Category Archives: Directions for making cool stuff

Big, Warm, German Pretzels Step-by-Step

Yummy pretzels, big crusty and warm!

There are a few secret recipes in my family that I would be drawn and quartered if I shared. This is not one of those,  but it is by far the most popular thing I have ever made, far outpacing both the secret gingersnaps and the secret peanut brittle, which makes me very happy.

Every Thanksgiving we share the day with friends and have an old school pot luck T-day. I brought warm pretzels and halfway through dinner someone stood up asked who brought them and would I share  the recipe?. So here it is in all its tasty glory. I have included photos and a step-by-description for those who would like to give them a try but have not yet ventured into the land of making bread with yeast in it. I also put the full recipe at the very bottom for those who are experienced and want to skip over the handholding part.

These are great fun to roll out with kids and the recipe doubles and triples easily, just write down the new measurements before you start, experience speaking there.  Try them with hot sweet spicy mustard or just slathered in butter. They are best warm but that’s fine because the whole batch will disappear before you know what happened.

Ingredients and recipe ready to roll.

This recipe makes about 12 large pretzels. Begin by making your “sponge”, that’s what the pros call the wet mixture with yeast and yeast food in it. In this case,  open 2 packages of yeast, (I always use dried yeast because its easiest) and sprinkle it in your biggest mixing bowl. Add to that 2 cups of really warm water. Warm not boiling hot, you want to start the yeast not kill it.  Add 2 tablespoons of sugar (that’s the yeast food)  and whisk this mixture well. Add 4 tablespoons of salad oil and 3 cups of unsifted flour. You can whisk this mixture but you’ll notice its starting to get pretty thick and not whiskable about now.

Getting gooey, time to shake out the whisk and oil up the hands to mix in the rest of the flour.

Take the whisk out and prepare to get your hands dirty. Anything that will get gooey–like your diamond ring, you might want to remove until this part is over. Add about 2-4 cups more flour and mix it in well with your hands. You are creating a kneadable dough by mixing with your hands, much easier than a spoon, trust me. I always wind up with the full four cups of flour myself and just work harder to work it in.

The dough isn’t very pretty when you dump it out to work the rest of the flour in to make a smooth dough. You need to knead.

Sprinkle some flour on your counter top and dump the dough out after you have made most of it stick together by working it with your hands. It is going to stick to you like crazy and glob up on your hands, until you get enough flour in to turn it into dough, at which point it sticks to itself not you.

I’m so short I have to stand on a stool to knead dough. My fantasy is a shorter counter in my kitchen but I’m pretty sure the reality is keep a stool handy. Kneading dough is a zen thing. All the books say ten minutes, but if I kneaded dough for ten minutes I’d be so tired I needed a nap. The goal is to turn this lump of warty looking stuff with bits falling off of it into a smooth elastic ball.

It should look smooth and elastic after being kneaded.

Put the lump in front of you, lean on the front of it with all your weight on the palms of your hands. Push the dough away from you with that weight on it. Turn the lump a quarter turn and go back and do it again. Keep turning and pushing, developing a kind of rocking motion. Its very zen and after a few minutes it feels pretty rhythmic and and accomplished. When you can roll the dough into a ball and it doesn’t pull apart into pieces but stretches like dough elastic, you are there, usually around five minutes, maybe more for beginners until you figure out you do have rhythm.

Trick: Get another bowl out, oil the bottom and the sides, use your hands, you are already covered with flour up to your elbows. Dump your ball of dough in the bowl upside down. Roll it over and you have just oiled the dough and the bowl and they won’t stick to each other as the dough rises.

Cover the dough with a clean dish towel and put it somewhere warm away from drafts for an hour or two. I have been known to heat the oven to 200 degrees and then turn it off with the door open putting my dough in there to rise, just don’t forget its there. Now, go find a beverage and relax for an hour or two. That’s the end of  phase one.

Grab a beverage and relax until its time to roll out the pretzels. A couple of hours downtime while the dough rises.

PHASE TWO: Pretzel Prep.

If you don’t have a Silpat get one or two,they are a baker’s best friend, a kitchen miracle!

Get out your cookie sheets. If you don’t have a Silpat, you should buy one or two. They are horrendously expensive, like 20 bucks each but they will save your life and make you happy when it comes time to clean up.. My cookie sheets are six years old and so are my Silpats. The Silpats look like crap now but still work great. The cookie sheets look like I bought them last week. NOTHING sticks! Nothing, seriously.  Sadly, if you are Silpat-less, oil the bejeebers out of your cookie sheets.

Go get your dough and admire it one more time before you punch it in the middle with your fist. It will deflate but it will rise again when you get down to rolling it out.

All raised and ready

Meanwhile back at the ranch, put the deflated dough aside and get a good-sized STAINLESS STEEL pot out. Not aluminum. Measure about 8-10 cups of water into it and add one tablespoon of baking soda for every cup of water in the pot. Heat this to boiling while you roll your pretzels. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and let it get up to temperature while you roll out the pretzels.

Soda is the secret to pretzels

Take your sad deflated dough and yank a chunk off of it. I am not sure how to describe the amount that works best in terms for publication. Experiment to find out what works best for you.  Roll it out into a very long ‘snake’. I have included a how to fold up a pretzel chart because the first time I did it I was really confused. Your ‘snake’ should be about 16 inches long the thickness of a kid’s fat Crayola crayon, not the regular skinny kind. Do the pretzel roll and put it the finished pretzel on your prepared cookie sheet.

