dirty carpet.

Pro tip:  You know all those tutorials that tell you to fill a bag with rice?  Don't do that.  A bag of rice is heavy, and you'll have to pick it up every time you want to open the door.  You don't need anything to weigh it down, you just need it to fit tight so there are no air gaps.

Ding-dang it.  I just re-read the old blog post and realized I had had a brilliant idea that I should have used on my new draft stopper:  batting on the bottom section, under the door.  Next time.

Friday, December 6, 2013

How to turn a 30-minute project into a 3-hour tour (a 3-hour tour)

Step 1:  Ask your child what she wants to wear for her visit to Santa.  When she tells you that she wants a red plaid flannel skirt, nod and smile and don't try to persuade her to choose something less "challenging".

Step 2:  Ask her if she wants it lined.  Don't suggest she wear a slip, because then she will know you are a coward.

Step 3:  When she tells you she doesn't want a zipper because she wants to be able to just pull it on, ignore your instincts that say you should make a proper waistband.  Just go ahead and do the easy thing and make a waist casing in that bulky, lined flannel skirt.

Step 4:  When you try it on her and you realize that the waist casing in that bulky, lined flannel was a huge mistake, put the skirt on a hanger, have a lemon cookie, and plan to start fresh the next morning.

Step A (because it is a new day, so we have a new numbering system):  If thy waistband offends thee, cut it off. Make a proper waistband, with some elastic in the back to make the fit more flexible, and pleat that sucker to fit.

When judging the color of the skirt, go by this picture.

Lined like a boss.

Flat front waist.  My, what a nice matching job this is.

Gathered back waist.  My, what a crappy matching job this is.

When you find yourself following a previously-sewn line and
using a stiletto to keep the folds flat and wondering
what kinds of mistakes you are making underneath, think of England.

Behold!  A skirt on a hanger.  You're welcome.

Step B:  Suit up!  Head out!  Make sure her biggest and bestest hair flower is on the camera side of her head.

They had a long conversation about keys.  <3

Step C:  Remind yourself that if it is worth doing, it is worth doing well enough.  Santa is very forgiving, and your child will be thrilled to have a "made" skirt, because "boughten" skirts don't come with love notes inside.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Quick Gift: Lotion Bars

So.  I'm glad you liked the pastry post, because that is the kind of thing I can do on a semi-regular basis:  quick, sloppy, and without editing.

Thus, behold:  blurry pictures of our lotion bars.  Ella and I love these.  LOVE them.  LOVE.  If not for these, I'd probably have to live in a bubble because my hands would be so cracked and damaged that I would be too susceptible to infection to live in the natural world.

The prettiest of the pretty lotion bars, presented for your viewing pleasure on
the prettiest of the pretty dishes that I use to feed the cats.  You're worth the effort.

Ingredients:  weigh them, if possible.  If not possible, do your best to get them to be even amounts:

1 part beeswax, chopped
1 part coconut oil
1 part shea butter

OPTIONAL:  essential oil for fragrance, or Vitamin E oil because your daddy liked it.  YDMV (Your Daddy May Vary).

ALSO OPTIONAL:  colorant.  I never add that, because I'm lazy and forgetful.

Coconut oil:  grocery store.
Vitamin E oil:  beauty supply store.
Shea butter:  Amazon.
Block of beeswax:  beloved friend, but I'm sure you can find it other places.

Pithy instructions:  double boiler.  Melt beeswax.  Add the other stuff.  Stir, pour, let cool/harden.

Wordful instructions:

A double boiler doesn't really do double boiling.  It is a two-tier set up that holds the ingredients one step removed from the heating element.  If you have an actual double boiler, kudos!  You are clearly an advanced kitchen technician.  If you do not have a double boiler, kudos!  You have not spent your hard-earned money on extra equipment.  My double boiler set up is a metal bowl on a pot of water.

"Mrs. Vocational Homemaker, where were you on the afternoon of
Sunday, 1 December, a little after lunchtime?"

Put the beeswax chips in the double boiler and DON'T WALK AWAY.  Hot wax fire bad.  Just stand there stirring and admiring your double boiling prowess.  When the wax is almost completely melted, dump in all the other stuff, GENTLY, because hot wax splatter burn bad.

For some reason, I was surprised that melted beeswax was the color of honey.

How much Vitamin E oil?  As much as you want.
Last time I used a modest squirtful.  This time I used a healthy squeeze.

While it is melting, set up your molds.  I use soap molds because I have them, but you can use anything that can take the heat:  muffin tins, microwave-safe storage containers, etc.  If your mold is too big for your lotion bar taste, you can always cut the bars to size once they cool.

Nothing to use for molds?  OK:  you can pour a solid layer into a rimmed cookie sheet, then use a knife or pizza cutter to cut bars, or use cookie cutters to make all kinds of pretty shapes.  You can re-melt any leftovers and pour again, or you can just dump them in a bowl and use them as is.  Or you can do something else which I'll show you in a sec.

When everything has melted together, pour the mix into your molds and let it completely, utterly, undeniably cool till you have a solid mass that can't be squished when you put your finger in the middle of it to unmold. Or so I've heard.

Pro Tip:  if you hold the stirrer right up against the rim of the vessel,
you can direct the liquid straight down into the container.
This works for pretty much all pourable liquids.
I know, I know:  MIND = BLOWN. 

As they start to cool you will see them harden around the edges,
and in the pretty parts of the mold.  Don't jiggle the tray!
Or you will be sorry.  MARK MY WORDS.

Yeah, watching lotion bars harden is almost exactly as much fun as watching paint dry.

When they are good and cool and hard and solid, pop them out.
That little chip in the corner is special, in a good way.

Alrighty, you're done molding and cutting and you have a little extra--like that little chip in the corner of that picture, which was originally just a few spoonfuls of liquid that I poured into one of the molds.  Remember the cookie cutter leftovers I mentioned?  Here's what you can do with them:  melt them again, then pour them into all the empty lip balm twirly thingies you hoard because you can't bear to throw out a perfectly good twirly thingie.

Pro tip:  make sure to spin the twirly thingie all the way down
before pouring the melted lotion into it.  And use a chopstick for the pouring trick.  

We bag and tag our bars and store them in the freezer, because this is the South and it gets hot enough in the house in the summer for coconut oil to go to liquid.  But the bars are safe at room temperature for least two years without refrigeration, and possibly longer.

What I need now is to figure out a good gift presentation for these bars--suggestions?