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DIY Nail Polish-Dyed Easter Eggs

23 Mar

These are amazing. Amazing! They remind me so much of the swirly papers we used to make with paint and water when I was little, but ultra intense.

egs

All you’ll need is nail polish (I suggest hitting the Dollar Store for this), a dish of water and some nail polish remover for cleanup. You’ll also want a disposable plastic cup or bowl, toothpicks and of course, eggs.

Fill your container with water and then start adding drops of polish. Once you get a color combo that you like, use your toothpick to gently swirl the surface, creating the marbleized effect. Then you just dip! Go as far as you can on one end and let dry, then go back and repeat with the other side. Let them dry – topcoat or don’t, it’s totally up to you!

I would caution you to do this with blown out eggs or hard boiled eggs that you don’t intend to eat.

I think I’ll give it a try this weekend!

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Rustic Root Vegetable Dog Treats

8 Jun

A few months ago, in the midst of my sourdough bread flurry, I decided to try my hand at homemade dog treats. I’ve never felt great about dog biscuits, and although my dogs love rawhide, I don’t like them to have a ton of it. Also, we have lots of veggie scraps in this house, even with keeping a stock bag in the freezer. And my dogs love fruits and vegetables. Draya would shank you in the back to get a piece of banana; Bronx seems to feel the same about carrots.

I had a kitchen disaster this week, while attempting beet chips, which led to lots of raw beet scraps. And I always keep a jar of chopped carrot peels in the freezer. Then there was that lone banana, staring at me from atop the flour tin, accusing me of not eating it before those spots showed up. Whatever could be done?

Dog biscuits. (Don’t you think Rustic Root Vegetable Dog Treats sounds so much more Martha-y than Vegetable Scrap Dog Biscuits? Me, too.)

There are a billion dog treat recipes on the web (beware: many of these contain a lot of sugar and salt), but I use a super simple base that I can alter according to what veggies I’m using.

My base is just cornmeal, flour, a bit of oil or applesauce, and egg (I’ll provide measurements at the end of the post). Everything else is determined by what I have on hand, usually.


Can you believe how pretty that dough is?? This is the result of a banana, and both beets and carrots.

The hard work is done – now I just roll out the dough, cut it into rectangles (because it’s rustic, right?), and place them on a cookie sheet treated with cooking spray. This dough doesn’t spread or rise, so you can fit a ton of treats on one sheet.

Once they’ve cooled, they can go into whatever container you choose. But don’t forget: dogs deserve garnish, too.

The last step, obviously, is the taste test. You can see that Draya didn’t hesitate to chomp hers. Bronx likes to smell his treats before he accepts them. As you can see, these are dog-wag approved!

Now for the recipe!

Dog Biscuit Base

1/2 cup cornmeal
2 cups flour (can be white or whole wheat)
6 tablespoons oil (can sub applesauce, or omit completely)
2/3 cup water

Dog Biscuit Options

1/2 rolled oats
1-2 eggs (I have found that if I use 2 eggs, I can leave out the oil)
chopped parsley (fresh or dried)
chopped mint (fresh or dried)
carrots
beets
banana
apple
peanut butter

Warning: Onions and garlic are horribly poisonous for dogs, so never ever use them in your biscuits. The ASPCA has a great list of other foods to avoid.

I usually just eyeball these extras, and if the dough is too wet or dry, I adjust the amount of flour. I have also found that making a puree of the vegetables/fruits/herbs is easier to work with.

Roll the dough out to about 1/4 inch, then cut the biscuits and place them on the baking sheet. Bake at 325F for about 60 minutes. The biscuits should be dry to the touch and have little-to-no squish when you push down on the middles. Turn the oven off, and allow the biscuits to cool inside the oven. They should come out completely dry and crunchy, but if your oven is wonky (like mine) you can just stick them back in for another 15-30 minutes.

Once cooled, store them in an airtight container.

Living Mario Bros. Piranha Chomper Plant – Tutorial!

30 Dec

Mario Brothers Piranha PlantNow that Christmas is over and gifts have been given, I can finally start revealing some of the things I’ve been working on the past few months! I’m so excited!

One of the most loved gifts went to my sister, who lives for 80s nostalgia (even more than I!) – and if it’s anything Nintendo-related, she’s all the more thrilled.

Last year she got Tetris soaps and a Koopa hat.

This year: living piranha chomper plant!

Want to see how I did it?

 

 

 

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Woodland Finds

18 Dec

The other day we took the dogs down to the woods for open playtime. There is a really wonderful pond there with all kinds of cool stuff. So we decided to do a bit of foraging. We gathered mosses, pitcher plants and one lone fern who was barely surviving the cold.

We brought it all home and I pulled out some of my milk glass collection and got started:

Woodland Finds

Beautiful pitcher plants, some unidentified creeping bog plant, sphagnum moss, reindeer moss and some lovely dried flower stems who will be used a little later…

 

Woodland Finds

Everything needed to create a lovely woodland planting: pea gravel for the bottom of the bowl, moss, creepers, pitcher plants, soil, a small air plant and a crystal for good luck.

Lay about an inch of gravel in the bottom of your bowl (especially if it doesn’t have drainage), then add soil. Plant the pitchers and pack the moss in around it. You’ll want to have a spray bottle handy for watering as well.