By now the soda water should be boiling, set the heat to just maintain a boil. When you have two full sheets of pretzels (one for each rack of your oven) get a slotted utensil, spatula or spoon both work, and lower a rolled pretzel into the boiling water. Ten seconds on one side, flip it over in the water and give it another ten. Fish it out put it back on the cookie sheet and do the same thing with all of your pretzels. The soda boil is what makes a pretzel a pretzel and not just a piece of bread.

Boiled and beautiful

When they have all had their bath–which is what gives that wonderful pretzel flavor and color as I mentioned, sprinkle them with salt or poppy or sesame seeds. I love pink Hawaiian salt so that is what I used for these.

I love pink salt for its flavor, that and I can actually see what I’ve already salted.

When they are salted and ready to bake, slide them into the oven. I always pull them out after ten minutes and switch racks. Bottom goes on top and the ones on the top move to the bottom, this makes sure they all come out the same doneness on the tops and bottoms.

Ready to bake

Another 4-6 minutes and you can get the hotpads and fish out the goldern brown pretzels out to cool while fighting the clan off at the same time. Move them to a rack to cool just a little and dig in.

Pretzel perfection, crunchy, warm and fabulous!

If you have doubled or tripled your batch, after you pull out the first batch and moved them to cool, do the whole thing again. Just keep on rolling  and baking two racks at a time until you are done, stopping to enjoy a few tasty morsels on the way.

Try these with soup in the winter for dinner. Slather them with butter and serve with a big bowl of homemade soup, yum. Alternatively, bake them while everyone is out of the house and eat all twelve. Yes, they are that good. Best of all? These tasty treats are  stupid easy with no sifting and very few ingredients.


2 pkgs dried yeast, 2 cups warm water, 3 cups flour, 4 tablespoons salad oil, 2 tablespoons sugar.

Approx 2-4 cups more flour as needed, rock salt or sesame or poppy seeds. 8 cups water, 8 tablespoons soda, STAINLESS STEEL pot/pan for boiling pretzels (note: you can use more or less water, just use 1 tablespoon of soda for every cup of water).

Whisk yeast, warm water, sugar, and salad oil together in bowl. Stir in 3 cups unsifted flour and mix thoroughly. Work in 2-4 more cups flour (as needed) to make kneadable dough.

Turn dough out on floured surface and knead until smooth and pliable. Put in an oiled bowl and let rise in a warm place, about two hours.

When ready to proceed: Put water and soda in pot/pan and bring to a boil, preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Use Silpats or thoroughly grease cookie sheets.

Punch down dough and pull off pieces and roll into long (approx. 14″) rolls, twist into a pretzel shape and place on prepared pan. When two cookie sheets are filled (12 pretzels)  put each pretzel into the boiling soda water for ten seconds on each side. Lift and drain and place back on cookie sheet. Do this with all pretzels until sheets are filled. Sprinkle with salt or seeds and bake in preheated oven for a total of 12-15 minutes until golden brown. If doubling or tripling recipe, simply repeat process until all dough is used. Serve warm.


Project Snowman Conversion


Snowmen formerly known as Salt Shakers

I can never resist a saltshaker, especially those big heavy glass ones that no one uses anymore. Glass bottles make me happy too, especially little ones. But what do you do with a batch of bottles? In this case Snowman conversion.

I started with this idea last week and made a batch of heads using Celluclay, a papier mache mix that comes pre-packaged. Add water, squish until its the consistency of butter and shape. I keep bamboo skewers around and they are the perfect head handle. Macabre, I tried not think of a head on a stake… I dried the heads for a few days and then got to work.

Saltshaker, German glitter, paper mache head made of celluclay papier mache mix, great stuff!

The next step is to wash and dry your containers–save the tops, especially the cool metal ones. I decided I wanted to put something inside my containers.

I like words in the bottles

I couldn’t find quotes I liked so I wrote snowmen haiku and printed them out. I printed my haiku on silver paper in landscape format, that’s lengthwise, because I knew I would be cutting them out in a long narrow strip.

Haiku for Christmas

Meyer Imports on line carries exquisite, gorgeous, fantastic German glass glitter. Its the stuff that is made of glass, shiny and old school. I like that for sparkly outsides but I have discovered glitter inside a jar can cloud the walls with a static electricity cling. The answer? Tiny glass beads. They are available in the glitter section of your local craft store and come in a ton of colors, Martha Stewart makes my favorites in color, but Meyer Imports gets my vote for buying a large quantity.

Glass beads, just enough for a “pop” of snow and a haiku in place.

I carefully rolled my haiku around a pencil and worked them into the bottle necks, using a skewer to help them untangle and unroll. A quick pour of about a 1/4 inch of beads for effect and a few pearls for pretty and the bodies were done.

I took the heads and fitted them on each bottle because each one has its own personality and it was fun to decide where they looked best. Before they got glued down with E6000 killer glue, I used my dremel to make a hole for the nose, a toothpick in its original life. I trimmed the toothpick to fit for length and put on a quick coat of paint with a Qtip.

I made small holes for the eyes and mouth.

