Monday, October 28, 2013

Laminated Leaf Sun Catchers

A few weeks back I saw a project online for laminated leaf magnets. I thought the idea of running some beautifully colored fall leaves through my laminator was a stellar idea; however, I wanted to hang them in my window instead of adding them to my clutter of fridge magnets. So, I picked some pretty leaves and got to work. These leaves were allowed to dry a day or so before I laminated them, but they were all still flexible and vibrantly colored. I arranged them in my laminator sheets with lots of space around each leaf so I'd have room to cut around them and leave a tab to punch a hole in.

I ran each sheet through the laminator a few times to get the best possible seal so the leaves wouldn't turn brown. After they were laminated, I cut them out and punched a hole near the top of each leaf, then I trimmed them a little more to get the finished product.

I had a heck of a time getting a good photo of these leaves. The front window I have them in stays relatively dark in the afternoons since it's on the north side of the house (top photo). I moved the leaves to my patio door on the south side of the house to get a brighter photo--but I was getting odd reflections and in some photos the sun caught the dirt on the outside of the window (the rain splashes on it--not to mention the dog paws :)).  But the sun catchers turned out lovely. The bright red ones look especially nice in the sunlight. I have noticed that my largest leaf is starting to turn a bit brown.  It had the worst seal out of all of the leaves, so I hope at least some of them will stay vibrant.  If they don't, they are an easy and cheap enough project that I can make more next Fall. 

UPDATE: After hanging on the window for about a month, the photo below shows the slight changes in the coloration. Leaves that were flattest to begin with (including one that I pressed in a book for a couple days before running through the laminator), seemed to change the least. They all still embody fall, just a little less vibrantly so.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Adventures in Dehydrating: Apple Chips

When we first got our dehydrator, apples were one of the first things we tried drying.  Apple chips are probably my favorite dried fruit.  You can easily dry them to the point of crispness, and they are always nice and sweet.  The only problem--buying apples in bulk has gotten more expensive over the last year or so.  I waited impatiently last fall for the prices to drop below a dollar a pound so we could bring home a big bag and get to drying, but apparently the apple crop took a big hit from the drought last year.  This year that is not the case, unfortunately the costs of everything keeps rising and apples have not really returned to their pre-drought prices.  Thankfully, Costco came through.  The 10 pound bags were finally under 10 bucks again. Their 10 pound bags are full of GIANT Red Delicious apples--which make a nice sweet chip.

We started by laying out a colored cutting board.  If you're cutting a bunch of apples and you accidentally forget to wash the board off right away, it will stain a white plastic cutting board--so we just use a colored one so that if it doesn't make it into the dishwasher until tomorrow, it won't be totally stained.  Next up you'll need an apple corer. On the big Costco apples, hubby had to double core some of the apples to get all of the seeds out, but the corer works much faster than a knife. We skip peeling the apples and just wash them off well before slicing.  If you make a crispy chip, you barely notice the peel is still on the apple (and besides--the peel is full of fiber--or at least that's what my Mom always told me).  

After the apple is cored, you can slice it on a Mandolin, or just use a nice sharp knife to cut it into 1/4 inch thick slices.  We have tried several different concoctions to reduce the browning of our apples (lemon juice, water and lemon juice, etc...), but our favorite is orange juice.  It is acidic enough to keep the apples from turning really brown, and you don't taste the sour tang like you do when using lemon juice...the flavor sort of just disappears.

Fresh apples on dehydrator tray.

Then you just lay them out on the trays.  These giant apples filled up our dehydrator fast--only fit about 1 apple per tray.  Normal sized apples are more like 2 per tray. Set your dehydrator to the fruit setting (135 degrees) and dry for about 12 hours or until they are dry to the touch.  Once they are dry to the touch, you can decide how crispy you'd like them to be.  We like them crispy like chips. They are great for snacking, and are another good treat to share with the dog (in moderation--they are pretty sweet). The best bonus about making these apple chips is that the dehydrator pumps the wonderful sweet apple flavor all through your house while they are drying--it's even better than baking apple pie, I swear!

Dried apples on dehydrator tray.

