Easiest Prettiest Ornament You’ll Ever Make

As we’re just two days to Christmas, I’ll keep this brief. But suffice it to say, this is a great children’s activity in the days before Christmas.

Items Needed:

1 Plastic Lid

Non-stick cooking oil or spray

Glue

Leftover beads, sequins, glitter, sparkly stuff

We even used some beach glass and small shells from the beach

Piece of ribbon or yarn

All you need is to pull a plastic dairy tub lid out of the recycle bin, like a large yogurt container lid. The 4″ wide version works well but you can use a small one, too, for a smaller ornament. Spray or lightly oil with non-stick cooking oil. Then pour glue into the lid. Start placing your items in the glue spaced nicely around and don’t be shy just throw it all in there. Be sure to also stick a loop of yarn or ribbon at the top to act as your hanging ribbon. Wait for a couple of days for the glue to dry. If you place your lids in the sun or in a warm place the drying time goes faster. When it’s dry, just flex the lid around a bit and the ornament will come off easily! You end up with a pretty ornament that glows and sparkles with Christmas lights behind it. Easy!

Easy Peasy Pretty Ornament From a Plastic Lid Mold

Easy Peasy Pretty Ornament From a Plastic Lid Mold

Handmade Candles, Sharing Economy Style

Handmade Marbled Wax Scrap Candle

Handmade Marbled Wax Scrap Candle

I love making something from nothing, or at least something that costs us nothing. Our friends are kind enough to endure our yearly candlemaking and candlegiving tradition, and we boast about the fact that these candles are all made from the wax scraps friends and neighbors share with us.

Here’s how it’s done:

  1. We take old candles, or the lumps of wax left over after you’ve burned yours out, and turn them into new candles, recycling the wicks and all.
Scrap Wax From Gifted Scrap Candles © Liesl Clark

Scrap Wax From Gifted Scrap Candles © Liesl Clark

2) Using a hammer on a wooden board is our preferred method for chunking out candle wax, but we also create our own colors of melted wax, pour it into a brownie pan, let it dry and then hammer the 1-2 inch wax into pieces.

Hammering Out Wax Chunks From Used Candles © Liesl Clark

Hammering Out Wax Chunks From Used Candles © Liesl Clark

3) We have candle moulds in many shapes and fill them with chunks we create out of the used candles. Be sure to remove the wicks from the old candles and any burned parts.

Place your scrap wax inside your candle moulds.

Place your scrap wax inside your candle moulds.

4) We use wicks from old candles that we melt down and recycle them as wicks for our new candles and string the wicks into our moulds.

5) We then melt down a contrasting color of wax from saved old candles to pour into the moulds around the colored chunks. A drop or two of an essential oil can provide some aromatherapy for those in the room when your burn your new candle.

Pour Your Melted Wax Over the Chunk-Stuffed Mould. © Liesl Clark

Pour Your Melted Wax Over the Chunk-Stuffed Mould. © Liesl Clark

6) Let your mould sit overnight to solidify and cool. In the morning, pull your candle free from the mould.

IMG_0676 copy 2

Enjoy!

© Liesl Clark

© Liesl Clark

Doll Ornaments

Most of our ornaments are handmade or free finds we’ve rescued from the landfill. That’s not to say our tree looks like it’s decorated with junk. Quite the contrary. Each little piece has a story to it: where was it ‘recovered’ or who created it.

We love to find small dolls the children are finished playing with and turn them into ornaments. This one’s so easy it takes all of 30 seconds to make…er…once your glue gun is heated up.

Doll Ornaments, Photo © Liesl Clark

Doll Ornaments Look Like Angels, Photo © Liesl Clark

All you’ll need is:

An assortment of dolls

A glue gun

Scissors

Ribbon

All you need to make your dolly-ments, Photo © Liesl Clark

All you need to make your dolly-ments, Photo © Liesl Clark

Glue the ribbon together into a loop. Then glue the loop to the back of your doll. Ours have hats which make the gluing really easy. Now hang your dolly-ments onto the tree! Other toys lend themselves to ornamentdom if you’re so inclined. We’ve made lego ornaments, matchbox carnaments — you get the picture.

25 Uses for Silica Gel

The Many Uses of Silica Gel. Photo © Liesl Clark

The Many Uses of Silica Gel. Photo © Liesl Clark

Silica gel is one of those little-understood materials. Although the little silica gel packets say “Do Not Eat, Throw Away” that doesn’t mean you have to follow this misguided advice and think the little gels are poisonous. You’ve likely unknowingly put some in your mouth already or rubbed it all over your body as it’s used in some toothpastes and also exfoliants. They’re a non-toxic inert desiccant that will dry out anything they sit near. Their uses are many and hence it’s worth thinking twice about throwing them away. I collect them and share them in my local Buy Nothing group every 6-13 months with artists and others who praise their worthiness for reuse.

The Carolina Poison Center has this to say about silica gel:

“The gels are a form of silicic acid, which is similar to sand. Silica gel is non-toxic, meaning that it is not poisonous if eaten. The package says “DO NOT EAT” because (1) it is not food, and (2) it could be a choking hazard.”

The ASPCA also deems it nontoxic, usually producing only mild stomach upset, which typically resolves with minimal to no treatment for your pet.