I used my pointy tool, which is really for starting nail holes, to ‘drill out’ a little opening to set each small black piece of coal in the face, aka tiny black beads.  I put a good dab of E6000 in each hole and set the beads and the nose piece. I glittered the face at this point to make sure the glue got covered. Voila, sticks to the excess and I don’t have to go back and glue paint the details of the face. Smart me.

Finished face before glittering with my pointy tool and glue tube.

I let the eyes and mouth set for about ten minutes before I went back with white glue and a small paintbrush to coat each head thoroughly before dipping it in my glitter box and sprinkling glitter all over.


To keep my studio from looking like I just murdered Tinker Belle, I keep the glitter I am working with in a wooden cigar box, I use a piece of sandpaper for a scoop and pour it over the piece. When I’m done it makes it easier to collect and save the unsued glitter and it keeps it from spreading everywhere like fairy dust.

drying time again.

I leave the heads on their skewers to make it easy to work with them until I set them in place on the bottles. While they dried I cut out scarves.

felted sweater bits, handy to have around.

Old wool sweaters that are felted and shrunk are wonderful things for a lot of reasons, they cut just like material and don’t fray like woolly is wont to do.

teeny little scarf, cut and measured.

These tidbits from last year lent themselves nicely to become tiny snowman scarves. I wrestled with them and tied them down first, then lifted and dabbed glue on to hold them in place.

Next task was to set the heads on with E6000, I resprinkled the heads and necks with glitter to disguise any excess glue, being careful not to tip the bottle and lose the head.

Ready for my hat!

The most fun of all is selecting which salt shaker lid works best for a hat, who knew these little doodads would make such charming helmets? I even put rhinestones on one snowman in place of a scarf, making it a snowgirl with a lot bling.



Snow couple finished and ready for Christmas.

These are a complicated project and there are a lot of specialty bits required, that being said, if you wanted to tackle something like this everything you need is easily available and not expensive. What are you going to make this Christmas?


Applesauce and Glue? Who Knew? Christmas Fun to Make at Home

This blog is the how to step by step for  fun and fabulous ornaments made out of cinnamon, glue, applesauce and spices. These  smell so good you may want them hanging around all year long.

Finished "cookie" ready to hang and smelling wonderful

My Christmas Forest tree for the annual Providence Saint Peter Foundation fundraiser is themed as a “Teddy Bear Christmas Tea Party”, and tea means COOKIES.

The recipe is easy to make, the hardest part was finding a giant container of cinnamon. My Tbear Tree posse person, Carolee, recommended that I look at our local restaurant supply store. Bingo. Giant jar of cinnamon around $15. Enough to make dozens and dozens of cookies! Cinnamon also keeps almost  forever if you keep it dry and cool, leftovers can be saved for next year’s fun.

All the Magic Ingredients

The Ingredients:

White Glue ……….. 2 Tablespoons
Ground Cloves………1 Tablespoon
Ground Nutmeg……1 Tablespoon
Applesauce…………………3/4 Cup
Ground Cinnamon………….1 Cup

By the way, I have discovered this is easy to double and very forgiving.

The dry stuff

In a mixing bowl stir together all the dry ingredients,




Add the Applesauce next










Add the glue too









Use your hands to mix all the ingredients together. If it feels too wet to roll out, add more cinnamon. Too dry? Add a little more applesauce. Knead it well and then grab a chunk of it and your plastic wrap. TIP: It’s easier to roll glue dough or cookies or piecrust or anything you have to roll out with a rolling pin if you roll it between two sheets of plastic wrap. It keeps your rolling pin clean, nothing sticks to the counter and clean up is  much easier.

Plastic wrap helps keep sticky mess to a minium.

Roll the dough just like cookies and peel off the wrap before cutting. Dust the counter with cinnamon before cutting the ‘cookies’ and if you don’t use plastic wrap, make sure you dust everything very lightly with cinnamon, it acts like flour does when you make real cookies.

Ready to cut

If your dough is rolled too thin thin  your cookies will curl. If its too thick  they dry very, very slowly. Mine worked best a little over a quarter inch thick.

Heart in Hand, perfect no?

I choose two cutters, one is an old, old heart in hand which I love, love, love and the other is a bear. I collect cookie cutters and I’m always hunting for more unusual ones. If you want to collect something that is inexpensive and fun to find anywhere, go for cookie cutters. I even found one this summer shaped like a chili pepper at the gift shop on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. This past weekend I found a vintage plastic duck and a clown for two bucks each. See? cheap. I’m not a purist, I don’t insist on copper, I only care about the fun factor.

Cookie tasters always lurk in the shadows.








Every year we use those cutters and have a big cookie party and the kids have a ball, and make a huge mess. Notice the tasters slipping into the room? Nothing goes to waste.

if they want to stick, slide a spatula underneath.

Back to these non-edible cookies though: Cut them out and have a sharp edged spatula handy to help slice them loose if they want to stick to your counter. Plastic spats, not so much. One of those old cake decorating spatulas works great.

TIP: Use a plastic straw to poke a good sized hole where you want run your ribbon or string through. I got smart and did this with batch number two.

I covered my cookie sheets with tin foil, there is glue in the dough and I didn’t know what kind of sticky factor I was facing.  I was going to use the same foil to make sure I didn’t spread ‘frosting’ all over the place either.

