Archive for the ‘Making’ Category

7 IKEA Hacks

March 25th, 2009 by Amy

The folks below don’t see IKEA items as finished products, but raw materials to be reused, repurposed, recycled and reconfigured. Welcome to the world of hacking IKEA.


Got some of your own? Send ‘em to IKEA Hacker dot com.



1.  KNUFF / Catchall Shelf

The clever folks at Design Sponge turned this magazine holder on its side … and thought “shelf.” Perfect!



2.  SÖT BARNSLIG / UBS Drive Cozy

Always losing your UBS drive in the depths of your laptop bag? Tuck it in a plush IKEA crocodile and you’ll have no problem keeping track of it.



3.  BENJAMIN / Laptop Stand

The curved wood of the Benjamin makes a modern laptop stand for your lap or table top.



4.  RUSCH / Personalized Clock

Lady Lulu walks you through transforming the super inexpensive and always available RUSCH clock into something super special. Clever, clever, clever.



5.  ASKER / Plant Hanger

While originally for use in the kitchen, these curvaceous pots look right at home hanging on the chain link fence outside.




6.  LACK / Credenza

Apartment Therapy has two different hack o’LACKs. Both Matt and Tyler took simple boxy bumped up to cool and functional. Cool.



7.  Random IKEA Stuff / Kitchen

I am currently renovating my kitchen. By “renovating” I mean I’ve knocked down sheetrock, taken out an island, destroyed most of the countertops, and rendered the room generally dysfunctional. Needless to say, I found this hack is particularly inspiring.

7 Recipes Using Blueberries

March 19th, 2009 by Amy

I know blueberries are completely out of season – a distant summer memory and too far to be seen on the harvest horizon – but I’m craving them right now.


I’ve got a cup of buttermilk and a pound of organic frozen blueberries from Costco and I’m lookin’ to bake something sweet. Bring it on!


1.  Batter-splattered

Molly lives in Alaska, but Molly’s Blueberry Buttermilk Tart has me seriously considering heading north just for a taste! Batter-splattered is chock full of lovely photos, simple instructions, and honest tips … just the way you expect the best-loved cookbooks to be! (Photo Credit: Molly at Batter-splattered)


2.  Culinary Adventures Of A New Wife

Sharon, the New Wife, walks us through the making of two different batches of blueberry muffins – one of which she cools in her open dishwasher! Down-to-earth advice delivered in a cheerful tone makes Culinary Adventures an utterly unpretentious read and resource.


3.  Mike’s Table

Mike is an unassuming software developer who loves his Kitchen Aid mixer. With heartwarming earnestness, Mike walks readers through his blueberry muffin recipe, gently warning about common pitfalls (“you should resist the temptation to just melt the butter”) and offering encouragement (“but don’t worry–it’s normal”) as he goes. Great muffins, great guy!


4.  Orangette

I’ll get to Molly Wizenberg’s love of pancakes shortly, but first I’d like to love on Molly for just a minute. While I’ve never met her, Molly’s superb blog leaves me amazed that I haven’t and definitely feeling as though I should! Reading Orangette has always been a treat and I’m fully expecting that her brand new book, Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table, will be as well.


Now for the blueberries. Basically, Molly loves Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes, but when making them individually got to be a bit much, she took the “pan” out of “pancakes” and ended up with the just-as-delicious Blueberry Buckwheat Cake. Yum!


5.  La Petite Gourmande

Still aren’t quite sold on mixing up a batch of blueberry muffins? This photo at La Petite Gourmande will have you running for a mixing bowl. What’s really, really great about this blog is the amount of research/knowledge LPG includes with each entry. Without so much as a hint of condescension, LPG has a way of patiently explaining, guiding, and educating … sort of like a younger, smaller, Julia Child.


6.  The Pioneer Woman
What I’ve always loved about Pioneer Woman is that she invites you IN! Ree never greets visitors with caution and reserve. Instead, she flings the door wide open, says she’s glad you came, pulls up an extra chair to the virtual table, and lets you know that a dozen dirty, hungry men are on their way for lunch. Day or night, on her website, it’s always high noon, the grill’s always on, the men are always hot, and PW’s always got things completely under control.

Oh, and she’s got a great blueberry muffin recipe … complete with her signature humor, stunning photographs, and generous amounts of butter!


