Wednesday, June 29, 2011

'Poo-Free for Life!

Yeah, it's not what you think.  See the apostrophe?  (Anybody else always want to pronounce "apostrophe" with a French accent?  No?  Just me?  Okay...)

Six years ago, I saw a book displayed in my local library.  From the looks of it, it was probably produced by some teeny-bopper magazine and talked about hairspray and flat irons.  What caught my eye, however, was the redhead on the front.  The redhead with long, beautiful curls.

In my flat-on-top, frizzy/wavy-on-bottom world, this was über hair.  I pulled down the book, intrigued...then I read the title: Curly Girl: The Handbook (A Celebration of Curls: How to cut them, care for them, love them, and set them free).

Wait, not produced by Tiger Beat?  This was a serious book for grown-ups?

Turns out it was one of those moments in time where your life is changed forever.  I'm not putting it on par with Salvation or anything, but as far as hair care goes, this was IT.  After perusing it in the library, I checked it out.  Then renewed it.  Four times.  Then bought it.

The whole book focuses on celebrating ― instead of resenting ― your natural curls.  The beginning explains the science of curly hair.  Basically, it's drier than straight hair, which is why it curls up and frizzes.  And why using shampoo all the time (which strips oil) is not a good thing for Curly Girls.  Yes, my "'poo-free" status refers to shampoo.  As in, I don't use it.  Ever.  Ew...

Well, that's what you're thinking, right?  "Ew"?  That's what I thought the first time I tried it, too.  Turns out, all some of us need to cleanse our scalps is friction and a medium with which to carry away dirt and excess oil.  I still go through the motions of shampooing (massage product into scalp with fingertips, rinse away), but I use conditioner instead.  I also mix a little brown sugar in mine to exfoliate dry patches (it dissolves).  Guess what?  I don't get dandruff and severe itch all the time like I used to ― because I'm not drying out my scalp with shampoo anymore.  After the "cleansing" step, I follow the conditioning steps for my hair type.  Once out of the shower, I scrunch my hair dry (NO rubbing) and scrunch on an anti-frizz curl treatment.

The book divides Culry Girls into three types: wavy, Botticelli, and corkscrew.  Thought I was wavy, but after doing the Curly Girl process one time, I discovered I'm actually Botticelli!

Here are my before-Curly Girl and after-Curly Girl pictures:

One of my biggest frustrations had always been how the top of my hair was flat, instead of wavy or curly like the rest of my hair.  I figured it was because the weight of my long, wet hair was pulling it flat as it dried.  For years, I only ever took showers at night, so my hair could dry splayed out upon my pillow, but it still never quite curled from root to tip.  Enter Curly Girl!  Part of the Curly Girl drying process involves lifting your hair from the root so air can circulate and dry it, while also lifting the rest of your hair to prevent weighing-down.  I modified the method from the book so I could leave the house with my wet hair still lifted and not look like a crazy person while my hair dried properly.  Here's what it looks like:

Incognito!  You'd never guess there was 3 feet of hair tucked up in there.  I get a lot of compliments on this style, and people are always afraid I cut my hair!  LOL  It's so simple to do, too.  Basically, I get tiny claw clips, pouf forward a section of wet hair along my hairline, and clip it in place.  Repeat from ear to ear.  Then do a second row behind that one, off-setting the clips so they pick up hair from two of the clips in the front row.  The long hair hanging down in back gets divided into four quadrants, and each quadrant gets folded over and scrunched up against my head, then held in place by a medium-sized claw clip.  Voila!  Instant "short" hair.  The next day, I take out all the clips and my hair is curly root-to-tip.

My boys are both curly redheads, and we follow Curly Girl with them too.  No hassle, no tears.

My husband calls this their "ninja picture".  (We were couch jumping.)

I highly encourage you to check out this book, if you or someone you love has natural waves, curls, or frizz.  Two thumbs waaaaaay up!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sushi for Scaredy-Cats, part 2

We've made sushi several times since my Sushi for Scaredy Cats post but forgotten to photograph the process.  We had friends over tonight as a last big hoo-hah before their 3rd son was born.  What better time to document our dinner?  (For the record, she ended up going into labor the next day, which makes it 2-0 for pregnant friends delivering the day after having dinner with us.)  Maybe we should offer a labor kickstart service...?

We never got around to buying a sushi-rolling mat, since our Japanese grocery is waaaay across town.  While we were at IKEA, however, we bought a $1.99 Toga placemat to use instead.  Whichever you have, be sure to wrap it tightly and completely in plastic wrap.