Drying in the oven

 If you live where the sun shines and the air is dry, you can air dry your ‘cookies’ over several days. I however, live in damp Washington State, so into the oven they went at 180 degrees for several hours.  After about 4 hours, I flipped them over so they dried evenly.

They are very nice just the way they are and they smell wonderful. I really like the nutmeg and cloves added in this recipe because it does cut down the overpowering cinnamon smell a little bit. While these bake your house is going to smell like a craft shop at Christmas so open a window if cinnamon overpowers your nasal passages.

I can never let well enough alone. I thought for awhile about using plastic or joint compound to pipe on decorations that would be permanent and not spoil but I had a better idea.  Ah ha! Fabric paint! I used yet another coupon from Michael’s and got two three dollar bottles of puffy fabric paint. It worked perfectly! After an all night drying the paint looks just like frosting.

Hands with ‘frosting’


All dry and time for ribbons

 I made life difficult for myself by not putting in big enough holes, which meant I had to take my dremel tool and drill holes in my cookies. Not bright, but it worked well. You could use string or cord to hang your cutouts but I love the way narrow ribbon looks.


I also discovered glue will put broken ‘cookies’ back together. I had to stick a finger back on and you can’t see the mend.

Finished and ready to hang

They really look cute and I made a few to keep for my family too.


The only person who didn’t like the cookies was Mooshka who was hoping for real cookies. Fun, easy to do with your family too.



Cupfakes for Christmas: funky and fun fakes

Chirstmas Forest Update: The teddy bear tree is well underway, the Christmas Forest installation is Tree minus 7 and counting down. 125 plus Teds are in the attic waiting for their debut, trays are painted and waiting to have tea sets applied. The tree topping tea pot is drying , the tea table has been found, and the most fun of all so far is CUP FAKES!

What’s at tea party without treats?  Pretty dull all around. The problem was how to make fun treats that looked real but weren’t. After dredging around on the internet I came up with a few ‘recipes’ and here is the first ‘treat’ result and the how to for your own. Won’t these be fun hung on the tree?

The first thing to consider is what are you going to use for a pan? I went to Good Will and scrounged around for some muffin pans because I try really hard not to combine food and chemistry if at all possible. I picked up cup cake papers in vibrant colors and popped them in each hole of my pans. 

I read on line about the perils of expanding foam. This is the stuff you use to fill holes and for insulation around the house. It really does expand and its horribly sticky and gooey. Rubber gloves, paper towels, acetone and all kinds of goo removers were encouraged in each ‘recipe’.

Strolling down the aisles of Lowe’s Home Improvement store I actually found some foam that was water clean up, Daptex Multipurpose foam sealer, which  promised not to expand hugely. A shot in the dark. Would it work as well?  I thought it was worth a try.

My gal pals aka, elves, were in the studio sticking tape to tea pot trays and we all had a try at filling the muffin pans. The result looked rather like angel food cake. I put them aside to dry after reading the instructions that the foam would be cured in 24 hours.

Word of advice: this foam has a lot of water in it and I discovered the next morning that the cupfakes were dampish on the bottom and firm on the top. I simply flipped each one upside down in their holes and let them dry another two days. This foam does not get crispy and hard like the tan horribly gooey stuff that is also used for expanding foam purposes. This stays somewhat pliable which has its own set of problems and rewards.

When everything was dry it was time to make them look like cake. Cake is not white, cake is golden, I wanted to seal the tops of the foam ‘cakes’ so painting them with acrylics seemed to be the two-birds-in-one solution.

I used two colors, including one that looked orangey:gold ocher, and a brown: burnt umber, I also put a blob of white on the plate to mix with.  I used a little cup of water to rinse my brush and thin down the paint. I wanted to cover them not frost them with the paint.

I used a stiff bristle brush and did not drag really hard on the cake tops because this softer foam will get soggy and it will tear if addressed with heavy-handed enthusiasm. A light touch works best. I put the painted cakes away to dry  overnight.

For frosting I used a quart container of Dap patching plaster. In hindsight I’d like to find something a little stiffer next time. This stuff took two hours to harden up enough to put in a  piping tube. I’m not sure if it was because of the addition of paint as a colorant or if it is just really squishy when you stir it.

I made a batch of pink cupcake frosting and a batch of green cupcake frosting.





It was fun getting the plaster into the piping tube. I used a big rose tip that cost me $1.49 and I also picked up a batch of disposable bags to make easier. I found a collar thingie that holds the tip for $2.49. (Michael’s in the Wilton section) This I scrubbled thoroughly after I used it because it will work for pretty cool real cupcake frosting in its sterilized and now plaster free state.


I used a big old silver spoon to ladle the plaster into the bag while trying not to get it all over me. I did a test run on a paper towel and then piped a long spiral onto each cupfake. I started on the outside and wound the piping around and then pulled it up into a peak by just pulling the piping tube up and away. It really is easy.

I piped one color of frosting on all the cakes that I wanted green and then cleaned the bowl and tip and did the same with the pink, again waiting for it to get a bit stiff so it would hold the shape I was piping.

While the cakes were good and wet I put a cherry on top of each one. My ‘cherries’ were made of Crayola air dry modeling foam. Great stuff, weighs nothing and easy to use. I couldn’t resist, I had to roll my cherries in German glitter….

