Posts Tagged ‘stuff i made’

This year, I have very little income to purchase Christmas gifts, so I have been experimenting with creative and beautiful ways to give gifts to friends.  Inspired by my housemates lovely Poinsettia I created some lovely ornaments/cards/holiday decoration.


They turned out really well, so I thought I’d do a quick tutorial  on it.  I painted a couple pages of an old book red/  On one side I splattered a couple different shades of red, and a cream color to give dimension to the flowers.  For my four flowers I painted 10 pages red, one page green, for the leaves, and one page gold, for the center.


It is only important to splatter one side of the pages, but the other needs only to be painted red. Neither the gold or the green need extra coloring.

To create a poinsettia you need to cut a circle out of thin cardboard or card.  I used a ribbon spool as a template, It was about 4″ diameter.  If you use cardboard, glue a piece of quality paper over one side of the card.  You will write on this later. (Optional: Cut a small hole about 1/3″ from the edge of the circle and place a grommet. Insert a ribbon or method of hanging through the grommet.)


Cut one painted page into 6 equal strips. Cut the other page into 6 leaves.  You can do this with a punch or a cutting system, but I did not use either.  I wanted each leaf to be slightly different.  I think it adds character to the flower.  Fold all the leaves in half lengthwise. For the center gold bits I used a Stampin’ up punch. Feel free to use whatever you would like.  I fold the edges inwards so that they have depth.


Now comes the tricky part.  You are going to want to fold the strips. to create a peak.With the plain side facing you, Fold the left side over the right. Glue it in place, with a small dab of glue. Then glue your peak to the card circle, like you see in the pictures. Finally, fold the longer side of the peak back over on itself, and glue it down.


Continue folding the strips, and attaching them in a clockwise manner, until all six peaks are on the poinsettia.


Now it is time to add the folded petals.  Glue them around so that they come out in between the peaks.


Now you want to glue the the center pieces in. Push them together, so they create dimension.


Once the front is done you can add the leaves on the back.


Add the leaves in bunches of two, and then add a personal note.


Voila, your own poinsettia ornament, made from the pages of a discarded book.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey hang nicely, and look lovely.


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One of my favorite things to talk about, the amazing Reading for Life is going through some big changes.  The creator, director and all around uber-boss, Alesha Seroczynski, is moving on.  In  fact she is taking the next logical step, combining past experience and her work at RFL, she is becoming the Dean of a university initiative to provide inmates at a correctional institution with a college degree.  We’re so excited for her.

We decided that it was important to give her the perfect gift to honor her for all her work, and encourage her for the future.  For a while we came up blank, and then I had a brainwave.  Reading for Life was spawned as a pilot research project using Harry Potter books.  In fact, Alesha dreamed up the idea while thinking about Harry Potter.  One of her favorite books in the series was The Goblet of Fire.  Reading for Life uses good books, mentors, and virtue theory to help at risk kids (namely first time juvenile offenders and incarcerated youth) make better life decisions.  One of the virtues we teach is Hope: An invested belief in a future possibility.  We reckoned that Alesha embodies hope to everyone she comes across.  She believed that with just a little help youth who were falling through the cracks could have a new chance at life.  Currently more than 95% of our participants have had no further contact with the law.  That is amazing.  She gave them a chance at a better life. Her hope has transformed them.  Now she is moving on to men incarcerated in prison.  Yet again she has the opportunity to give people the gift of hope.

So, as a thank you for her 10 years of pouring hope into the lives of others we presented her with this:


Harry's Hope

Harry’s Hope

I am quite proud of this. Not only is it the perfect gift for Alesha, but it gave me the opportunity to learn a new skill.  Seriously fun, book folding.  This is in the middle of a  copy of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.  It is a book that was rescued from a library, and was past it’s prime, but now look at it.  It can sit on her desk, remind her of what she was and what she is to so many people. A fitting gift.  The good news is, she loves it.  I might just need to make one for myself.

It’s not that hard, just a bit time consuming. You have to create a pattern (or purchase one as I did.  I don’t have access to photo shop to make my own….but that would be cool) then measure out the fold lines on your book, and then begin the folding.  It took about 7 hours in total, but the final product was worth it.

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Or so my bumpersticker says.  

