Tuesday Tutorials – Party Favor Bags From Envelopes

I found this really nifty project on one of my favorite blogs, How About Orange.  Using some plain white envelopes and pretty washi tape, you can create little bags perfect for party favors or tiny gifts.  Go ahead a create a few today just for fun!

Envelope Bags

You’ll need an envelope, decorative tape, and scissors. I used 4 3/8″ x 5 3/4″ envelopes, but any size will work.

Seal the envelope and trim off one of the short sides to make an opening.

Wrap tape around both sides of the envelope. No need to cover the last inch, since it will form the bottom of the bag.

Fold about one inch of each side of the bag toward the middle; then fold the bottom upwards, creasing your folds well. You can vary the width of these flaps depending on the proportion of the bag you want. Flip the bag over and reverse the folds along the same lines for easier shaping in the next step.

Put one hand inside the bag, and with the other, push the bottom fold down. This will leave the bottom corners of the bag standing up. Press each corner into a triangle.

Fold both triangles down and secure them with more tape, covering the bottom of the bag.

 

Fill with whatever goodies your heart desires, fold over the top and seal with a small piece of tape.  Enjoy your new thrifty creation!

The No Shampoo Challenge

Have you heard of the no shampoo movement?  If you Google search “no ‘poo challenge” you’ll find all sorts of articles on ways to go without shampoo.  I’ll admit, at first I thought it very strange, even downright gross and dirty.  I know if I go more than 2 days without washing my hair it’s an oily mess and I can’t stand how icky I feel.

But I was curious so I read more about it.  And you know what?  It kinda makes sense to let your natural oils keep your hair healthy.  I believe that your body is capable of handling everything it needs to on its own, provided that you take care of it and feed it healthfully, and that includes taking care of your hair with minimal maintenance. 

So I’ve decided to try the No Shampoo Challenge.  From what I understand, there are a lot of different ways to approach this regarding what kind of ‘conditioner’ rinse you use, how often you wash your hair, if you should just rinse with water, etc.  One thing I know for certain though is that you use a baking soda ‘shampoo’ and some kind of acidic ‘conditioner’ rinse to wash your hair every 3-7-days (depending on your hair and where you are in the transition process).

The transition process is actually what worries me most.  Since commercial shampoos strip the natural oils from your hair, your body creates even more oils to compensate, which is why after 2 days of not washing my hair I’m an oily mess.  I’m told your oil production will balance out after a few weeks, but who knows what I will look like in the mean time.

My plan is to complete the transition as quickly as possible, so I’ll be washing my hair only ONCE PER WEEK with a mixture of 4 Tablespoons baking soda to 5 cups of water.  How did I get to these proportions?  I read this great article on no-shampooing, and after some experimentation, these are the measurements she arrived at.  My hair may be different, thus requiring an adjustment to the proportions, but I figured it was a good place to start.

Since baking soda throws the ph balance on your head out of whack, you need to rinse with something acidic to bring it back to normal.  Many people (most people, actually) use a white distilled vinegar or apple cider vinegar rinse diluted in water.  However, I hate the smell of vinegar and don’t think my boyfriend will appreciate it either in our tiny apartment.  I’ve opted to rinse with straight lemon juice, undiluted since it’s not as acidic as vinegar.  I’ve also read you can use other fruit juices or strong tea, but I’ll try those later on.

Hopefully I’ll end up with healthier hair that requires less maintenance and fewer bottles of shampoo and conditioner to buy and then throw away (not to mention any health benefits from not putting synthetic chemicals on my head).

I currently use Suave shampoo and conditioner.

Tuesday Tutorials – Reusable Gift Wrap Ideas

For the past few weeks we’ve looked at great creative ways to reuse and recycle common materials in our gift giving for the holiday season.  We found ways to reuse old greeting cards (including making gift tags from them), crafted our own gift bows, and assembled unique gift bags–now it’s time to bring it all together and tackle gift wrap!

Most wrapping paper is simply thrown away after being shredded to bits by kids and adults alike, and worse, most of today’s wrapping paper isn’t even recyclable!  Instead of buying new flashy gift wrap this year, consider these options that are either already recycled or can be reused by the receipt for years to come.