I quickly put ‘sprinkles’ on each cake too. I found the little bittly glass beads work great and look like sugar sparkles. $2.99 for a small tube, again at Michael’s.

I finished all the pink ones last night and the green ones today. Note to self: small pearls don’t work worth a darn. I had to go back and glue them on one at a time.

I picked up one of the pink dry ones found it was a little pliable and almost eerily real. Next problem: how to hang them from the tree?

Solution: I took a long piece of wire, made very sure it was very straight and ran it from the top down, taking care that it exited the fragile paper wrapper in the middle of the bottom of the cupfake. I pulled it all the way through with about three inches showing and laid the cake on its side. I put a little bead on the bottom and then did a wire wrap finish. I pulled the finished wired up firmly above the cherry and wrapped it and clipped to create a hanging loop that looks polished and perfect.

I love these, they are adorable and they have made me lust after real cupcakes which I will bake tonight and really enjoy after this foray into fake food.

snow head

Do it Yourself Christmas Sparkle Project

I love sparkly things. I must have been a magpie in a former life because  I’m easily distracted by glittery stuff in this one.  For me the holiday is all about sparkle, the glint of moonlight on snow, tinsel and twinkly lights on trees and glitter. Lots and lots of glitter.

Even cuter than glitter, baby Meesha last year at Christmas.

The best glitter on the planet is German glass glitter. I used so much of it last year it looked I murdered Tinkerbell in my studio. I have since discovered that Martha Stewart makes some pretty nice glitter here in America and you can find it at Michael’s. Lots of colors including black, which I love. It comes in little round beads, irregular and round flakes, and in different sizes of all of the above.

We have established I love glitter so its fun to find things that look better with glitter than without, like these funky little mirrors.

In the beginning there were ugly little mirrormirr

Mirrors like these were very hot a few years ago, they are that acrylic plastic stuff all dolled up to look like stone. Most of them have gone to live in backrooms or on the shelves of Good Will. I kept seeing these ones piled on my work table until I had my Eureka! moment.

You can use this same technique on a picture frame or wheatever strikes your fancy. I just happened to have these laying around and I am all about repurposing stuff. The first step is to take some acyrilic paint and a coarse brush and give the mirrors a rough coat of white. For me the  goal was to keep their psuedo-aged appearance so I did not brush the paint on solidly.

Roughly paint the mirrors

I painted all the mirrors and put them aside to dry for a few hours.

I dried them thouroghly before the next step

Find an old paint brush, not a house painting brush, a painting a painting middle sized brush with fairly stiff bristles and get out a bottle of glue that will dry clear. I used Alene’s clear glue which I keep around the studio. Note to self: wash the brush if you intend to use it again.

Painting a good thick coat of glue on the dried mirrors

Lay the mirror on a glitter catching surfacing, an old tray works well. Paint a nice thick coat of glue all over the surface, remember the glue is drying so a) work fast b) get it on thickly c) don’t get it on so thick it drips. I did not glue the outside edges of the mirrors, no one will see them and it makes moving them a problem.

Cool glitter pouring shot, one handed no less

I actually use a giant pie pan and these mirrors are round so it worked great and I could recapture all the glue that didn’t stick for re-use.  Pour glitter all over the mirror on your gluey surface.

Carefully pick up the mirror and shake off the excess glitter onto your tray.

Some of the surfaces will still have excess glitter stuck on them, like the mirrored parts. After the glitter dries completely on its glue base, get your paint brush, the one you washed, and use it to dust off the parts you don’t want glittery, like the mirror bits. I took Qtips and sprayed them with windex to carefully clean the  really intricate mirrored parts afterwards.

After shaking, before dusting the excess off and cleaning the tiny mirror bits.

The most labor intensive part was the clean up and it only took about 15 minutes for four mirrors. The entire project including drying time took less than a day, and most that was just watching paint dry. Yes, Virginia, some people watch paint dry…

The payoff, Shiny Pretty Gorgeous Christmas accent!

The glitter is subtle and hard to catch with a camera because it depends on reflected light which changes as you move. These really turned out nicely and they are a great addition to my lighted sparkle wall.

hung up and shining!


Bling, Zing and Inexpensive Holiday Sparkle

I have gotten so many oohs and ahs over my ice white mantel piece I thought I’d share this easy idea that turned into something spectacular. I’m loving the way tiny white lights make magic with crystal and clear glass. There is something so festive and romantic about the combination–and since clear glass is not at the top of everyone’s must have list you can find some adorable pieces for not very much money. Add junk store finds to those cut glass and crystal pieces that mostly catch dust but are too nice to toss and presto! You have a stunning and icy sparkling holiday display.

I put together old soda fountain glasses, paper weights, clear vases, candle holders, candy dishes, odd little clear glass pieces I picked up for their sparkle, and of course my peculiar favorite, glass door knobs, together they make a glittery wonderland on the mantelpiece.

Take a long sparkly garland with crystals instead of flowers and wrap a long string of lights around it to hang around a mirror. I found my garland at Michael’s and saved a bunch with a coupon. Even old cut crystal salt shakers can add zing to your bling.

So pretty, mix it up with crytals, crystal and clear glass to sparkle up your room. I put as many pieces as I could fit  on my shelf, all shapes and sizes too. I used solid glass like this Laurel Burch kitty, pressed glass like the little horse in front and cut glass like the candy dish top shown here. Good Will and Value Village often have cheap glass pieces for sale. The candy dish top is precious and for my purposes I didn’t care that the bottom was long gone, I just wanted it for its fun sparkle. I love this mantelpiece so much I may just keep it up year round!