ImageOne of the things I have found since arriving in D.C. are the abundance of specialty stores. Especially for hobbies and crafts. I have enjoyed checking out some of the yarn stores in the city.  My favorite is in Alexandria (technically not D.C. but accessible by metro).  The Fibre Space is a airy, funky space full of fibers and color. I love it there. I got to introduce it to a school friend whom I taught to knit. During spring break we went up and found some deliciously funky pink wool, fair trade from Uruguay. I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

I have been doing a lot of knitting.  Purses mainly, and other accessories.  I’ve had a lot of fun. Knitting seems to be the thing that I can actually accomplish.  I can get that done.

So what have I made in the last I don’t know how long? Like it or not I am going to show you. They include a sweater for my good friend Kelly, a plush Tardis for my good friend Laura, purses for my mother, my cousin, my sister and my sister-in-law to be, and even one for myself.  Currently I am working on socks.  Socks.  Such fun.  We will see what comes next.


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Last year I acquired a housemate extraordinaire. She is exceptional in many ways.  One is that, like me, she has a great love of all things literary.  Her room is upstairs from main level. For Christmas this year I decided to give her something unique and different. Something created.  Something just for her.  I was inspired by this:

What a nifty idea.

What a nifty idea.

Once I had decided to do this I had to start figuring out what her favorite books were, so over the course of several weeks I worked to find out what she’s loved over the years. Then, because I was limited by the number of stairs, I had to narrow that down to 10. Final selection was Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers; Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller; The Giving Tree by Shel SilverStein; The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck; The Hobbit  by J.R.R. Tolkien; A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving; The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver; The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith; The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe  by C.S. Lewis; and Harry Potter and the Sorcerers’ Stone by J.K. Rowlings.

Most of the work I did myself, but I did get some help from a good friend, Courtney.  She was completely in charge of the Lewis step and the Rivers step.  She did the lettering for the Tolkien step and the Miller step, as well as some of the background on the Miller step.  The rest is all my fault 🙂

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Things I learned:

My knees need more padding. Kneeling on stairs for hours is hard.

I hate lettering with a paint brush.

I really should have made it so that the risers have dimension, and look slightly rounded like a book spine.

Things I love:

The Hobbit and The Giving Tree steps.  They really make me happy.

So does the Lewis step, and the Rowling step, and the Kingsolver step, and…

Even though this is Annie’s present I get to benefit from it. I get the view of the stairs from my reading chair.

I hope you guys like it as much as I do.

I hope Annie likes it as much as I do 🙂

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I saw this on a knitting blog, and had to make it. So I did. For my mum. I rationalized this because she is the only one I know who would both a) get a kick out of them and b) find a place to wear them.

I met her at the airport, and then told her I had a gift and that she needed to close her eyes while I put it on her.
She said (mid drapage) “This is Hot” (her internal inferno has been raging since menopause so she rarely wears anything of substance)
Finally I was all set, camera at the ready. I told her to open her eyes.

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The Search is Over

No.  I have not found a boyfriend.  It is a matter of soup.

Yes, soup.

A very specific kind of soup, I’m not going to lie. A soup that has been haunting me lo these twelve years.

Christmas 2001 my family and I, and a good friend, took a road trip to spend the holidays in a cottage outside of Edinburgh. Best decision ever.  We went by Gretna Green, attempted to snag me a man in a kilt (mmmm), saw Hadrian’s Wall, and stopped by a tiny village cafe for lunch. The special listed on the little chalk board was “Spinach Orange Soup”. Eye brows were raised, noses turned up, and when all were happily seated, only my dad had been brave enough to order said soup.

Then it came, and he took his first bite, and uttered such sounds of ecstasy that we were all intrigued.  After sampling his wares the vast majority amended our order, and commenced to literally finishing off the entire pot of soup. It was so good.  I kept thinking to myself “Self, you have got to get a hold of this recipe”. The patroness of the establishment said it was a traditional recipe, so I didn’t expect it to be so hard to find.


The best things in life are not free, they are the things you have to work hard to accomplish.  That is what I keep telling myself.  Many times over the last few years I have tried to find this recipe.  Spinach Orange soup.  Hard to uncover.  I found a couple of recipes but none of them were creamy, like ours was.  I tried a couple of times to recreate it, but never got there. Never.  Every time I was looking at cook books I’d flip to the soup section, hoping against hope, but no.  Then, last week, a light dawned, in the form of http://www.allbritishfood.com.  There it was. Spinach and Orange soup.