1. Soft home goods. Wrap your gift in a sweater, scarf, towel, pillowcase, place mat, cloth napkin, or even a show curtain.  No wrapping paper involved and the recipient really gets two gifts in one!  I once received a gift wrapped in a luxurious chenille bath towel.  That towel is still one of the favorites in my closet.

2. Newspaper, paper bags, and other recyclables. You may think it’s boring at first, but consider newspaper or plain kraft paper that you can decorate with stamps or spruce up with a pretty bow (this really makes your handmade bows stand out for sure) or string or yarn.  You can even use large paper bags like when you needed to cover your school books.  This option may not be reusable, but at least you can recycle the paper!

3. Reusable grocery bags.  This gives the recipient the option to reuse it as a gift bag again in the future or keep it out for everyday use at the grocery store, farmer’s market, or just hauling stuff around!  One Christmas I got the prettiest red and silver reusable grocery bag, but it took me a minute to realize that it wasn’t just a plain gift bag, that’s how nice it was!  Search around, you can find some inexpensive but fashionable options.

4. A functional container.  Similar to #1, this wrapping idea is part of the gift itself!  Give a small gardening set inside a ceramic pot and you can even use the drainage plate as a type of lid to hide the goodies inside. Bowls or all shapes and sizes work well for cooking baskets, or try a movie night basket with a popcorn bowl (like the one below).  I’ve given Italian food-themed baskets in large silver colanders instead of useless packaging and wrapped it up in a lovely kitchen towel–no waste at all!

5. Maps.  If you can keep the map intact and just use some creative folding, this wrapping can bring a cool vibe to your gift and be saved to hang as interesting art later (not to mention its fun to see what’s on the map and can be educational!)

6. Learn Furoshiki I recently stumbled on this Japanese wrapping technique that uses a bit of fabric to create unique and interesting twists and knots.  All you need is some fabric!

7. Cloth gift bags.  This is assuming you are handy with sewing, but even if you aren’t, there are some inexpensive options for reusable cloth gift bags out there (there’s plenty to choose from here).  I’m not a sewer, but I do knit and crochet gift bags for small items that work out well.

I hope this has inspired some of you to be creative with your gift wrapping this year while being kind to the earth (and your wallet).  Happy wrapping!

 

Monday Munchies – Holiday Pretzel Kisses

Need a quick snack for a holiday party or a cute gift idea for neighbors or coworkers?  Try these sweet and festive treats that are sure to be a hit this Christmas!

This cute idea is from Little Birde Secrets.  They have tons of tutorials and creative ideas, so I definitely recommend checking them out!

Holiday Pretzel Kiss Candy Recipe


Ingredients:

  • Small, waffle-shaped pretzels
  • Hershey’s Kisses (plain old chocolate are good, but my favorite are the Candy Cane Kisses–any variety of Kisses or Hugs will work)
  • Red & green M&M’s
  • Cookie sheet and parchment paper

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or wax paper). Spread out pretzels.

2. Put a Hershey’s Kiss or Hug in the center of each pretzel.

3. Heat oven to 170°. Place baking sheet in oven for 6 minutes. Kisses will just begin to melt and look shiny, but will not lose their shape.

4. Gently top each Kiss with an M&M, with the “m” side down. It should immediately push the Kiss’ point down, but if you have to press it into the Kiss, you may need to heat them a little longer.

Place in the freezer until the Kiss is hard again. Package them in a cello bag, add a bow and a tag, and you’re good to go!

 

Tuesday Tutorials – Make Your Own Gift Bag

December is finally here, and with it comes lots of gift wrapping for the holidays.  Last week we learned how to make gift bows for our boxed gifts, and the week before we used old greeting cards as fun and creative gift tags.  Today we look at gift bags–possibly the easiest way to wrap anything (after all, you just stick the item in the bag and put some tissue paper in it).

If you don’t want to spend money on gift bags, or are just looking for a way to be more eco-friendly this holiday, trying making your bags from newspapers, magazines, leftover wallpaper, or even extra wrapping paper you have around.

This tutorial is from an awesome blog called How About Orange, and it focuses on using newspaper for this demonstration.

How to Make a Recycled Gift Bag

You can vary the dimensions, of course, but here’s what will create a bag that’s 5″ tall, 4.5″ wide, and 3″ deep.

Stack two sheets of newspaper on top of each other. This will be a two-ply bag for extra sturdiness.