NEXT ENTRY: Repurpose mirrors for a glittery accent



One Two Tray: Plant it Here!

With fall coming on I am sadly looking out the windows at my gardens which are in their last burst of bloom. The cool weather has revived all the impatiens that were limping and limp. The hortensias (that’s what the French call hydrangeas) are still in full blue and purple bloom and its time to drag everyone who will freeze off to the green house.

Table destroying plant pots moving indoors for the winter

Orchids and cacti will be going away for the winter in a day or two and all the garden rabbits will be stowed on their shelves for the cold season. I always take in the garden ornaments so they won’t freeze and blow themselves up. There are a few plants, mostly the major members of the begonia family, who will be moving indoors to bask on the kitchen table for a few months. This means I have to think about keeping them from leaking on everything when they get watered and about how to keep them under control and in one place.

Raw materials. An old pizza tray, spray painted flat black, flat glass marbles, E6000 glue and tinfoil.

This is the tray I made for Robin's house. I used a great big tray made of wood I found at Goodwill. Holds a ton of plants and saves the furniture from wet pot rings.

Solution: A cool plant tray that is made with recycled and renewable materials. Green plants and a green plan.  Find a tray that will work for you. I found an old 99 cent pizza pan at a thrift store. A ratty old tray, a cookie sheet, anything that has a really solid waterproof bottom.  Buy a can of flat black spray paint and give it a good coating of paint on both sides.

fit the flat backed glass marbles into your pan. Make sure you have enough.

If you prefer a shabby chic vibe, paint  your tray flat off white and choose pinks and matte colored glass pieces. After your tray, whatever color you chose, is painted and is good and dry bring it in and assmemble your materials. A few bags of those flat marbles in your favorite colors. Go solid, go water colors, go wild! A tube of E6000 glue, the best stuff on earth if you ask me, (get it at Michael’s and craft stores) some tinfoil, a popsicle stick for spreading glue and a pair of scissors to cut your foil.

Don't worry about pattern, you are just checking for fit at this point.

After you fit the marbles in, pour them back out and get your tinfoil out. Flip the tray over and use the base for a pattern. If you push the foil down where it meets the edges of the tray it will leave a mark you can use to cut out a piece of foil to fit inside the tray.

Foil laid out on the back of the tray to figure out what size to cut it.

Cut out your foil, check the fit and squeeze some E6000 around your tray, especially around the edges. It doesn’t take a ton of glue. You aim is to securely fasten down the foil because you are going to glue on top of it. The foil back gives an extra bit of waterproofing AND it reflects light up from the bottom of the tray for a little gleam of silver.

Time to stick down your glass marbles.

Now, glue and goo the inside of the tray and stick your marbles flat side down all over the tray into the glue as close together as possible. When you are done, tip the tray up gently and find any that are loose. Dab glue on the bottom of the loose marbles and stick ’em down.

All finished with a silver back for a little extra relection. The foil should only be on the bottom of the tray, not the sides.

Pat and flatten the whole surface to make sure they are all set. Then take the next 20 minutes and peel the glue off your fingertips. Arggh.

All done! Put the plants on the tray and enjoy your new pretty and waterproof plant protection device.


another view of a happy begonia

Easy, under ten bucks and possibly a good project for an older child –with good glue skills to tackle. Happy constructing!


I saved all the jointed pieces, they will make a fun project later.

Rabbit Takes an Inch: Inspiration and a Fun Vintage Necklace

A carpenter's dream? Inch by inch? Fun by any caption!

I made a version of this fun necklace today, and it was so much fun I had to share it. I used vintage buttons in addition to my cut up carpenter’s ruler, but you could use tiny red hearts or little bells or enjoy it without any additional bling.

I am one of the ‘squirrel girls’. What that means in English is that my friend Lynn and I both love discovering wonderful old Stuff to repurpose. Garage sale and estate sale season are winding down and  we are busy laying away those ‘nuts’, aka, bits and pieces that will get us through the winter with lots of creativity. One of my favorite things  right now is carpenters rulers and really old measuring tapes.

Perfect! A wooden folding carpenter's ruler is a good thing to find at a garage sale.

They are getting tougher to find but I had two I could sacrifice to today’s project. The third one is French and will be admired in one piece on my treasure shelf in the studio.

I saved all the jointed pieces, they will make a fun project later.

For this Carpenter’s Dream necklace, I used my heavy duty lineman’s pliers and whacked off one to two inch pieces cleanly. You can use a hacksaw or jigsaw or anything you can make a nice clean cut with on your wood. I saved the metal folding parts for another project and made a pile of yellow and white inches. How fun is that?

Glasses and mask are the gear of the day.

Before I took my stack of inches and sanded them I geared up. These are old and probably painted with lead paint. I’m not really fond on sawdust in my sinuses or eyes either so glasses and a mask are the uniform of the day.

I didn't make each piece a uniform size and I worked to preserve the numbers when I made my cuts.