So, now that we’ve determined it’s not a poison to be avoided, we’d like you to not throw it away because those little packets are useful! Silica gel can be reused over and over again and has some excellent applications in the home and office.

This list will go from the most obscure reuses to the most common:

1) If you have trouble keeping your car windshield from fogging due to moisture trapped in your car, place a couple of silica packets on the dashboard and they’ll go to work for you.

2) Put a silica gel packet inside your halloween pumpkin to stave off the mold.

3) Extend the life of your razor blades by placing silica gel packs in an airtight container with silica gel.

4) Throw in your ice skating bag to help keep the blades from oxidizing.

5) Store a few with your fishing gear, especially dry flies.

6) Fight mold! Stash silica packets in the damp corners of your home.

7) (My favorite.) Use silica gel packets as tiny throw pillows for your doll house. If you cover them with scrap fabric, all the better.

8) Use a little in your kitty litter. Your commercial kitty litter manufacturer does.

 

9) Put packets of silica gel in with your silverware. It slows down the tarnishing process.

10) Place them inside your camera cases, with lenses, to keep your equipment dry.

11) Put silica gel in with your boxes of stored photos and slides to preserve them longer.

12) Your down jackets and down sleeping bags will benefit from a few packets of silica gel to keep moisture out.

13) Put a few packets in with your garden seeds to keep them dry.

14) Stash a packet or 2 with your jewelry to prevent tarnishing

15) All keepsakes in the attic in boxes can benefit from a few silica packets nearby.

16) Keep a couple packs in the pockets of your luggage to keep your clothes and travel items dry.

17) Silica gel and dried flowers are excellent friends.

18) Store them with your electronics.

19) If you have video tapes, DVDs or old audio cassettes, silica gel would be welcome nearby.

20) If you think your silica gel has been exposed to a lot of moisture, you can put them in a 150 – 200 degree oven for a few minutes to dry them out and restore them to functionality again.

21) If you still have silica gel packets hanging about, pass them on to a receptive neighbor through your local Buy Nothing group. Share them, so no one ever has to actually buy them.

22) Use them with your kids to teach about volume. Here’s how one science teacher writes: “I use them in science class. The students love playing with the silica balls when they swell up with water. We measure how much water they can absorbe by measuring them when they are dry then measuring again after a few hours.”

23) When your cell phone falls in the dink, place several packets in a ziplock bag with your wet phone. Leave for 12-24 hours and check for signs of any remaining condensation on lenses, etc. You may just save your cell phone!

24) Another reader tells us that if you put your hearing aid in a ziploc bag overnight with silica gel it can help to keep the moisture out of the hearing aid.

25) Melita tells us they’re a huge help with dirty diapers: “I tape them to the top of the rubbish bin I put nappies in. It absorbs the smells. Every week I change them over. Works a treat!

Don’t stop at 25!

26) Put them in an airtight container with your leftover nori. It’ll keep your nori crisp, not gummy.

27) If you have trouble with dampness in our under-sink cabinet, causing all sorts of damage or the dishwasher powder box to get damp and clump up. Silica gel to the rescue! Throw some packets in with your dishwasher powder.

If you have more reuses for these little packets, please share them here.

20 Reuses For Orange Peels

Citrus Peels Have Many Reuses. Photo © Molly McCoy

We’ve been going through a lot of satsumas and clementines lately. This time of year, we save the skins for reuse. Turns out orange peel skin, and citrus peel in general, whether it’s dried orange peel or fresh, is a versatile material used widely from the kitchen, to the garden, and in the fireplace. If you don’t compost, here are our top 20 orange peel uses to entice you to keep them out of your garbage.

1) Make a natural cleaning product. It will work wonders in your house and office and is really easy to make. Saves a bundle, too.

DIY All-Purpose Household Cleaner

2) Dry your orange peels and use as fire starter. They’re naturally flammable and burn longer than your ordinary stick.

3) Orange peels in water make a great insect repellant for the home. Keep ’em out!

4) Create an orange peel candle.

5) Orange peel essential oil is a really strong ingredient to add to any natural house cleaning product.

6) Put all your orange peels in the compost for natural fertilizer for your garden.

7) Use your peels for orange zest in recipes.

8) Place some dried peels in your old brown sugar to make sure it doesn’t solidify due to moisture.

9) Make spiced candied orange peel and give it as a gift.

10) Orange peel roses look beautiful as a centerpiece.

11) Try your luck with an orange peel sugar scrub to kiss winter skin goodbye.

12) Start your garden early by growing seedlings in a citrus peel starter pot.

13) Squeeze orange peels onto your dryer lint to enhance their ability as fire starter fodder.

14) Dried orange peels can extend the life of your potpourri.

15) Orange peel deodorizer: Put a few orange peels in the bottom of your trash cans. They are a great deodorizer.

16) Natural mosquito repellent: Try rubbing orange peels over your skin to deter those bugs.

17) Make an orange peel bird feeder for the birds.

18) Simmer with your favorite whole spices like allspice, cinnamon, and cloves to create a lovely aroma in your home.

19) Make some cool looking orange peel teeth for Halloween.

20) Occasionally put an orange peel down into the garbage disposal to clean out your disposal and make it smell fresh.

Don’t stop at 20!

21) Craft some adorable orange peel boats with the kids.

What do you do with your orange peels?