Woodland Finds

 

“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”

Frances Hodgson Burnett

 

 

DIY Lightbox Tutorial

14 Dec

If you ever have a need to photograph a product or even just a still life composition, you need a lightbox.

Why, you ask?

Because without one, that silly little pop-up flash will do its thing – and you know it has a mind of its own, even on the nicer DSLRs. You’ll end up with uneven lighting, tons of glare and worst of all – shadows. A lightbox solves almost all those problems (because sometimes you just can’t get rid of glare). You’ll also get incredibly even lighting all around.

A store-bought light kit can run you at least $150. The one I’m going to show you today cost me about $30.

So how do you make this ingenious, complicated, very professional contraption?

First, decide how big you want it to be. Mine is 2 feet square and about 3 feet deep – or, roughly the size of those half-sheets of foamcore sold in the school supply section.

Onward!

Materials

  • white foamcore, 5 pieces (4 for the sides, one smaller to seal in the back)
  • white duct or electrical tape
  • straight edge
  • x-acto knife
  • 4 small clip lamps (mine were the cheapest Lowe’s had to offer)
  • 4 full spectrum lightbulbs
  • 1 power strip

Have all your stuff together? Now you’re ready for the easiest project ever (apologies in advance for not taking scintillating pictures of myself cutting and taping the foamcore).

1. You are going to make a cube that is open on one end. Start by cutting the sides: 4 identical pieces of foamcore. Again, your size will depend on what you’ve picked, but mine were roughly 24″ x 36″.  Next cut one end piece that will seal the far end of your box.

2. Tape everything together, starting with the sides and ending with the endpiece. The white tape is important because it won’t cast any strange shadows once you light everything up.

3. Assemble your clip lamps and clip them to the sides of the box (see picture). Each lamp should point to its opposite corner – so, the top right lamp will point to the bottom left inside corner.

Diy Lightbox

4. You’re pretty much done! I did make one tiny addition to my box:

DIY Lightbox

Not the vintage salt shakers, but that cut out in the top. You can see it waving at you up there. This allows me to shoot down into the box, instead of just from the front. It’s perfect for anything flat. Just cut it barely larger than your lens, and you are good to go!

This photo also happens to illustrate something of vital importance. No matter what kind of bulbs you buy, even the “white” ones, you have to white balance your camera (assuming you are shooting digital). If you don’t, everything will be yellowy. If you do, you get this:

DIY Lightbox

 

DIY Lightbox White Balance

 

See how nice and bright the Humpty’s are after the white balancing?

Now, go forth and create lightboxes!

Crystalline Snowflakes Tutorial

7 Dec

Thoreau, in all his wisdom, once said:

“Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand.”

Borax Crystal Snowflake

But Nature isn’t responsible for these gorgeous snowflakes – not directly anyhow.

Borax Crystal Snowflake

Nope, these pretty creations are made out of just a few simple things:

  • Borax
  • Water
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Twine or wire
  • Stick or dowel

That’s it!

Now here’s how you make it all work:

  1. Cut 3 equal lengths of pipe cleaner and 6 smaller lengths. (My long pieces were about 5 inches before folding.)
  2. Twist the three long pieces together just enough to hold a star shape. Add one little piece to the end of each one to form that peace-sign shape you see.
  3. Tie your twine – I used white floral wire in mine – around the end of one spoke. This is your hanger, both in the crystal solution and on the tree (or wherever you choose to use them).
  4. Make the solution. 3 tbs. of Borax to every cup of boiling water is the ratio I used. Pour the mixture into a container big enough to hold the snowflake forms.
  5. Tie your snowflakes to the dowel and lower them into the hot solution. Let sit overnight and in the morning, you’ll have stunning crystallized snowflakes! The just take them out and hang to dry.

Twists: I made mine with white pipe cleaners and clear solution. But you could always experiment with a couple drops of blue food coloring or even blue or silver pipe cleaners. In fact, I may just do that!

If you don’t have Borax on hand, regular old table salt and even sugar will work. And if you feel like shopping, pick up some alum – it makes way cool crystals.

I’ve decided to use my little flakes as toppers for Christmas gifts, along with fancy poms (more on that to come).

Borax Crystal Snowflakes

How are you topping your gifts this year? Share a link, especially if you’ve made the snowflakes described here!

A Birthday on a Birthday (with a tutorial gift!)

22 Sep

I swear to you I did not plan this. It’s a wonderfully fantastic coincidence that today is both my mom’s birthday and the official birth of the Silver & Chalk blog!

(okay, the only thing I planned was that, after realizing what day it is, I decided to get the post up before midnight, so that I could still make use of my precious birthday coincidence)

And the inaugural tutorial? My mom’s birthday present!

Before we get there, I suppose I ought to tell you a bit about Silver & Chalk, which was originally conceived as my photography business. (You can see my Photo 365 project over at Carte de Visite) It is also the official blog of my Etsy store – which is currently empty, but soon to be filled with treasures galore. When the camera’s not in my hand, an implement of art (almost any will do) is. Paints, pens, markers, mud, stain, bleach, paper, photos, books….. and matchboxes, which I’m going to show you today!

On to today’s post….

For the longest time I marveled at altered match boxes – I had always worked on larger canvases, cigar boxes and the like. So the thought of applying the same techniques to something roughly a tenth the size was an irresistible challenge.

Here’s the one I made for my mom, based on her love of the sea, as well as our family’s history with the beach.

Want to see what’s inside? Find out after the jump!

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