I looked around and saw how small these pieces were, like an inch? hee hee hee. My small sander was overkill and the big grinder? Not in this lifetime. I hit on taking my dremel tool and putting a sanding wheel on it. I turned the speed to as low as it would go and secured it tightly in my little bench vise. I could have held it in my hand but this made more sense because I could turn each piece holding it  with both hands to sand and round the ends, making sure to get rid of any pointy bits. A  sanding block or a small sander would also work if you don’t have a dremel tool.

Sand all the pointy bits off and round the ends.

I took the sanding wheel off the dremel and fitted it with a small drill bit. It just took a few minutes to drill a nice neat hole through each piece, I made sure all the numbers faced the same way when I made the holes.  Notice the holes all over my work table? This is why I don’t have fancy work tables in my studio. I tend to make holes, drop paint and stains all over my work area and I don’t have to worry.

Drilling a hole. HOLD onto to the wood with one hand and drill with the other unless you want your numbers flying around and around the end of your drill!

I found oval jump rings recently, really big ones and the opening is on the side. These were perfect for popping on to the wooden pieces before I hung them on thelength of chain I chose from my ‘stash’ of chain. I went for something that looked old and vintagey since I was working with old pieces I wanted the feeling of all the  pieces to fit the concept.

I chose buttons with holes all the way through, I used vintage colors that worked well with the rulers, reds, greens and tans.

I chose a great big clasp and decided to make fasten it in the front on the right side for more visual impact. I thought about leaving the carpenter’s rule pieces as is, they were quite fun and made a wonderful noise when they clicked together on the necklace. Somehow, it just didn’t seem quite finished so I pulled out my button jar and picked out several that looked to have the same age and wear as the rulers.

I chose shiny brass wire, 18 gauge, but I dipped it in Novacan patina solution to blacken it. After I pulled it out I ran steel wool down it and presto, vintage wire.

Threading a button with wire.

I double wrapped the buttons in wire. I looped wire through the buttons-all two or four hole through and through buttons- and twisted it three times, added two or three slices of puka shell from an old scrounged necklace, and then twisted the back side too to make a button unit. I fastened on the buttons with jump rings, using red ones, green ones and tan ones.

Of course the office staff was snoozing through the whole process…

My office staff, moral support. Literally, underfoot.

The finished piece, detail

I hope you get inspired and look around to see what you have on hand that can make something as fun as this necklace. It’s not junk! It’s jewelry!

Another shot showing how pieces are mounted.

This necklace is currently available at Matter Gallery in Olympia, Washington.


soap scraps awaiting re-purposing

Soapy Rabbit: Recipe and Tips

I love, love, love gorgeous wonderful smelling soap

This blog entry is about my handy-dandy repurposing of one of my favorite little things. Really luxe soap. I come from a long line of thrifty Scots and I know I’m thrifty as opposed to cheap, because I’ll  spend around 8 bucks on a bar of amazing French soap. That’s not much of an outlay to feel like you are taking really good care of yourself in my book, and good soap really lasts too, there’s that thrifty chick again.

In pursuit of saving money in the current economy and still giving into my soap love, I have discovered Marshalls and TJ Maxx carry fabulous soaps at clearance prices. Nobody paid me to say that, it was my own happy find. And when the fantastic smelling soap becomes a scrap I take it out of the shower and lay it on the shelf to dry out completely, freeing me to open a new bar of sensational smelling soap.

soap scraps awaiting re-purposing

I have a jar where I save soap bits. I travel a lot so I always have a ton of guest soaps gleaned from hotel rooms. They are the perfect size for my funky antique porcelain English soap dish, but I hate the way they look when they have been used for a while so those get replaced too. Trust me, I can put out new guest soap for years and still have leftovers from my stash. Rinsed off, dried thoroughly, and into the jar they go.

My own funny soap dispenser and my old ironstone guest soap dish

I am a liquid hand soap devotee so around here guest soaps can linger in pristine shape a long time while we pump gallons of soap to wash our own grubby paws. Dogs, gardens, motorcyles and artists. Need I say more about the amount of soap we go through?

Cleaning Tip Alert: I drive my husband crazy with my insistence on his not using dish cloths to mop the floor and then putting them back in the dish water, same with sponges. EWWW. He says he washes all the germs out which is complete B.S., in capital letters. My secret weapon is the microwave. I trust him with my life but not my sponges.

In the study from 2007, published in the Journal of Environmental Health, discovered they could effectively clean sponges and dishcloths using the power of the microwave.

The test sponges and scrubbing pads were soaked in wastewater containing a dangerous mix of fecal bacteria, E. coli, and bacterial spores. Bacterial spores are more difficult to kill. Eww again.Test results showed that two minutes in the microwave at full power killed or inactivated more than 99% of all the living germs and the bacterial spores in the sponges, scrubbers and cloths including E. coli.

Two minutes of overkill– a total of four — none of the bacterial spores survived. Two minutes that gets 99% works for me. Before you zap your sponges, pads and dishcloths in the microwave, researchers offer the following common sense advice:

  • Microwave only sponges or plastic scrubbers that do not contain steel or other metals.
  • Make sure the sponge or scrubber is wet, not dry.
  • Two minutes should be enough to kill most disease-causing germs.
  • Be careful in removing the sponge from the microwave because it will be hot and should not be handled immediately after zapping.

