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Ever wondered how to make your own vanilla extract? It’s really easy! It’s also a great way to put to use those vanilla bean pods after you’ve scraped all the seeds out of them.

Here’s what you’ll need:

– small glass container with a tight lid that is boil proof

– 2 or 3 vanilla bean pods

– vodka (or other alcohol . . . rum might be a bit of an adventure too!)

Directions:

First make sure that your jar is sterilized. You can do this by placing it (along with the lid) in a pot of boiling water for approx. 10 minutes. (Please use tongs to fish it out — I know it sounds common sensical, but take the necessary precautions!)

 

Next, cut the vanilla bean pods in half and place them in the jar. Fill it with vodka, making sure that the alcohol covers the vanilla beans completely. Place this in a dark cupboard and don’t touch it for a month. (Write a note for yourself in your calendar.)

After one month, take it out and shake it gently. Return it to the cupboard and let it sit another month. The liquid will steadily turn darker as it “rests” and you’ll be able to use it after the second month.

 

Don’t be afraid to keep adding vanilla bean pods/vodka as time goes on. This has the potential of being a never-ending extract! Enjoy.

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These lanterns are colorful, inexpensive to make, and provide enough light by themselves that I can still read before calling it a day.

The only materials you need are two strands of white lights and a package of origami paper (either 4×4″ or 5×5″) that contains several more sheets than the total number of lights. This way, you can “practice” with a few without worry. Below you’ll find directions to make an origami balloon. Once you blow it up, place the balloon over each individual light. They’ll stay without any adhesive as long as you’re gentle with it. It’s that simple, I promise.

(Directions taken from this site.)

 

In the town where I spent my formative years, there is an old storage block on the east side that was converted into a street art installation. Every so often, new images appear. I am always impressed by the effects the artists create, presumably only using spray paint and stencils. Perhaps I can credit my fascination with this art medium for the newest additions to my walls.

The Steps:

1) I purchased some canvas, paint brushes, blank stencil sheets and acrylic paint from a craft store. Everything else (utility knife, images, tape, etc.) I had at home.

Have fun making the colorful background for the paintings. I found a pretty good tutorial for “abstract art for dummies”. Here’s one of them:

2) Find images for your art that aren’t too intricate. You are, after all, cutting these out of plastic sheeting and tiny details don’t show up as well. Confession: I liberally stole from some intelligent beings online, then slightly modified a few of the images to cater to my needs.

3) Tape plastic sheet to the image and secure to a thick piece of cardboard or scrap wood so you don’t gouge the heck out of your table top. (This could even be a cutting board.)  Tip 1: Remember that whatever you cut out is going to show up painted on the canvas. If your image is busy, I would recommend marking those areas that you want visible, assuring yourself that you don’t accidentally remove an essential piece.

4. Try out your stencil on a piece of blank paper to see what the image will look like, then decide if you’d like to make adjustments. The kissing couple, for example, wasn’t the representation I wanted, so I made some changes to the physical features and then added some detail.

before

after

5. Next, tape your stencil to your canvas. I used masking tape, although painters tape might be a better option? You’re ready to go! Tip 2: to begin, don’t use too much paint . . . less is more (see the word “Evolve” in number 1).

6. I experimented with different color combinations and layouts. For example, the black lotus below stands out against the white “outline”. Really, this was just one stencil on top of another, but I didn’t want the same effect to appear on all the flowers. I also didn’t want the “no bombs/war” image to be entirely black down the side. Small things, and they’re fun to play with! Enjoy!

 

Family owned antique stores attract me like a bee to honey. Take, for example, the one I pass on my way to school every morning.  They have these stacks of salvaged window frames sitting outside just waiting for someone to find a use for them . . . (ahem)

I decided to create a picture frame to place behind my bed. Well, it’s less of a picture frame and more of a “hang-your-heart-here” sort of space, which is wonderful.

I started by gently (read as: slowly and painstakingly) removing the glass and the old, cracked glazing around it. The reality: tools and bits of glazing were strewn about, glass panels were in piles, Dakota was hidden in by bedroom, it was a totally normal project atmosphere in my house.

After cleanup, I applied a very light layer of non-glossy spray paint. (I used Krylon Indoor/Outdoor Satin Finish in “Jade”.) The result yielded the faded vintage look that I wanted.

To install the hanging wires, I simply drilled tiny holes on either side of the frame panels. Using my pliers, I inserted #214 x 13/16 inch screw eyes and then threaded them with 1 mm (20 lb.) steel wire, wrapping the loose ends back upon the wires. For all the visual folks, check out the pictures below.

I also installed hardware to the reverse side so I could hang it on the wall. Here I used wire again, but much stronger stuff (75 lb. strength picture wire). Once I had hung the frame, it was time to adorn it. I purchased some mini clothes pins at a crafts store, and used them to hang poems/quotes/images/trinkets that are special to me. I love it. My frame has become a sanctuary of sorts and I am free to exchange, add, or reorganize it at will. I gave the Rainer Maria Rilke quote below to a friend, but a freshly typed copy will undoubtedly make its way to my frame again.

  

It is normal to have bare walls when one moves to a new home. I’m not going to tell you how long it’s taken me to put up pictures/art. Let’s instead focus on the final products, shall we?. This is the first of three DIY project posts, consisting of: bookshelves, windowpane picture frame, and stencil art.

For this post, I wanted to create some shelves above my desk. I love whimsy and using things that I already have, so this killer idea for real book shelves hit home. One note about the hardware: I have somewhat slim drywall, so I used some thin wall grabber anchors. Disclaimer: check with your local hardware store first about what would be best for your setup.

I used a combination of small and large l-brackets (3″x3″ and 2″x2″):

                                      

I also used a drill, a screwdriver, and a level . . . you want these things to be balanced, darn it! If you “happen” to make one set uneven, relax, just put a bird piece of foam tape on it. We are professionals here.

                                      

When they’re mounted on the wall, they look like this:

                          

You’ll notice that I inverted the position of the brackets. It’s personal preference . . . and the longer brackets “hide” better behind my photos.

Slide your text of choice into the space and revel at your work. Also, revel at the fact that no books were harmed during this process. Bonus.

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