DIY

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From my 101 Things in 1001 Days project: items #82 and #85

I don’t know whether you guys have noticed but it’s been way too quiet over there on my 101 Things in 1001 Days list.  As usual, dumb life stuff has gotten in the way of this project and it’s time to course correct before I run out of time to finish it.  After all, I need this thing completed by 28 September next year!

I don’t doubt that I’m going to meet my deadline, but in order to catch up I’m allowing this funny-looking octopus to tick off two items on my list: #82 – Sew something using the sewing machine; and #85 – Make a soft toy.  It’s the closest I’ve ever come to bending the rules.

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This little guy was made with my Gran’s old sewing machine, and it was our maiden voyage together.  When I began I had no idea how to thread the machine (or any machine, let’s be honest) and so things started out pretty rocky at first.  There were at least three Facetime calls with my Mum to get things moving but after a little bit of practice on scrap fabric I was off and running.

Tim gave me a beautiful book of soft toy patterns called Hop Skip Jump by Fiona Dalton for my birthday earlier this year, and I’ve been dying to make one of her cute little softies ever since.  I was lucky enough to find the stripy fabric while I was raiding the remnants bin at IKEA one day, and it was worth the effort of cutting out the tentacle pieces from different sections of fabric so that he had eight different coloured “feet”.  That’s the closest thing I have to a pro-tip; the rest was just following the instructions and calling Mum when I needed to know how to sew a dart!

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I finished him up a couple of months ago, and ever since then he’s been waiting for the little lady above to have her first birthday and begin his new life!  We spent today celebrating with her (and 50 of her closest friends) and six hours later – after party food, presents and a giant inflatable waterslide –  this tiny party animal was still going.  She didn’t want to miss a moment of her big day.

(Also, her birthday cake was a showstopper!)

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Happy birthday to the world’s sweetest girl, Georgia Mae!  xxx

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This prank took some serious commitment and attention to detail!  I love how plumbing their mate’s house with warm beer was out of the question…

(I’m just going to go ahead and file this one under “DIY”.)

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#69 – Bake a rainbow layer cake

by Elizabeth on August 16, 2013 · 9 comments

in 101 in 1001, Cool stuff, DIY, Food, Life

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#69 in my 101 Things in 1001 Days project: Bake a rainbow layer cake!

 

I’ve been wanting to make a rainbow layer cake for the longest time, ever since I first laid eyes on Meg Duerksen’s beauty way back in 2009.  I can’t imagine that anybody could look at these happy colours and epic proportions without breaking into a smile, so it’s the perfect cake for a celebration.

Ever since Pinterest showed up on the scene I’ve had almost weekly reminders of how damn pretty this cake is.  The desire to make my own kept getting stronger, and when I realised that three of my favourite people had birthdays coming up in the same week I knew it was time.

Finally, an occasion worthy of this beautiful giant!

 

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This was my favourite stage of the cake making process, when all of those vibrant layers were stacked up high and nothing had fallen over!  At this point I realised how important it was to get those colours right before throwing it all in the oven.  I was a bit sad about the prospect of covering everything in white frosting, but after a handful of photos I got on with the job.  After all, nothing beats the ‘wow’ factor of a plain white cake with surprise multicoloured guts!

The next day our friends came over to help us break in the new BBQ I bought Tim for his birthday.  When it was finally time for dessert I lit three candles for each of the birthday babies.

 

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I imagine it’s pretty tough being my friend.  I mean sure, maybe I’ll invite you over for lunch and maybe it will be really delicious, but if it had anything to do with my 101/1001 list you’d better not touch a thing on your plate until it’s been photographed!  Luckily due to the height of this cake the pieces were all pretty skinny, so I was able to feed my friends before whisking away the rest of the cake to take the photo above.

My friends make fun of me a lot.

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Tips!  I have some.

If you have a failsafe plain and dense cake recipe then stick with what you know.  If (like me) you don’t have a go-to recipe that you trust, don’t be ashamed of using a packet mix that’s been tested in a million different kitchens.  My little cousin was mortified when I came clean about this, but I’m super happy with the result and I think somebody owes Mrs Crocker an apology!

My cake was made with plain 20cm cake tins, $7 each from Woolworths, and I baked two at a time.  I didn’t use springform pans for this, but I did spend time lining the tins really well.  The cakes cooked really evenly despite my dodgy oven and tipped out of the pans easily when they were done.

You’re going to find a lot of advice about which food colouring to use in your google travels.  Most people swear by gel colours to get these vibrant colours, but the truth is I just used a couple of boxes of the $2 Queen 4-packs from the supermarket.  I had to use a lot of colouring to get that red layer to stop looking pink, and lots more red for the orange and purple layers too, so make sure you have plenty.  Normally I steer clear of food colouring but with this cake it’s important to go big or go home.

Spend time trimming your cakes to make sure that they’re perfectly flat on top.  It’s obvious from my photos that I didn’t bother trimming the orange layer – oops!