The article recommends that you microwave your cleaning thingies according to how often you cook, with every other day being a good rule of thumb.If you stick them in wet they’ll even steam up the microwave interior– fish them out with tongs, hot remember? Cool them so you can wring them out and not burn your fingers, then wipe out the steamy microwave too, killing two dirty birds with one sponge.

Back to Soap: I save all my scraps in a jar until I need handsoap. Take out about 3/4 of a cup of scraps and chop them as finely as possible. Scrub off the chopping surface to avoid soap flavoring whatever you work on next.

Soap scrap chooping time

Chuck the scraps in a big microwaveable bowl. I like my monster Pyrex measuring cup. I cover them with water, about 1.5 inches  or so above scrap level. I nuke the soap/water mixture for three minutes. My goal is two-fold, I want to help the soap to break down and combine with the hot water starting the liquefying process AND I want to use the two or more  minute 99% of germs dead rule to make sure my soap mixture is nice and germ free.

Add water about 2 inches above the soap level, inexact is okay, just make sure your soap scraps are under water and well covered.

After it is cooled off pour your batch into the food processor.Whirl until its creamy and looks good enough to eat. Scrape it into a bowl to blend scent and add water, the last steps. At this point its so pretty and fluffy, I’m tempted to leave it on the counter and tell the kids, “don’t touch it.” Thinking its whipped cream they will wait until my back is turned and learn a valuable lesson after popping a laden finger into their mouths, while providing me with several moments of hilarity.

Before whirling in the processor, the soapy mix is still gluey and chunky.

I save squeeze bottles. Artists use them for all kinds of interesting art stuff, but they make excellent soap containers too. Take your cooled soap and add really hot water to it, stirring it in with a whisk until its the right consistency, you want it to pour but you don’t want it runny and thin.


Before you bottle it stir in several drops of your favorite essential oil. Just enough, not too much. Remember, I’m using really expensive soap so it already smells great and does nice things for skin, but I still loving adding that pop of scent. This time I used peppermint oil. You want to put it in at this point because if you heat it you will vaporize the lovely oil and lose the smell you are pursuing.

fill the bottles, a few tiny lumps are fine, you aren't drinking it, just washing up.

In this economy thrift doesn’t hurt and when I can create something that repurposes something as lovely as imported soaps, I’m a happy green rabbit! I also feel pretty good when I go into the shop in the mall that sells expensive liquid hand soap because I made my own for basically free. I’d much rather use the money I saved on a wonderful lotion for my really clean hands.

Yummy, great smelling soap, ready to use!


Artful Rabbit Makes Memories With Summer Photo Fun

Self portrait: Sisters

Summer fun alert: If you have kids that are a little bit bored here’s a great idea. Unleash their creative flair by turning them loose with cameras to photograph whatever they fancy. Yes, I am lucky enough to be a professional camera hog with at least four cameras in my world so sharing is easy but everyone has digital cameras these days and lots of them are not expensive at all.

The best part is that digital media lets you burn through photos like crazy with no film development costs or worries about the cost of flubbed shots. 

 My granddaughters are old enough to turn loose with my two small but very nice digital magic boxes. I toss one of these in my purse or backpack when the big Canon camera is too much work to haul along. I am never without a camera–even if its my Iphone with Instagram.  Ah Instagram, that’s another entry entirely. I 😛 Instagram!

Pinstripe Petunia


I have Adobe Photoshop and use it for professional stuff but for just fun fooling around I absolutely adore Digital Image Pro from Microsoft. It does almost everything Adobe Photoshop does, okay, not everything, but it does a whole lot and its easy to use.

Best of all the learning curve  to mastery is not as long as the Great Wall of China. Photoshop is a pain in the patootie to learn and  my goal is to get the kids to love what they can do with photos, not give up in frustration.

State Capital WWI monument, check out the light!

I started out by giving them the cameras and the chargers for the batteries, always important. I explained how the zoom worked and the basic features like close up and yes, you can take pictures outside at night and they can be pretty cool.

We had a couple of bumps in the road, but we even got two cameras and two girls to the beach with great success and no sandy cameras.

Bird dreams, filtered shot of one of my poetry birdhouses with text added. Love it!

I showed them how to edit but for them the great fun at this point was in the taking of pictures. I gave them no direction and no guidelines. I wanted to see their response to the world around them. Wow, just wow.

Moosh, hilarious, how did she get that close to his face?

 Some of their shots were incredible. Many of them were perfect right out of the camera. 

We uploaded all the shots to the computer and I stashed them in two files, one for each girl. We will put all the raw shots and the edited shots on a flash drive for each of them to take home. What a perfect memory of summer!

I got in on the collaboration by editing their first batch of shots. Some got cropped, all got resized for print and saving, and a few had filters or exposure corrections on them. I love the black and white effects too. I think I had as much fun making magic as they did!

It has been so much fun to see the world literally, through their eyes. Seeing what they saw, what they liked, what they took pictures of has been so amazing for me. I highly recommend it to any one with kids, cameras and a computer.

Mom and Dad and sand dollars, love this shot!

Mock Orange in bloom, beautiful in black and white

Seattle Bug

Tyler loves shadows and they love her too


The State of George

Sunny Cam

Self Portrait Tyler

Tyler shoots sis, great shot of mom too!

The Rabbit Garden Window looks like a garden. Great!

night shot of a geranium, magic happens!


Family portrait

And they even got me and Moosh in a shot!