Monday, March 31, 2014

DIY State Necklaces

When I moved across country from the Midwest to LA, I missed the Mitten State for so many reasons. The seasons, the people, the food, the accents... you just can't beat it. So when I saw this post by VJuliet on how to craft your own state necklaces out of wire, I thought this would be a perfect way to show some state pride. However, I did also create a California one, since I do live here after all...

So it's quite simple, all you'll need is:

1. 22 gauge wire
2. Round-nose pliers (I did use my fingers but the pliers really help with sharp corners)
3. Wire cutters (or really sharp scissors)
4. Tape (masking you can reuse easily)
5. An outline of your state, printed out on card stock
6. A necklace chain, to wear your state with pride
7. Microsoft Word or Photoshop
First, find an outline of your state and using Microsoft Word or Photoshop, make the image 2" x 2". Print it out on card stock (as printer paper may easily tear during the process).

Next, make a small loop with the wire, as this will be at the top of your state. Make sure it's big enough for your chain to go through, or all your work might be for nothing!

Tape the loop to the top of your state and start bending around the outline! When you're done with a small section, put tape over it so it stays in place and doesn't change shape.

By the end, your paper should look something like this.

My first try was a bit sloppy, my second try I tried just the lower peninsula but I felt guilty about leaving da Yoopers out, but I finally got it down with my third try! If you live in a state like Wyoming or Colorado, this project might not be for you, unless you want a bunch of people asking why you're wearing a square or rectangle.

Surprisingly enough, California was much easier than Michigan! But take your time and if it doesn't work the first time, try again!

$3.99 for 22 gauge wire from Michael's
Masking tape, card stock, and pliers on hand

TOTAL AMOUNT OF TIME: Depends on state
I took me 8-9 minutes for Michigan and 6 minutes for California

EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very difficult): 2 out of 5
If you use your fingers more than the pliers to bend the wire, your fingers will be sore, just as a heads-up. The more you do it, the easier and better they'll turn out.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Glow in the Dark Mt. Dew - Fact or Fiction?

Freshman year of college, my roommate introduced me to Mountain Dew. I've never been a fan of coffee or tea so this was my wake-up drink of choice. Ever since then, I've been slightly addicted. Well a few weeks ago, I came across this post multiple times on Pinterest and perhaps you've seen it on other social media sites, as it has been making the rounds since 2007:

Look familiar? There was even a video of someone making it and pouring it on the sidewalk to show how well it "glowed." Before going to Snopes, I decided I would give it a shot. I had all the ingredients so, what the heck!

As it says above, you'll need:

1. Mountain Dew (I only had cans so I had to use an empty bottle to pour everything in)
2. Baking soda
3. Hydrogen Peroxide

First, have 1/4 of Mountain Dew in a bottle and add "a tiny bit" of baking soda. First I tried 1/4 teaspoon and later I tried 1 teaspoon, to see if that would make any difference. And yes, those are Mickey Mouse measuring spoons.

Next, add three caps worth of hydrogen peroxide. I tried three caps worth but because I was almost out, I just topped off the bottle, so it might have been closer to four.

Shake well and.......

Voila! Glowing Mountain Dew!.... oh wait...

....yeah, totally doesn't work. If you want to get into the science behind it, here's what Snopes says:

"The familiar chemiluminescenct effect produced by common glow sticks comes mixing hydrogen peroxide and diphenyl oxalate with a fluorophore dye; the chemical reaction between the hydrogen peroxide and diphenyl oxalate releases energy that excites the dye, and the dye subsequently relaxes by releasing a photon, producing a glow effect. But Mountain Dew contains no diphenyl oxalate, and the addition of baking soda (i.e., sodium bicarbonate) to Mountain Dew will neither produce nor substitute for the needed diphenyl oxalate. As well, the food colorings used in Mountain Dew aren't the type of dye that can be "turned on" through this form of chemical reaction."

So the moral of the story of the story? Don't believe everything you see on the internet.

TOTAL COSTS: About $5, if you feel like waisting your money
$1.69 for a 20 oz. Mountain Dew from Vons
$1.99 for 32 fl. oz of hydrogen peroxide
$1.59 for baking soda

TOTAL AMOUNT OF TIME: Less than 5 minutes

EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very hard): 1 out of 5
It's very easy to do, perhaps because it doesn't work!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Zombie Catnip Toy

Whenever I walk into a Petsmart or Petco, the cat toys are ridiculously cute. Pink feathered birds, blue mice with little red noses... not exactly my style. So when I saw this post from DreamALittleBigger for zombie catnip toys, I knew I wanted to make one. Now I don't have a sewing machine so I sewed it all by hand, which does make it take a little longer but you can definitely conquer this project.