We started with the fixins for four adults, two 4 year-olds, and two 2 year-olds. We ran out of nori before we were all full, but it was fun experimenting with rice-only rolls! LOL They were a little squishy (and not at all proper, I'm sure), but it got the job done.  In fact, we loved them -- you could really taste the avocado without the nori there to compete.

Check out the Sushi for Scaredy Cats post for more details on the "how to" before you begin!

This time, we used julienned carrots and cucumber, cream cheese strips, avocado strips, krab, and smoked salmon --- all pretty cheap, depending on the time of year.  For the carrots, we found that using a vegetable peeler on baby carrots, then matchsticking them, worked really well.  The cucumber should be peeled and seeded before matchsticking.  If we'd had green onion, it would've been a perfect spread.  Well, and bbq eel.  Yes, seriously.  If you ate it without knowing what it was, you would want it too.  So there.

You can buy "sushi rice" and rice vinegar at WalMart now, but I can't vouch for the quality.  Here's what we did to the rice:
  1. Make the sushi rice according to the package directions.  We used 3c uncooked for this dinner, and it was exactly/barely enough for our group.  Let the rice cool.
  2. Heat 6T rice vinegar, 4T sugar, and 2tsp salt until it mixes together, then let it cool.  Again, this is the amount for 3c uncooked rice.  If you find this ratio too sweet/salty/vinegary, adjust it for your tastes.
  3. Fold the cooled mixture into the cooled rice in a large bowl.
  4. Mix a little water and a little rice vinegar into a little bowl for fingertips and knives.
Leslie was a natural sushi-roller.

See? I promised I'd get an in-progress rolling pic!  I drew a little arrow so you could see how the mat moves as you roll.  First, roll up the end of the mat that has the fillings on it, just until the end of the nori touches the rice bed beyond the fillings.  IMPORTANT: lift the mat up and away instead of letting it tuck under and touch the rice bed, or it could get rolled up into your sushi!  As you continue, you'll need to lift up that end of the mat when you roll (like Leslie's doing with her left hand, above).  Shape the sushi roll into a cylinder by tucking the mat around to the base of the roll (the little bobble in the arrow) and squeezing gently and evenly through the mat along the length of the roll. 

FACT: food tastes better when you work for it.  Click the pic above to see the Awabdys close-up.  They're darling.

Mark tries his hand at an inside-out roll.

Wetting the knife with vinegar water to prevent sticking.

We didn't have any, but you can sprinkle the rice with sesame seeds before flipping it if you want them on the outside of your inside-out roll.

The shark smells comes Caspian...

Two year-olds look hilarious trying to wolf down a sushi roll, but it's probably safer to let them take bites.  Nori-less rolls are a little less messy, too.

Woe betide her who tries to tell Caspian he can't take every.single.piece off the group plate.  Following with "until you finish what you already took" quickly resets the sushi-lover's tantrum clock.  (Speaking of clocks, check the microwave to see how long that turnaround took).

Even if your kids won't/can't eat the rolls, they'll probably eat the fillings and the rice.

The ends of the roll will always look funny (top, left), especially if you squeezed too hard when you rolled.

But at our house, there's always someone willing to eat them...for the sake of the photo, of course.

the aftermath

Tip Junkie handmade projects

Friday, March 25, 2011

Rescuing Blemished Clothes

Ack, that sounds so serious!

This post has nothing to do with cleaning, let me tell you.  It has to do with having/finding a piece of clothing that is only one small stain (or ugly design) away from usability.  I should call it "Save That Shirt"!  LOL  This will open your eyes to keeping those cherished onesies, shirts, and pants that fell prey to spills.  Or, in my case, taking advantage of a super-affordable item that has a less-than-ideal picture on it.  Now I'm lamenting all the cute clothes I tossed that had stains or sports on them...and now I'm also spending more at Goodwill!  (Like that needed to happen...)

Figure out what design or picture you want on your item and sketch it out to get a feel for the size.  Caspian chose Plex, and fortunately settled for just his head.  He'd outgrown all of his light outerwear, and I found a great hoodie at our Habitat for Humanity ReStore for 50¢.  Well, it was great except for the yucky football screenprint on the chest.

Take some felt (on sale 8-for-$1) and some embroidery thread (which you probably already have) and, in my case, a button from my late grandmother-in-law's sewing stash.

Then make-over your hoodie!  Granted, I wouldn't have chosen a grey design for a grey hoodie, but I didn't have silver felt and Caspian wanted Plex, end of story.  :)   I positioned all my pieces, then Fabri-tac-ed the layers together and stitched each piece down before Fabri-tac-ing them down to the next piece.  I hand-sewed the button on (it's Caspian's favorite part).  At the end, I fray-checked all the threads and knots on the backside.  Can you find the feature I forgot to topstitch...?

