natural-cleaning.jpg

Happy New Year! I will not bore you with all of my New Year’s resolutions, but one of them is to switch completely to natural cleaners. Traditional cleaners give me headaches and sinus problems, so that can’t be good. I already use a lot of baking soda and vinegar, but am still using traditional cleaners for toilets and on rare occasions, bleach for laundry. The natural stuff at the grocery store is so expensive, so I’d really like to try some homemade potions.

I’ve done some experimenting with natural cleaners and here is what I’ve found.

Sinks & Tubs: Baking soda and vinegar work well. I was hesitant to use vinegar because of the smell, but it dissipates quickly. The baking soda works as an abrasive and the vinegar disinfects. I often add some fresh lemon juice and then grind some lemon peels in the disposal. Add some isopropyl alcohol if you don’t trust the disinfectant properties of vinegar.

Toilets: I think a mixture of baking soda and vinegar makes a sufficient cleaner for toilets. But after I tried this, I added a drop of peppermint essential oil and let it sit for a while. I still want things to smell clean. I bought essential oils for the first time and I’m now hooked. The smell of these added to your cleaners is delightful.

Windows: Vinegar. I use undiluted vinegar on a rag. This really leaves a streak-free, clean window and works even better than the blue stuff.

Kitchen Counters: Castile soap, water, and a couple of drops of essential oil in a spray bottle. And you get to read that crazy Dr. Bronner label! This stuff needs to be heavily diluted (like 6 parts water to one part castile soap). Their site says that you can even brush your teeth with this stuff! Yuck.

Laundry: I don’t feel comfortable mixing up my own laundry detergent, but have been intrigued by these Soap Nuts. I’m afraid that they will not work in my washing machine and would love to hear from someone who has tried them.

Floors: For tile and other non-wood floor surfaces, you can mix vinegar, water, and a drop of essential oil for fragrance.

Though many people say that you shouldn’t mop hardwood floors, we have these all over our house and I don’t see how you could get them clean another way. I’ve been using Murphy Oil Soap to clean hardwood floors for years and as far as I can tell, it doesn’t contain anything toxic, but here is a recipe that seems interesting.

Here are some sites that I found helpful:

Treehugger: “How to Green Your Cleaning” – steps you can take to improve indoor air quality and why you should do it.

Clean Green – a comprehensive list of natural cleaners and how/where to use them. There is music on this site.

Earth Easy – another good list of natural cleaners.

The Herbs Placea list of mixes using essential oils.

Advertisements

My daughter came to me with an urgent request that I make a quilted blanket for her doll bed as the one she had was LOST! I knew we would find it, but I embrace any opportunity to make a project with her. So she selected her fabric and drew the picture below (of course I somehow managed to spill water on the corner there). She was very specific that the blanket be the exact size of her doll bed and that it have ties at the bottom so it wouldn’t get lost. Wouldn’t that be a good idea for adult beds so you wouldn’t have all those problems with covers wiggling around?

drawing1.jpg

So anyway, I made this for her and I had so much fun with it that I then made some quilted chair covers and am working on another quilted project that I’ll post later this week. I can see how quilting is so addictive, but I don’t think I’ll ever try anything that takes longer than a week to make. Goodness.

cimg3536.jpg

My mother has always chastised me for not reading directions. This has been a problem with my sewing. I just began using my embroidery machine to sew this year and I seem to learn by trial and error. If I make a mistake, I fix it and usually learn something. When I buy a pattern, I cut out the fabric and try not to follow the directions, which are usually so confusing anyway!