So to get started, you'll need:

1. Green, pink, white, and black felt
2. Corresponding thread and a needle (if sewing by hand)
3. Catnip
4. Scissors
5. (optional) A marker

First, create your zombie body template. I drew mine by hand and have uploaded the pdf here, to save you some time Otherwise, create your own, cut it out, and trace around it on the green felt. Cut out two bodies (one for the front and one for the back).

Put the two bodies on top of each other and cut off whatever body parts you like. Be creative! Cut off a leg, part of the head, maybe some of the insides (but only cut the front body, in that case). It doesn't have to be perfect because, after all, it is a zombie.

 I decided to go with the original's and show the zombie's intestines. To do that, cut out a light pink piece of felt and using your red thread, stitch in the lines of the intestines. Once you're done, sew the pink felt to the green piece of felt that has a hole in it. Don't worry if the back looks like a mess because it will be hidden.

I decided to add some exposed brain so I did the same thing to the brains as I did with the intestines. Small piece of pink felt, red thread for the lines, and sewed to the head of the green piece of felt. I also added an eyeball, a line under the eye, and an X for the missing eyeball, just to give our little guy some character. And don't forget the mouth!

Once all the pieces of your zombie are in place, do a blanket stitch around the sides (if you're not sure how to do one, I walk through the steps in my "How to Make Felt Booties" post). Be sure to leave a 1-2" opening to pour in the catnip. Use a funnel or use your fingers to push the catnip to all the corners of the zombie. I decided to have the opening be the head so I could use my finger to push the catnip through the extremities.

One word of caution, if I may.... the thicker the felt, the better. The reason being, if you overstuff your toy (like I did), your cat may or may not chew a hole through it, which will require some repair. This happened about 15 seconds after I gave him the toy...

Other than that, you're all set! Your little zombie catnip toy is ready to be devoured!

Now isn't this so much cooler than a stuffed purple mouse? My thoughts exactly. 

WARNING: Your cat may or may not act like a zombie wanting brains. Batman was first curious, then ravenous, then paranoid.

TOTAL COSTS: About $6.50
$.33/color of felt at Michael's
$4.99 for catnip at Vons
Thread and needle on hand

TOTAL AMOUNT OF TIME: About an hour and a half
20 minutes to make the template, trace, and cut out felt
20 minutes to make the intestines
10 minutes to sew them to the body
10 minutes to make the brains
5 minutes to make the eyes
15 minutes to sew the body
15 minutes to fill the body with catnip and sew together

EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very hard): 3 out of 5
If you're not good at sewing (like me) you may find this more difficult than if you actually had sewing skills or better yet, a sewing machine. However, it's a zombie, so if the stitching isn't perfect, that'll just add to the zombie's character! 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Super Mario Piranha Plant Earrings

I didn't start my Super Mario Brothers obsession until later in life... around 10 or 11, I'd say. Hey, compared to kids nowadays, that's pretty late! It started with the Game Boy and moved on to Nintendo 64 during college and Wii thereafter. When I came across these piranha plant earrings on Instructables, I knew they would be cool enough for the 10 year old in me (or the almost-30 year old me today). However, I don't recommend making these if you have a bad case of OCD because you might drive yourself insane trying to make these perfect!

All you need is:

1. White, red, and green polymer clay
2. Earrings (front and back)
3. A hobby knife to cut the clay (I used an x-acto knife)
4. 1 toothpick (and a back-up, just in case!)

First, take your red clay and make two balls, roughly the size of large marbles. Next, take your knife and cut out 1/4 of the ball.

Stick the earrings inside the red balls with the points facing up (what I'm holding in the photo) and cover it up with clay (like the one to the right). One mistake I made was putting in the earrings at a slight downward angle, so make sure they are exactly perpendicular or you might have to bend the earrings when it comes time to wearing them!

I took photos of the clay pieces next to coins so you can see just how large the piranha's are (about the size of a quarter). You're all done with the red clay... for now.

Next, take your green clay and make the pots for the plants. They should be roughly the size of a mini marshmallow or a dime.

Roll out some green clay like a green snake and then flatten it with a rolling pin. Now I recommend you take what you just rolled out, cut it in half, and use that to wrap around the top of the pot.

So you've got the base completed, now it's time to move on to the plant's stem. Roll out two pieces of green clay and snap a toothpick in half. 

Stick the tooth pick inside each piece of clay to strengthen the stem and stick it in the pot. You can see they're much bigger than a Sacagawea coin now.

Add some leaves to make it look a little more like the original.