Your frosting is going to need a lot of sugar in it to keep your structure standing.  Don’t even attempt this with runny icing or you’ll find that your construction won’t be up to code.  (This is probably not a good time to reflect on your weight loss journey.)

Just know that in order to get the right visual effect you will need to use more frosting than you ever dreamed.  And when it comes time to eat your slice you shouldn’t feel bad about leaving two thirds of it on your plate because diabetes.

If you find yourself getting emotional during the cake baking process, call my little cousin Trisha.  She gives great moral support over the phone!

 

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And finally… try not to get too depressed when you realise that some other kickass lady has made an eighty layer rainbow cake that leaves yours in the dust.  Nobody likes a show-off, lady!

 

Happiest of birthdays to my love Tim, and to our gorgeous friends Glen & Janelle.  Sorry about the hypoglycemia.

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GIVEAWAY: one small puppydog!

by Elizabeth on March 12, 2013 · 10 comments

in Cool stuff, DIY, Harry

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I am thrilled to be able to offer my readers an exclusive giveaway here at Scarlet Words – a small dog!  It’s just a small gesture to thank you all for your comments and encouragement over the years.

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THE PRIZE:

Harry has spent the past few months growing enough extra fur for one (1) extra small dog.  Your prize will include all of the accessories you will need for your new pet: two eyes, one button nose, and a collar.

Some DIY experience is desirable.

FEATURES:

  • Obeys simple commands, such as stay! and be quiet!
  • Requires no food or water
  • Completely housetrained
  • Enjoys daily walks, but prefers to be carried
  • Will not chew your shoes or bite small children.

HOW TO ENTER:

  • Drink a large glass of water while doing a handstand, and film it.  First entry wins.

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(For sentimental reasons I have decided to keep the dog on the right.)

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#86 – Build something from wood

by Elizabeth on March 4, 2013 · 45 comments

in 101 in 1001, DIY, iPhone

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Task #86 of my 101 Things in 1001 Days project: build something from wood.

When I added this task to my 101 Things project I assumed it would involve hammering one piece of wood onto another.  I didn’t really have an idea in mind, but I was pretty sure that during the course of this 1001 days I’d dream up something simple.  Simplicity was key because we don’t have much in the way of tools – just a handsaw, hammer, an electric sander, a drill and some nails and screws.  And plus, I have no idea what I’m doing most of the time.

My phone contract expired last month and I used it as an opportunity to leave my terrible phone provider and sign up with a new one.  I decided to sign up for a plan that included an iPhone 5 and every day since then I’ve quietly congratulated myself.  It’s such an elegant little device and the camera alone is a great reason to upgrade.

My only complaint is that the lightning cable for the iPhone 5 renders my two old iphone docks completely useless.  It was during my online search for a replacement that I discovered a bunch of beautiful wooden iphone docks, and thought to myself I wonder if I could do that?

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Tim and I found an old section of tree trunk a couple of weeks ago on the side of the road, and it wasn’t much to look at.  The bark had already begun to rot away and a few spiders had taken up residence.  I had a feeling that underneath the muck there was going to be a beautiful piece of wood inside, and I was right!  I don’t know what sort of wood it is (some sort of Australian hardwood I guess), but it’s pretty.

I improvised like crazy to build this iphone dock, so it didn’t make sense to take step-by-step photos.  But if you came here to learn how to make a wooden iphone dock these tips might help.

WHAT I USED:

  • A piece of wood
  • Lightning cable
  • Dremel or rotary hand tool (mine was $40)
  • Hot glue gun
  • Drill
  • Cabinet makers’ wax
  • Thick, self-adhesive felt base (this is what I used)

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HOW I DID IT:

  • I chose a section of wood that looked interesting, and used my hand saw to cut off the slice I needed.  This would have been much easier with a circular saw!
  • I sanded both sides of the wood slice, starting with a course 40-grit sandpaper and then using progressively finer grits (up to 120-grit).  If you like a mirror finish you might want to choose something even finer to finish it off.  I opted for a more natural look to suit the rough edges and those beautiful deep cracks.
  • The rotary tool (or dremel) that I chose came with all the accessories I needed, and I switched between attachments pretty regularly.  I found that I mostly wanted to use the stone grinding shanks that came in my kit (here are some similar ones) even though I don’t think they’re intended for wood.  If your wood is softer you might be able to use something more gentle.

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  • I started to carve out the recess for the phone by eyeballing it, and as I got closer to the finish line I drew some pencil guidelines to make sure that it was even.  My asymmetrical slice of wood was very forgiving and meant that I didn’t have to do any measuring.  I chose to carve a generous recess to allow for different phone cases in the future.  And really, the recess is a cosmetic feature rather than a practical one – my dock doesn’t provide any support to the phone except via the strength of the lightning cable head.
  • I spent quite a lot of time smoothing the groove and buffing the wood with the cabinet makers’ wax at this point – including the beautiful, rough edges.  Then I went to bed and had nightmares about ruining my project with the drilling step.