But I got some great books for Christmas that I’d like to share with you. Now in my usual fashion and considering that I am on a sewing roll, I have only skimmed them. But here are my thoughts.

girly-style1.jpg

Girly Style Wardrobe, a Japanese pattern book that I read about on angry chicken. I found the book on e-bay, but it is available here at Lemon Squeezey, along with what looks like some other great Japanese pattern books.

bend-the-rules-sewing.jpg

And since I mentioned her blog, Amy Karol of angry chicken wrote this book that I also received for Christmas: Bend the Rules Sewing. Published in June, the book has a lot of great tips and projects for those new at sewing (and those who, like me, don’t normally read directions). I recommend it.

crafters-companion.jpg

I also received the Crafter’s Companion: tips, tales and patterns from a community of creative minds compiled and with contributions by Anna Torborg of twelve22. This book, also published this year, features seventeen crafters and a project from each. Each person explains her (hmm….all women) esthetic and motivation for creating. A great book for those interested in crafting.

last-minute.jpg

Last, but not least is Last-Minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson, owner of purl, a New York fabric store that I would love to visit. This book is full of excellent projects and beautiful photography.

mushroom1.jpg

Both of my children were born in December.  Poor planning.  After going through the year of pictures for our 2007 photo album, I realized with sadness and a sense of pride that our older daughter grew up this year.  She just turned five and is asking questions like “Does Santa have a job?” and too frequently dismisses things as “just pretend”.  She is coming up with her own (and surprisingly funny) jokes and has started wearing blue jeans and a ponytail.  

We read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland over the last few months and decided to have a birthday party with a Wonderland theme. I’ve been looking at the Alice birthday party pictures posted over at Design Mom and thinking what a lovely theme it would be. I’m posting pictures and download-able invitations, party hats and garland.

birthday-girls.jpgtissue-roses.jpg

Of course the girls wanted to dress up as the characters from the book, so I made Alice and Queen of Hearts dresses. I made these giant tissue roses to hang from a chandelier using this method. But I stacked two or more groups of folded tissue paper in an “X” shape before wrapping with the chenille stems, which created fullness for such a large flower. Also, I find that it helps reduce tearing if you fluff the tissue before you wrap it with the stem.

mobile.jpgmushrooms.jpg

I made this mobile with fabric created by iron-on transfer paper. I just cut out the designs and sewed together with an Alice in Wonderland patterned fabric. I then sewed on ribbon and tied each one to an arm of the chandelier. The mushrooms were made with felt, burlap, stuffing and thread spools. I embroidered the dots by machine, made a basting stitch to gather them, stuffed the inside, and hot glued the tops to the base. This was a very last minute project, but one of my favorites.

card-garland.jpg

garland1.jpg

I made two garlands; one with playing cards (jumbo-sized cards would have been better) and one with print-outs of the characters. Here are the images for the cut-out garland: wonderland-cut-out-garland.pdf.

table-runner.jpg roses.jpg

The children sat at a small table and drank tea. I made this runner with fabric that I bought from sonatine over at Etsy. I don’t see it there anymore, but Reprodepot has some great Alice in Wonderland fabric here. For the ribbon flower, I used the pattern at Martha Stewart that you can find here. I served scones and tea sandwiches with cream cheese and orange marmalade cut in the shape of hearts. We used red roses for the centerpiece and made cakes from this rose-shaped pan (in all the frenzy, I neglected to get a photo of the cakes). I decorated the cakes with icing flowers at the base and icing in the rose petals, but it would be lovely with powdered sugar and a rose in the center. Kids do like icing.

We played “Pin the Tail on the Cheshire Cat” with a nice poster board drawing created by my husband (no photo). We sent the kids home with this “Drink Me” hot chocolate mix, shown below. I wanted to do something with “Eat Me”, but the fourteen-year-old in me just couldn’t do it.

favors.jpg

party-hats.jpg

I did not get around to making party hats for the party, but I made some samples and am posting the templates below. You can put them together with glue dots or staples (be sure sharp part is on the outside). You can find thin elastic at the fabric store and staple or securely tape it to the inside.