Once your leaves have been added, it's time to put the top (red) and bottom (green) pieces together. Start by sticking the heads on by having the toothpick go through the red head. Make sure the toothpick doesn't pop out of the mouth or the side! Next, roll white clay like a long snake (on clean paper, if possible... you'd be surprised what white clay can pick up when being rolled!). Try to make it as thin as you can and outline around the "mouth" of the plant with the white clay.

Once the mouth is outlined, take some small white piece of clay and put three dots on the back of each head.

Now your clay might have different baking instructions than mine but I put mine in the oven at 275 on parchment paper for 25 minutes and gave it ample time to cool down before moving. Too little time and they might not harden, too much time and they might burn!

Once they're cool, put 'em in and enjoy having a creative and unique pair of earrings!

TOTAL COSTS: About $10 to make at least 14 pairs (which is how many earrings came in the set)
$1.49/clay from Michael's
$2.99 for earrings front from Michael's
$2.99 for earrings back from Michael's
X-acto knife and toothpick already on hand

1 hour to make the earrings (because I'm OCD and wanted the pot a different size than my first try)
25 minutes to bake
1 hour to cool (which is ample time - I'm sure it takes less time to cool)

EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very difficult): 3 out of 5
As I said, if you're super nit-picky about details and perfection, this project might drive you up the wall (white clay staying white, the thickness of the stem, the details on the leaves, etc.). However, it's a relatively easy project to knock out in an hour or two, depending on how attentive to the details you are, and would make a great gift for the gamer in your life!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Apple Swans

Having a hard time getting your kid to eat their fruits? Or maybe you really want to wow your dinner party guests? This is a perfect solution to both those situations - an apple cut to look like a swan (or duck, depending on how long you choose to make the neck). I thought it was going to be a lot harder than it was but this video helped break down the steps, which I've also provided below. The first time took me 20 minutes to knock out, the second time took me 10 minutes. So the more practice you have, the easier and faster it'll go!

Very simply, all you need is:

1. An apple
2. 1 sharp knife
3. 2 butter knives
4. A cutting board
5. (optional) Lemon juice to help from browning

First, let me say be very careful when working with sharp knives. As the apple juices start to flow, you may lose your grip and accidentally cut or stab your hand, fingers, etc. So please be very careful and go slow, even if you're frustrated!

Ok, now that you've been properly warned, take your apple and with the stem (top) facing away from you, cut at a diagonal so the bottom will be on one half and the stem will be on another half.

Pick out any two seeds you think would make for great eyes!

Put the stem piece aside and work with the bottom piece first. Place it face-down on the cutting board and using two butter knives as guides, cut to the right of the calyx (that star-shaped mark on the bottom of apples) until you hit the butter knives.

Then cutting from right to left on the side of the apple, saw your way in until you hit the first cut, at which point, you'll be able to take the entire piece out.

Do the same thing on the other side of the calyx. Cut from the top until you hit the knives, then cut from the side until you can pop the piece of apple out.

Next, take one of the pieces you popped out and using the butter knives as guides again, cut 1/4" from the top until you hit the knives.

Now instead of trying to cut from the side, just turn the apple on its left side and cut from the top so you can take another chunk out. Do the same thing for the piece you just cut out. And the same thing to that piece!

Stack all the pieces on top of the original apple and you form a wing!

Do the same thing for the other piece you originally cut out and stack so there's wings on both sides of the base apple.

Now here's what I found to be the hardest part. Cut out a rectangle in the middle, so you'll have a place to put the neck/head. This is easier than it looks, so be patient.

Remember the top half of the apple you set aside? The one with the stem on it? Bring it back to the cutting board and using the butter knives and guides again, cut all the way through the apple.

If you cut all the way through each piece, you'll end up with something like this.

Find a piece that most resembles a heart and make a diagonal cut to the center of the apple.

Then make a horizontal cut to that point, so you can remove that section.

Make a diagonal cut across the bottom and you've got your head and neck!

Put in your seeds for eyes, stick it in the rectangular slot you created on the body, and you're set!

I do recommend making adjustments as you see fit, like rounding out corners, adjusting the thickness of the neck, etc. Trust me, the more you do it, the easier it'll be!

TOTAL COSTS: Depends on the apples you choose. At Vons the prices are:
$1.49/lb for Fuji
$1.49 for Golden Delicious
$1.99/lb for Granny Smith

TOTAL AMOUNT OF TIME: 10-20 minutes
As I said, the first time took me 20 minutes, the second time took me 10.

EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very difficult): 3 out of 5
It can be hard the first time around, especially making the center hole for the neck to go in, but the more practice, the faster and easier it'll be!