I printed off the recipe, and that very day stopped by the grocery store to pick up ingredients. I was giddy, and stayed up late Wednesday night, slaving over my cauldron. Mid way through I sneaked a spoonful.  And another. And another.  This was it.  This was the flavor, the taste, the sensations I had been looking for!  (I even ate a bowl of it at 11pm before bed.  I couldn’t resist)

I did promise my friends that I would post the recipe, and I will, but I also want to add what I am going to do differently the second time around.  This is because The soup in Scotland was orange with green bits, and this, well it was completely green.  It looks vibrant and healthy, and tastes, as my housemate put it, to die for.  I just think it would be fun to make it look just like I remember too. Also, this recipe made a BUNCH of soup.  It says serve 6-8, but I’ve gotten 5 bowls out of the third I didn’t put in the freezer, and I had slightly less ingredients than called for.  So be prepared.  You will have a lot of this yummy goodness.

Spinach and Orange Soup

4 oz English Butter I just used regular butter here, and I think next time I will only use half of this, maybe slightly more.

2.2lbs Fresh leaf spinach, cleaned, trimmed and roughly chopped My spinach came in packages of 1lb so I only used 2 lb and it was a lot.  That loss of the last .2 lbs won’t be the end of the world.  

2 medium onions, skinned and finely chopped I was a bit trepidatious with the onions so I only put in 1 1/2.  I’ll put more in next time.  I also wasn’t super fine with the chopping and that worked well.

3 Cloves Garlic Minced The recipe didn’t call for this, but I thought it should have it, and boy am I glad I did.

Rind of 2 oranges In the future I am going to do the rind of 3 oranges.  Although zesting them is annoying, I think the added orange flavor will be worth it.

Melt the butter in a large heavy-based pan, (and they do mean large. I did mine in a huge wok and barely fit it all) add the vegetables and grated rind of oranges. Cover with a piece of wet greaseproof paper (I used Parchment paper) and the lid: Sweat for about 25 min, or until soft.

Stir in off the heat:

4 level tbsp flour

1 1/2 pints Chicken Stock

1 1/2 pints milk (recipe has a boo-boo here.  It says ” 500ml (1 1/2 pints) chicken stock, 900 ml (1 1/2 pints) milk. None of these conversions are correct.I used 900 ml milk and 1 container of the Pacific organic chicken stock which ends up being close to that in ml. It tasted spectacular, so I guess you can play with these volumes as needed) 

2 level tsp salt

freshly ground pepper to taste

Return to heat, bring to a boil. simmer for 15 min.

Puree the soup then reheat for serving, adding the juice from the oranges at the last minute. Garnish with orange rind if desired. (I will, again, be using the juice from 3 oranges not two next time)

YUM! This is especially delicious with a crusty buttered bread roll.

So here is what I’m going to try to do differently next time.  I’m going to do the stock and milk in a different pan, with a couple of carrots.  I’m going to puree that, and just put the spinach through the food processor so that it is tiny pieces but not pureed.  Then I will combine the two.  I’m hoping that will give me a more creamy orange-colored soup with spinach pieces, which is what I remembered seeing. I don’t know how the carrots will affect the taste though, so we’ll have to see how that turns out.

In the mean time I’m going to enjoy my soup.  It tastes like heaven, and triumph, and not a little like orange and spinach.

I feel mighty.

I feel hungry.

Gotta go warm up some soup!

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As many of you have heard, I’ve spent the last goodness knows how long studying for my GRE’s.  I did pretty good, even if I do say so myself. One of the preparations I was doing was banning myself from starting new projects.  I love projects.  I need to create.  Like all the time.  I knit a lot (a really lot) but sometimes I have to do something different.

ImageImageEnter Ties.

I love ties.  I wear them frequently. I even have some made out of sparkly things so that I can wear ties when ties would not be normally worn.

Me and ties are tight, yo.

I have approximately 30 or so ties in my wardrobe.  I’m a bit obsessed.

It’s kind of weird. I’ve loved them ever since I had to wear them with my school uniform. Good Stuff.

Lately I’ve been playing around with other ways to use ties.  I’m in the process of making a skirt of ties.

ImageHere the skirt is, almost assembled.  The bottom six inches are not attached, so that the skirt can have a fringe like feel.  I am going to get a really thin, soft cotton to line it, and then it will come just below my knees.

I also started working on a purse made out of ties.

I did not come buy this naturally.  I saw a pattern and had to have it.  I needed a new purse anyone, my old one was broken, and I was completely underwhelmed by the ones I saw in stores.  After a fruitful trip to Goodwill on a 50% off Saturday I was good to go.

So the weekend after my GRE was accomplished I was already knee deep in a new project:

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I finished it late Saturday night. Isn’t it cool?  I can’t wait to play around more.

Ties make me happy, and my new purse does too.



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