Here are the party hat templates:

alice-party-hat1.pdf

queen-of-hearts-party-hat1.pdf

white-rabbit-party-hat1.pdf

blank-invitation.jpg

Our invitations were a bit different, but I am posting the basic design as a fill-in invitation (.pdf file below). We printed ours on scallop edged paper, size 4.5″x6.25″(A6 envelopes).

blank-invitation.pdf

wonderland-sticker-page.pdf

And I have also posted a page of characters that you could print on sticker paper, which we used in the pinata. We tried a homemade pinata and it seems that my engineering skills need some work. All of the strings pulled at once! The kids didn’t really mind; they just wanted the candy. So if you want to dress up a store bought pinata (or cover up the princess design), you could glue some tissue flowers on it. Another case of me trying to make something that costs $8.99 to buy.

muffins.jpg

My mother made these delicious muffins and brought them over for Christmas. You can find the recipe on the Food Network. She made the pineapple/coconut muffins and the cranberry muffins. They were both delicious and very cake-like. Yum. You can try this recipe when you feel like cooking or eating sweets again!

I finally finished this table runner just before Christmas Eve. I am still just piecing together fabric and am satisfied with the pieced work without the additional step of quilting. I designed this runner to resemble a tree with triangles of descending size that meet in the center.

runner11.jpgrunner41.jpg

Don’t forget to say thank you for those wonderful gifts you receive this year. Here are some lovely cards to artfully send your gratitude:

thanks.jpg

I love the simple design of these letterpress cards from Orange Beautiful. Available on Etsy here ($3 each or a set of 6 for $16).

merci-bird.jpg

I know, more birds. But aren’t these from inkylivie nice? $8 for a set of 4 cards.

so-sweet.jpg

And some fruity letterpress from a. favorite design available here ($15 for 6 cards).

Peppermint Bark

I have been craving this!  Here‘s a good recipe from Martha Stewart.  Planning a birthday party for both girls tomorrow, but hope to make some after that.  Stay tuned for photos from the Alice in Wonderland Celebration.

snowflake.jpg

I made this snowflake today and was really pleased with the results considering all I needed was six pieces of paper.  The beauty of this project is that it looks complicated, but was so easy!  You can find the instructions on wikiHow here.   This could be used as a treetopper, a wreath, or would look lovely hanging in front of a mirror.  Smaller versions could be used to make a great mobile or as tree ornaments. 

I used red and green construction paper that we had on hand, but it would be really pretty with double-sided origami paper.   I cut the standard-sized paper into squares (8″x8″), which turns out to be a very large snowflake (about 16″).  Double-sided tape would be helpful for this project.  I measured the cut lines in 1″ increments and marked with a ruler.

This time of year we’re having lots of family time indoors and always looking for new projects.  Some less-complicated snowflake instructions can be found here.  My almost five-year-old loves folding, designing and cutting these snowflakes and there are so many possibilities.  These would make a lovely garland when strung together and made from origami or foil paper.  We end up with them all over the house.

Try this site and let the kids “cut” a snowflake on the computer here.

So we’re a little behind here and just got our tree yesterday. I was putting the lights on and thinking about how I learned to light trees when I was working at a flower shop after college. I have not-so-fond memories of lighting artificial trees in casinos at 4am. Yet I still use this method and have gotten many compliments over the years, so thought I would share.  This is assuming that you are using small white lights — we add the large colored bulbs for the kids as well, but you don’t need many of those. The white lights give your tree a nice glow and add dimension if you use a lot of them.

This year, I used about 10 strands of 100 bulb lights for a narrow 7′ tall tree, so that’s almost 150 bulbs per foot of tree height. I wouldn’t even fool with the strands of 50. This is a ton of lights and it takes some time to do, but here’s how if you’re interested:

Step 1: Having an extension cord designed for Christmas trees like this one (in green!) can be handy. Seems like you can put 3-4 strands of 100 in each socket, although you should read the package directions to be sure.

Step 2: Start from the bottom and wrap each branch from the inside of the tree to the outside.

lights1.jpg

Step 3: When you get to the tip, make sure that you have a light positioned for the end of the branch and twist the cord around and weave back down the branch.

lights2.jpg

That’s pretty much it. Of course you’ll want to make sure that your plug ends are all tucked neatly into the interior of the tree. But you basically just wrap each individual branch and use a ton of lights. It really does make a difference and creates a glowing tree full of holiday cheer!