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  • The next day I drilled a hole in the centre of the recessed groove, and gave it a slight lean so that the phone would sit at a bit of an angle for ease of viewing.  I used a 9/32″ drill bit for the hole, which was perfect for the head of the lightning cable to fit through.  It worked!
  • The next step was to use the dremel to carve out a path for the rest of the cable on the underside of the dock.  I knew that this was going to be covered with a layer of felt so I didn’t worry about making it beautiful.  I carved a deep groove that would allow the dock to sit perfectly flat.
  • Then it was time to heat up the hot glue gun.  I spent some time deciding how much of the lightning cable I wanted poking out of the dock and testing it thoroughly with my phone.  I also came up with a strategy for setting the cable in place, since I knew I would only have a few seconds to place it once I’d added glue.  Spend some time making sure that the head faces forward perfectly, and also that it doesn’t lean left or right.  Then go – and don’t burn your fingers!
  • Fill the remaining gaps in the hole with hot glue, and when it’s cool flip it over and do the same at the bottom.
  • My last step was to apply a layer of thick, self-adhesive wool felt on the base.  It’s designed to protect the surface that your dock will sit on, but also serves to hide messy cables and keep your dock perfectly flat.

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You know, I think I might have been too intimidated to begin this project if I’d seen all of these steps spelled out for me at the start.  So let me try that again:

Carve a spot for your phone to sit in.  Smooth, polish or stain your wood to your heart’s content.  Drill a hole for the cable, and glue it in place so that it won’t budge.  Flatten the base somehow.  Add the pretty wooden bunny from Japan that your mum found for you last year.  Enjoy!

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How to make a terrarium without swearing.

by Elizabeth on November 3, 2012 · 5 comments

in DIY, Home

Obviously, the title of this post is a joke.  Can you even name three people who have made a terrarium without swearing?

Of course you can’t, because recent studies have shown that 100 out of 10 terrariums were created from a combination of pebbles, soil, plants and profanity.  When surveyed, most terrarium builders cited cactus spikes and tiny terrarium openings as the top two reasons for working profanity into their creations.

9/10 people surveyed agreed that the use of colourful language lowered their stress and contributed to the quality of the resulting terrarium.

Are you interested in improving your home, health and your vocabulary?  Build your very own terrarium by following these simple steps.

 

STEP 1:
You’re going to need some things if you’re going to make a terrarium, whether or not you choose to swear.  These things can be broken down into two categories.

Things that go inside the terrarium:

  • Small rocks or pebbles
  • Spanish moss (I found mine at Spotlight)
  • Soil
  • Activated charcoal (for a closed terrarium)
  • Thesaurus (optional – advanced terrarium builders may prefer to improvise.)
  • Plants.  Duh!

Things that hold the things that go inside the terrarium:

  • Jars
  • Vases
  • Bowls
  • Actual terrariums that you bought from Urban Outfitters because shipping to Australia is free if you spend $50.  Hooray!

 

STEP 2:
Put some of the things inside the terrarium.  You might want to do it this way:

  • Start with a layer of pebbles or small rocks.  A terrarium doesn’t have a drainage hole like a regular pot plant, so we’re going to trick it into thinking it does.  Frankly, plants are easily fooled so go ahead and date their best friend too – they won’t even notice.
  • If you’re making a closed terrarium you should add a layer of activated charcoal at this point.  It helps filter the air and keeps the water from becoming smelly.  Open terrariums don’t need it because they typically shower morning and night.
  • Add a layer of spanish moss.  This stops the soil from sinking down into the rocks, and at dusk it will make you a teeny tiny paella.
  • Add your soil.  Remember to give your plants plenty of leg room.

 

STEP 3:
Even minimalists need to add at least one plant at this point.  Some tips:

  • Avoid planting cacti and other succulents in a closed terrarium, because the humidity will make them rot.  They’re great in an open vase or bowl.
  • Avoid planting cacti at all if you’re trying to do this thing without swearing.
  • Closed terrariums are great for ferns and tropical plants
  • Don’t worry if your plants don’t seem to be getting along.  They’ll give each other the silent treatment for a while.

Now pour your plants a drink; they’ve had a rough day.

 


STEP 4:
Making a terrarium is easy, but keeping them alive can be tricky if you’re the clingy type.  Would you like it if your waiter was constantly checking up on you and refilling your glass?

Here’s how to make sure that your plants never break up with you:

  • Depending on your choice of plants, a closed terrarium may never need watering.  If you’re the nurturing type you may prefer a labrador?
  • Open terrariums vary in terms of their watering requirements, but be careful not to overdo it.  If your plant is showing signs of a drinking problem you may want to switch to a spray bottle or stage an intervention.
  • Don’t place your terrarium where it will be in direct sunlight all day or your plants will get melanomas.

 

STEP 5:
Sit back and congratulate yourself on your beautiful terrarium and the glorious profanity you shared with the neighbourhood today.

* Your mileage may vary
** This post was brought to you, in part, by the maximum allowed dosage of cold & flu medication.  

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