Think of all the possibilities!  Coordinate a plain shirt to match a patterned skirt, personalize with monograms, the mind reels!  Felt is so inexpensive and user-friendly.  I was totally inspired and empowered by my IRL friend Andrea, who is a felt appliqué goddess.  Just look at this, and this, and this, and this, and this, and THIS, and oh my gosh THIS (I know, it's not felt, but wow).  You can do this with fleece too, which you also don't have to finish, or you can use regular fabric, which will fray.  For now, I'm sticking with felt.

Got plenty more in-progress pics to come!


Rescuing Blemished Clothes

Ack, that sounds so serious!

This post has nothing to do with cleaning, let me tell you.  It has to do with having/finding a piece of clothing that is only one small stain (or ugly design) away from usability.  This will open your eyes to keeping those cherished onesies, shirts, and pants that fell prey to spills.  Or, in my case, taking advantage of a super-affordable item that has a less-than-ideal picture on it.

Figure out what design or picture you want on your item.  Caspian chose Plex, and fortunately settled for just his head.  He needed some light outerwear that fit, and I found a great hoodie at our Habitat for Humanity ReStore for 50¢.  Well, it was great, except for the yucky football screenprint on the chest.

Take some felt and some embroidery thread (which you probably already have) and, in my case, a button from my grandmother-in-law's sewing stash.

Then make-over your hoodie!  Granted, I wouldn't have chosen a grey design for a grey hoodie, but I didn't have silver felt and Caspian wanted Plex, end of story.  :)

Got plenty more in-progress pics to come!


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Ultimate Crayon Roll, purse-sized beta: part 1 (fear)

Crayon rolls have been on my mind.

Unfortunately, I  am a control freak  am very picky  have high personal standards when it comes to my own craft projects.

That "high standard" is otherwise known as "fear"...or "perfectionist's paralysis."  I am so afraid of messing up my carefully-chosen-and-irreplaceably-precious materials, I never get started.

Which is why, for example, the bazillion dollars worth of scrapbooking materials I carefully handpicked while I was pregnant with Caspian is still in its cellophane wrapping.  Pregnant with my 4½ year-old, Caspian.  Still in its unopened cellophane wrapping.  Over 4½ years later (Admit it: some of you just had a mental image of storming my house to rescue my neglected Creative Memories cardstock.)

But technically, "perfectionist's paralysis" isn't quite the issue here.  The fear in this instance stems from something I'll call..."my sewing machine."

I've always aspired to sew, but it just seemed so involved.  Bobbins and threading and darts and seam allowances and stitch length and all the other big intimidating things that you veteran seamstresses are rolling your eyes at.  I received a Janome Sew Mini for Christmas 2009 and, prior to this month, used it exactly twice: to make a tissue holder for my purse and to put together my kids' Halloween costumes last year.  My house is still a work in progress — though it's getting MUCH better — so I have to use the kitchen table and living room desk whenever I need to sew and iron.  (Remember though, "whenever" means "twice in the last 14 months".) Since I know that eventually, when I get my act together, I'll have my craft desk to sew upon, I keep putting off sewing projects in the hope that I'll get my act together sooner rather than later.

The crayon roll, however, won't let me rest.

Here's how my train of thought has progressed in the last few weeks:

  1. My kids have crayons.
  2. Those crayons are in a box from IKEA.
  3. I need that box to store something else.
  4. I should make a crayon roll for my kids.
  5. It would be great to make one with a denim exterior, for durability.
  6. I should use my hubby's old jeans for that project.
  7. I should make a practice roll first.
  8. None of the roll tutorials have all the features I'm looking for.
  9. I should make my own design.
  10. I've only ever sewn 2 things and go all sweaty at the thought of patterns.
  11. Can I do this?
  12. Aaaauuuuggghhh!
  13. I shouldn't use my sewing machine until I can get my craft desk unearthed.
  14. Ooh, I found a Buzz Lightyear bed sheet that gives me inspiration for my design!
  15. Now I really need to make a practice roll.
  16. I'd better make a practice-practice roll, to get the hang of it before I try to get fancy.
  17. Well, I'm going to get fancy anyway, but at least I can use "normal" materials on the first run-through.
Fast forward past my revolutionary sheet-using design to my practice-practice design, which is more traditional.  Well, except that I designed it to incorporate all the features I wanted in a crayon roll: 8 crayons only (for purse-carrying, which didn't exist in blogland tutorials), a flap to contain the crayons, decorative trim, elastic-and-button closure, AND (my proudest achievement) a custom pocket to hold a little notepad!  Why hasn't anyone else put in a notepad pocket?  My very own design out of my own little head — I'm so excited!  I am just astonished that what started as a pencil sketch in my home journal progressed into handwritten step-by-step directions that actually turned into a real thing...which looks like the original sketch!  It's like holding a little alien in your hand.  Is it really real?!

