Monday, January 30, 2012

Use What You Have (Part whatever): clementine boxes

Clementine boxes.  I want to love them.  They are so cute and wooden.  A thousand uses should be spilling into my brain.  But the only thing that I can think to do with them is to store craft paints.

My younger daughter (who must be part fairy) came up with this idea.

"Get the hot glue gun, Mommy!"

And she proceeded to use kindling (as in, sticks), yarn, and other do-dads to make this little fairy garden.

There have got to be more uses for clementine boxes.  Do share your ideas and rescue me from fairyland!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Ice luminaries: a lesson in science and psychology

After a majorly failed attempt last year, I was determined to get some successful ice luminaries this season.  I mean, it falls under my Use What You Have mantra.  I have water.  I have buckets.  I have freezing temperatures.  This should work.

That's the science part.

What I wasn't prepared for was the struggle to keep my patience as I tried to keep the glass jars from floating away, pop the ice cylinders out of the buckets, then pop the glass jars out of the ice.  And the frozen mosquitos.

What are mosquitos doing in Michigan in January anyway?

Then I got smart and remembered that I have a cleaner, more predictable, more controlled environment right inside my kitchen freezer.  And about a day later, 7 ice luminaries were born!

Here's how:

First, take a 32 ounce plastic yogurt container.  Take an empty jam jar and fill it with dried beans.

Next, put the jam jar in the center of the yogurt container and fill the remaining space with water, leaving the top inch or two of the jar exposed.  Carefully put this into the freezer, or out on the porch.

Later, when the water is completely frozen, take the whole thing out of the freezer and let it sit on the counter for about 15 minutes to thaw oh-so-slightly.

Then, turn it upside down, and tap the ice and jar out.  Take the lid off the jar and dump out the beans.  Fill the empty jar with cold water (hot water may crack the jar!).  Let this sit for a few minutes.  Then, with any luck, the jar should slide out of the ice cylinder!  If the ice cracks, don't worry, take the jar out anyway, and pop the cracked ice cylinder back in the yogurt container, add a tiny bit of water to seal it, and put it back in the freezer for another hour.

Make as many luminaries as you like, remembering to store them in the freezer, not on the porch, until you are ready to light them.  I learned this the hard way; a couple of sunny afternoons ruined my entire stash.  Winter is just not what it used to be.

When you are ready to light these, drop a tea light or votive candle inside.  Light with a long match or one of those long lighters and set outside.

Instant (ok, not so instant) charm!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Girls' Night In, with a purpose

It's becoming a habit.  The Music Man goes out of town.  I throw a party.

Last year was tasty with the Heirloom Recipe Party.  This year, I decided to up the anty a little bit and bring in not one, but two, guest speakers.  They are sisters that work together under the name Clutter Be Gone to help people get organized.

I set up the party,

cake balls, who can resist these?

fruit kabobs
no party is complete without chunky salsa

ice luminaries

delegating the signage to my daughters

People actually came.

And the presenters gave us a serious dose of motivation to declutter and simplify our lives.

Some magnets served as a takeaway reminder of something we learned.

A charity truck came the next morning to whisk away the giveaway items that we had all brought from home.


I know the purpose of the party was not to trade junk, but I couldn't help falling in love with this oddly charming garden post.  Do you think snow peas would grow up this?

One group of ladies already planned next year's party for me: a proper clothing/housewares exchange.

What are you doing the next third-weekend-in-january?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

extra candy canes?

If you are anything like us, you end up with several random and neglected candy canes at the end of the holiday season. When I came across this idea for reshaping them into peppermint sugar cubes, I let my morning plans get derailed for a fun 20 minutes.

Basically you let the food processor grind up a bunch of candy canes, some white sugar, and a tiny bit of water until you have sandy, minty granules.

Press them firmly into little cookie cutters.

Let them harden for an hour or two and pop them out.

Save the leftover granules for peppermint sugar for tea, coffee, or hot chocolate. Instant minty hot drink.

Perfect for January in Michigan!

Monday, January 2, 2012

To do? I'm done! A list of 2011.

Yesterday I sat down to make a Goals 2012 List. I'm not a big fan of resolutions, which usually involve promises to myself that I'm not prepared to keep. But goals I like. In the last few years I've even been so gentle with myself as to start most goals with the word 'consider.' As in "Consider expanding the garden" or "consider doing yoga 3 times a week." Hey, a little bit of thoughtfulness goes a long way, and I figure I should give myself permission to toss some goals aside if they become unimportant or get displaced by something more pressing. Life happens, at least to me.

So as I sat down to make my new list of goals, I came across my list from last year. I was delighted to see that I had either accomplished most things, set some aside for later (this year!), or decided it was unimportant althogether (sew twirls skirts for my girls? Nah.)

Here's what I managed to eek out in good ol' 2011:

  • expanded the garden, cleaned out the pond, started the raspberry garden, gave away lots of cheerful sunflowers
  • visited 5 backyard chicken coops, read several chicken husbandry books
  • started writing a non-fiction book
  • put that book on hold to take my sustainability hobby to the public, in the form of a small business with a presence at the local farmers market and food co-op
  • gave away several bags of clothes, books, toys, household items to charity
  • took a personal finance class at church to tighten our systems and build encouragement for financial goals
  • researched, wrote, and partially illustrated a children's book
  • attended 2 family weddings
  • helped 2 friends move to happy homes
  • navigated our family's first school conflict
  • took advantage of absent children and husband by hosting an heirloom recipe party
  • incorporated Newberry Award books and classics into our read-alouds and car book-on-cd time
  • taught my daughters to jump rope
  • met several more people in my church by joining the Artist Way small group, the Ypsi Social Club, and a couples group
  • served as project manager for a bathroom remodel
  • painted my bedroom and my daughter's bedroom
  • organized the mezzanine (aka, the craft room, the giveaway room, the file room, etc)
  • made 2 quilts with repurposed fabric
  • taught Sunday School to toddlers, specializing in memory verses with actions
  • taught a bread-making class at my church's Camp Create
  • embarked on several urban, cultural adventures, including the Rembrandt exhibit at the DIA, the People Mover, and the Farm and Food Tour
  • sowed into relationships with playdates and Sunday dinners
  • (my husband had to remind me of this one!) managed our home, including daily meals, laundry, carpool, and homework support
Now that I can see how fun and full 2011 was, I'm ready to tackle 2012.

How about you?