Monday, October 14, 2013

DIY Fall Wreath

Michael's had a sale a while back on wreath forms...a long while a year ago.  This grapevine wreath cost me $1.99 last fall.  I knew I wanted to make a fall wreath that I could use before and after Halloween.  So I picked up 3 bunches of different colored chrysanthemums at Walmart for 94 cents a piece and a fall inspired ribbon.  Then I picked up an assorted fall bunch at Michael's that included berries, leaves, a pumpkin and a pinecone. This one bunch was on sale for $1.49.  

So for under $10 I was able to whip up this wreath.  I laid out my flowers and other items where I thought they looked nice and then glued them down with a hot glue gun.  This is my second wreath using silk flowers--however I'm no stranger to wreath making--but one thing that I've learned from working with silk flowers on wreaths is to buy bunches that have different sized flowers if possible. I wish there were even more variety in the sizes of the chrysanthemums I used on this wreath. If all of the flowers are the same sizes, it looks a bit boring and makes the flowers look even more fake. The other important thing I've learned is that wreath making isn't hard--it's mostly just laying things out where they look good--the hardest part is knowing when to stop. Before I made this wreath, I looked at pictures of a bunch of fall wreaths online to figure out how I wanted to balance the "white space" of the wreath.  I think it turned out pretty well.  I'm not completely sold on the bow, but it's not glued on, so I can change it later if I find one I like better.  Happy Fall!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Bag Canister

I've been wanting to try this project ever since I first saw it online.  What a handy and pretty way to keep old grocery bags all neat and tidy and easy to get to.  I knew immediately that I wanted to make one to keep in my car.

You'll need:
About 12 shopping bags
An empty disinfectant wipes container
Mod Podge and foam brush
Scrapbook Paper or Fabric to decorate the container

Start out by laying your bags flat and smoothing them out.  Tuck in the sides if you need to. I used bags from the same store so they'd be the same size and roll up more neatly, but I'm sure it will work just fine with bags from different stores.

Next, fold the bag in half.

After you have a stack of bags folded in half, you can start rolling them up.  Fold the handles of the first bag up so that they will stick out of the center of the roll.  Begin rolling the bags up starting at the top of the bag (handle end) and working towards the bottom.  Lay the next bag so that just the handles overlap with the end of the bag you are currently rolling. You'll be tempted to roll them up very tightly, but you don't need to. If you do roll them up too tightly, you'll end up pulling out multiple bags when you're only hoping for one.

Continue rolling and adding bags onto the end with the handles overlapping the end of the previous bag.

When you get to a roll that looks like it's about the size of your container, stop adding bags and just finish rolling up the last bag.

When you're done, you'll have a roll of bags with the handles of the first bag sticking out of the center.

Now it's time to decorate the container.  Apply mod podge onto your fabric or scrapbook paper and roll it onto the canister.  I used a Lysol wipes container and my paper ended up being 7 1/8 inches by 11 inches. Make sure your paper or fabric overlaps a good inch or so as the mod podge doesn't adhere too well to the smooth plastic, so you'll need the overlap to make sure it sticks securely.

After the paper is glued on to the canister, you can let it dry and leave it as is, or you can put a layer of mod podge over top of the paper to create a sealed finish.  Since I am planning on throwing my canister into the car, I wanted a durable finish to protect the paper.

After it's dried, you're all done--a cheap and easy recycle craft that will keep bags right at your fingertips.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Washi Tape Binder Clips

Another super quick washi tape craft: covered binder clips.  I use a lot of binder clips at my job, so I liked the idea of making them cuter.  I grabbed a handful of small binder clips and a stack of washi tape and got to work.

I lined up the straight edge along one side of the clip.  Then used a small sharp scissors to trim the tape along the opposite short edge.  Then I folded the excess over the top of the clip.  I repeated the process on the opposite side. I started out using a regular sized scissors but switched to a small one when I realized I needed to get a closer cut to the binder clip.  After that switch, the project was a piece of cake.

I even had one teeny-tiny binder clip that was the same width as the washi tape--covering a set of those itty bitty ones would be ideal; however, as binder clips go, though, they are pretty darn useless. Now I have a full variety of patterned binder clips to make me smile while I'm working.