Tag Archives: tutorial

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.


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!


Crystallized Ginger in 4 Steps

10 Jul

This is not a cooking blog.

But! I do love to cook, and I love to take photos and I definitely consider the food world art. So, it all fits, right?

One of my very most favorite things in the world is crystallized ginger. I love the texture of the sugar crystals scratching my tongue, the chewy-gummy-but-sometimes-crisp texture and that delicious, delicious heat. It’s like eating a hot pepper, except… good.

I use it in the frosting on my carrot cakes, in truffles for gifts and sometimes in granola. But, I rarely have it on hand, because it is so expensive to buy.

Then I thought, “Why is it so expensive? It’s just sugar and ginger!” You can’t even justify any kind of labor costs with this stuff. It takes about two hours start to finish – more if you soak your ginger longer. And for most of that time, you aren’t even doing anything!

I took pictures the last time I made a batch, so you could see how it’s done:

Step 1: Slice your ginger into thin pieces – 1/8″ or less is my preference, and I always use my cheap little mandolin to do it, because cutting all that with a knife takes forever. Special Hint: Hit up your local Asian market for your ginger. You can get 2-3 pounds of ginger for the cost of one big knot at the grocery store.

Step 2: All your ginger slices are going to go in a small saucepan with a simple syrup. The simple syrup is super… simple. Use a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water, dissolve it over medium-high heat. Let it come to a slight simmer before you put the ginger in, and then keep it at the barely simmering point for the rest of the time. If you want to add a little vanilla or lime zest, this is a good time to do so. You can mostly just leave this alone, uncovered – just peep at it every now and then and give it a good stir to distribute the ginger. Most recipes say you only have to simmer for 20 minutes – and that’s fine – but the longer you simmer, the more delicious it will be. I usually go for 2 hours or so. When you are ready, take it off the heat and let everything cool down before you mess with it.

Step 3: The next step is to dry out the slices. You’ll need at least one decent sized cooking rack. Don’t even think about trying to dry these things on foil or parchment – they will stick and you will have a total ginger disaster. Strain the mixture over a bowl – do not let all that gorgeous ginger-infused syrup go to waste! Then just pluck out the pieces of ginger and lay them on your rack. I usually let mine dry for a few hours, and sometimes even overnight. You’ll know they are ready when they are just slightly sticky and bendy.

Step 4: Once everything is dry, toss the ginger with some sugar. I usually just dump some sugar in the bowl, and toss everything around until well coated. Then I leave it in the bowl for further drying, for a day or two. All that’s left to do is package your ginger in an airtight container (I store mine in the freezer). It will keep almost indefinitely. And there’s nothing like slipping your hand into the freezer for what feels like a completely decadent treat.

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.



  • 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!

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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