Cut out a rectangle that’s 15.5″ wide and 8.25″ tall. If your paper already has a fold in it, align the existing fold with one of the fold lines in the diagram below, unless you don’t mind an extra fold appearing somewhere on your bag. I cut out this rectangle, then flipped the paper over so the blue area would be on the outside of the bag.

Fold a flap 1.25″ down from the top. Fold a flap 2″ up from the bottom. Then measure off and make vertical folds in the places shown in the diagram above. The front and back panels are 4.5″ wide, the side gussets are 3″ wide, and you’ll need a 0.5″ flap for gluing the bag together.

If you want to add more stability to the sides of your bag, cut two pieces of cardstock, thin cardboard, or chipboard to 4.25″ x 1″, then glue them on the widest two panels just under the top fold.  Glue the top flap down along the length of the bag, covering the cardstock. Since the bag is two-ply, you’ll need to glue both flap pieces down one at a time. (I believe this step to be optional, but very helpful in getting your bag to stand up nice and firmly on its own.)

Put glue on the outside of the 0.5″ tab and bring the left-most panel over to form the body of the bag, aligning the cut edge of the panel with the folded edge of the flap. Add a little more glue to make sure the outermost sheet of newsprint gets tacked down, too.

Upend the bag so the 2″ flap is now up. Fold the short sides inward as if you were wrapping a present. If it seems easier, you could also lay the bag on its side and crease those folds against the table.

Put glue on both flaps and fold them inward to form the bottom of the bag. Standing the bag upright and pressing down from the inside will help to secure them.

Cut a piece of chipboard or cardboard to 4″ x 2.5″ and glue it to the bottom of the bag to reinforce it and hide the flaps. This lends more stability to the bottom of the bag.

Punch holes in the rim of the bag, adding eyelets if you like, and string some cord through the holes to form handles. Knot each end of the cord so it won’t pull out through the holes.

This tutorial is a bit free form, but you can also create different size bags by using boxes as a mold.  For example, this tutorial uses a cereal box to create the shape of the bag, and this one uses a wooden box just big enough for a bottle of wine.  Larger shoe boxes work particularly well if you need a wider base for your bag.  You can get creative and use any size box you have around the house, or use the above method to create your own custom size.

Many of my gifts this year can fit nicely in wrapped boxes, but I may have to make a few of these bags just to try it out.

Tuesday Tutorials – DIY Gift Bows

This week we continue our series of reusing and recycling for the holidays!  Last week we looked at ways to use old greeting cards (including Christmas cards), and this week we’ll learn how to make your own gift bows!  These are incredibly easy and fun to make, and can use any paper you have lying around.  The original tutorial was found at 100 Layer Cake and uses old magazine pages.  I think it’s a great way to use up old magazines instead of throwing them out, and I had fun flipping through them to find colorful pages!

How to Make a Gift Bow

gift wrap bow

Step 1: Cut the page lengthwise into nine 3/4-inch-thick strips of heights shown: Three at 11 inches, three at 10 inches, two at 9 inches, and one at 3 1/2 inches.

Step 2: Twist each strip to form loops at both ends. Make a circle out of the smallest.

Step 3: Secure the ends with a piece of double-sided tape.

Step 4: Layer and stick, starting with the longest strips. End with the circle in the center.

 

Here’s one I made to top my Mom’s birthday gift.  She was just as impressed with the creative bow as she was with the gift!

Spend an afternoon making enough for all the gifts you’re giving this year and feel good knowing you are getting a little more life out of materials you already had.  Happy crafting!

Tuesday Tutorials – Useful Uses for Old Greeting Cards

Every year I get beautiful greeting cards for the holidays, or a birthday, or some other celebration.  Some cards are just too pretty to throw away (I still have tons of graduation cards from years ago), so I wanted to share some easy ways to reuse all those cards!
1. Bookmarks – Make one for yourself or stick it in a book for your favorite bookworm.  A one-of-a-kind bookmark will surely making reading a little more fun.  Depending on how much time/energy you have, you can leave the bookmark a solid rectangle, or use a hole punch on the top and thread a ribbon or tassel though.  Took me all of 7 minutes to make this one.