I can't believe I sewed this thing. And I designed a sewing project!  With seam allowances and top-stitching and pressing and interfacing and, and...  ((hyperventilating))   Okay...okay...I can do this.  I did this!  Wow.

The fabric is from the fat quarter wall at WalMart.  Caspian chose what he calls "red lava" as the main fabric.  The button is from my husband's deceased grandmother's sewing stash, which was given to our family.  The pocket was designed for a little spiral-topped notepad (or "handy dandy notebook", as it's called at our house), but I couldn't find ours for the life of me.  The one pictured is some freebie from a hotel.

The detailed tutorial and dimensions will follow.  You are welcome to make my Ultimate Crayon Rolls or gift them, but full credit AND a link back here must be directly attached, please.  I worked H-A-R-D on this design!   :D   Thanks!   As EllieG puts it, "Do not repost without linking back, do not alter or claim as your own.  Personal use only."

Saturday, January 29, 2011


I seriously wish our family camera had chosen a different night to die.

And I wish that the step-by-step pics I took with my cell phone (when the camera died mid-project) weren't corrupted.

And I wish that our replacement camera wasn't coming all the way from Canada.

All I can say is, whenever I enter my gift wrap area, I have a little craftgasm*. Because I finally got to use this for something ahhhhh-mazing:

...and it was 100% totally and completely my own brilliant, original idea!  Yes, that's a 50¢ wooden cassette tape rack from Goodwill.  And no, I'm not going to post an "after" or give any other hints until I can take a REAL "after" picture.  Wanna guess...?  Anyone who guesses correctly wins a prize!

*By the way, "craftgasm"© is a term I coined a few years ago to describe any craft product/project-related moment that reeeeally excites you.  Like, the instant you see it, you're...excited.  Like, makes your heart rate increase.  IfyouknowwhatImean.  Kind of like this or ooohh, this!

Yes, that's a Sharpie wall.  And yes, my husband knows what it does to me.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Get Well Soon: part 3, finale

Click here for part 1, prep.
Click here for part 2, arranging.

If I had it to do all over, I would probably hot glue the foam into the basket, then hot glue the stems in as well, using my Crafty Magic Melt Little Dipper Low Temp Glue Pot (which, technically, is still in the package...since I purchased it in high school because it looked so cool).

Despite having reference photos, the final poked-in version turned out a little different than the practice run.  It was kind of hard to see some of the flowers on my tiny camera viewfinder, and some of the insertion angles proved a little difficult to replicate on the first try.  Oh, and since I just used the foam I had (instead of custom fitting some), there were some gaps where I intended to poke a couple of the stems.

Overall, though, I'm pretty happy with the layout.

A couple of the add-ins had to be hacked in order to be attached securely, as opposed to just tucked in for looks.  The eucalyptus bits were popped off of a larger bunch, so I created new stems out of folded-over floral wire.  I did the same for the smaller leaf groupings.

It worked!
Everything in its place.

The back, however, was definitely meant to to be hidden!  Hey, it's proof that I made it myself, right?

After using my beading wire side-clippers to chop off the stick-out parts, I hot glued anything that touched anything else.  Liberally hot glued.  If I was selling this piece, I'd probably cover it all up with felt or something.

But you can't tell once it's in place, can ya?  This was intended to go on the wall, but you could also use it as a table centerpiece.  If you go that route, I'd recommend a round or rectangle basket, since a heart looks kind of wonky straight-on from the side.

I love the way they protrude slightly from the basket — like they're growing, or there's something underneath pushing them out.   :)

This picture is just for scale.  Please ignore the pre-road trip checklist and the misarranged Willow Tree collection.  The latter never got put to rights after the cat fiasco ("fiasco" as in "the shelf wasn't attached to the brackets and he jumped up to hang on the edge and everything flipped onto the floor" fiasco).

Hope you enjoyed my little 3-parter!  I'd love to hear your comments, 'cause it feels like I'm typing to cricket-chirping land — or better yet, become a "follower" AND leave a comment!  Pretty please, with jam and jelly on top (as my 4 year-old says)!   :D