greeting card bookmark

A leftover piece of ribbon adds a little something special

2. Postcard – Simply cut off the front of the card and use a postcard stamp!  Couldn’t be easier.  This neat watercolor print I rounded the corners on for fun (I have a strange addiction to rounding the corners on stuff I make).

greeting card postcard

There’s plenty of space on the back for a personal message

3. Gift tags – This one is especially useful during the holidays when you can use up all the cards you received the year before.  Cut to size and either tape to the gift or use your handy hole punch and tie right on the package.

greeting card gift tag

A majestic eagle really makes this gift stand out

4. Framed art – Some cards are a work of art.  If you get one, frame it!  I’ve framed several cards that decorate my bookshelves at home.

greeting card art

A reproduction of Picasso just begs to be framed!

Have any other creative uses for old greeting cards?  Share them in the comments!
And on the theme of recycling, stay tuned for next week’s Tuesday Tutorial.  We’re going to start awesome recycling projects just in time for the gift-giving season 🙂 It’s going to be fun!

Monday Munchies – Super Easy Homemade Applesauce

Chilly rainy days are the perfect time to cook in the warmth of the kitchen.  One of my favorite cold-weather treats is warm homemade applesauce.  Just thinking about the sweet apples and aroma of cinnamon filling the house makes me hungry!
Homemade applesauce is much easier than I used to think it was.   It really only takes about 30 minutes (including all the apple peeling, coring, chopping), and is totally worth the time and effort.  Have a bag of apples in the fridge?  Get to cooking and enjoy some truly homemade warming goodness!

Super Easy Homemade Applesauce

Ingredients

  • 8-10 Gala apples (or other suitable cooking apples), cored, peeled, and quartered
  • 1 cinnamon stick or 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup water
  • juice of one lemon (or 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice)
  • dash of salt
  • Optional: 1/4 cup brown sugar
homemade applesauce

My Homemade Applesauce

Directions

1. Place all ingredients in a heavy saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer and cover.  Cook for 20 minutes or until the apples are soft.

2. Take off the heat and remove the cinnamon stick (if you used one). For chunky applesauce, use a potato masher.  For smooth applesauce, let cool and pulse in a food processor until it reaches the desired consistency.

3. Serve warm or chilled.

NOTES:

  • The finished applesauce freezes well.  Keep in a covered plastic container or zip-top freezer bag for several months.
  • To cook in a crock pot, place all ingredients in the crock pot, cover, and cook on low 8-10 hour or on high 3-4 hours.
  • Don’t throw away all those apple peels!  The peel is the most nutritious part of the fruit.  Try laying them out in a single layer on a baking sheet, sprinkling with cinnamon and sugar (or leave plain), and bake in a 200F oven for 30-60 minutes or until they are crisp (totally depends on how many peels you have and how thick or thin they are).
  • If you are really adventurous, take the peels AND the cores and try this apple jelly recipe.

Tuesday Tutorial – A Few Household Tips

Today’s Tuesday Tutorial is more like a “handy tips for around the house” edition.  I’ve been trying to cleaning and tidying up like crazy the past few days, for no reason other than I’ve let it go for too long, and wanted to share some really easy and fantastic tips I’ve picked up along the way.

 

Handy Household Tips

 

1. Remove a grease stain from clothing with Dawn dish soap.  Just rub a little Dawn into the grease stain before throwing the garment in the wash.  I’ve even used this on a shirt that had

been washed a dried a few times with the grease stain in it, and with a little Dawn it finally came out!

These are dryer balls. I picked up a pair at Bed Bath & Beyond and don’t use fabric softener anymore–these keep laundry fluffy and soft all on their own!

2. Speaking of laundry, keep towels light and fluffy by throwing a few dryer balls (or tennis balls) in the dryer.  They help circulate air which can help cut down drying time, and they keep all those towels from bunching up together while they dry.

3. Want streak-free windows? After cleaning, wipe them down with a wad of newspaper.   I use a microfiber cloth with water to clean and newspaper to dry–I have spotless windows and didn’t spend a dime!

 

4. Disguise scratches in wood furniture by rubbing a walnut over the damage.   I’ve had some pretty good results with this on some old end tables.

5. Have squeaky hinges but no WD-40?  Use a little nonstick cooking spray or rub a paper towel dipped in oil on the hinge!

 

Have any household tips and tricks of your own?  Feel free to share them in the comments!