7.  Tartelette

Helen seems lovely. Her blog is utterly charming. Her photographs are absolutely exquisite. And, then there is the food itself! Superlative. If Helen would have me, I’d probably move in with her just so I wouldn’t have to miss a dish!


Once an executive pastry chef, the blueberry muffin recipe she uses on her blog however is part of her favorable review of the Sweet Melissa Baking Book. Helen’s much anticipated book will be out in the Fall of 2009 and promises to be just a wonderful as her blog … maybe even just a bit better since you’ll just be able to read it in the bed, the bath, or stretched on the living room couch!

7 Things I Want to Learn

March 18th, 2009 by Jane

I keep a running list of things I would like to accomplish before I am dead. Not a bucket list,  just a few things I am interested in learning. Let us know what yours are and how you will accomplish them!

1. Knitting
Try this cute video tutorial site if you would like to learn the art of knitting, as I do.  Or try some of the great patterns in this book by Tracey Ullman and her friend Mel Clark, Knit 2 Together: Patterns and Stories for Serious Knitting Fun.

2. Pack Light
I always pack too much when I travel and I use about half of what I take, and yet, I still end up having to buy things I need when I get where I am going. And you won’t believe how much we take when we travel together as a family!  I am going to study this award-winning site and try to lighten my load, literally!

3. Throw Pots
I want to learn how to make ceramic anything: bowls, miniature houses, vases, punch bowls and much more. I am checking into the class schedule at this fabulous studio near me.

4. Play the Bagpipes
My lack of talent at playing the clarinet in middle school has not deterred me from wanting to learn to play the bagpipes. I just need to practice on the chanter, and then I’ll be coming to a parade near you. Besides, I can’t wait to get a kilt!

5. Dance the Tango
Or any ballroom dance! Here is a great site to learn the basics so you won’t feel embarrassed going to a class. Now all I have to do is convince my husband!

6. Learn to Speak with a British Accent
Got thirty minutes?  Then you can learn to speak with a British accent!  How fun is that?

7. Tie a Tie
I have never learned to tie a tie.  Thanks to this fun website, I am on my way to being able to tie one on and fold the perfect pocket square!

7 Things to Upcycle

March 6th, 2009 by Jane

Upcycling is a word coined by William McDonough and Michael Braungart to refer to the process of using waste or cast-off materials to make something of greater value. These two brilliant people are working to inspire the design and engineering communities to rethink the way they design and do business. In their 2002 book, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Thingsthey explore how this can be done and why, for the good of our planet, we must shift our thinking and designing.

From McDonough: “I believe we can accomplish great and profitable things within a new conceptual framework—one that values our legacy, honors diversity, and feeds ecosystems and societies . . . It is time for designs that are creative, abundant, prosperous, and intelligent from the start.”

Here are a few suggestions for how we can accomplish this on an individual basis. 

1. Clothes
Use your children’s baby clothes for a quilt. Or send your  moth-eaten cashmere sweaters off to Teddylux Cashmere and have them make a snuggly teddy bear or elephant for someone you love. 

2. Scrap Wood
Michael Yonke’s gorgeous furniture and design elements will make you rethink the possibilities of that small pile of wood behind your garage. I love the Diversion Coffee Table and I have the perfect spot for it! Or the Upcycling Flag. Fabulous!

3. Food to Compost
The ultimate in upcylcing! Do  your part to help out the environment and pick a corner of your yard for a compost pile.  Don’t garden? Check with your local community garden and see if you can donate your compost to their cause.

4. Cassette Tapes
Yes, cassette tapes-you know you still have a few lying around! Make these cute cassette tape coin purses and put your money where your music was!

5. Jewelry
You can repurpose some of your old jewelry into some fabulous updated pieces. Most independent jewelry stores will happily refashion your gold or silver jewelry into something more stylish. Or check out what some industrious designers do with plastic spoons and, bobby pins, plastic bottles and old phone cards. Touch is a design company that highlights recycled products by innovative designers.

6. Paper
Sure, you could throw your old phone books into the recycling dumpster, but you would be tossing away raw materials to make this fabulous dress! Wear it to a party and charge people for looking up phone numbers for them! Just don’t wear it in the rain.

7. Glass
Learn how to turn those lovely cobalt blue bottles into drinking glasses or vases. Or you could save all of your glass bottles and build a temple. Don’t think of it as work, think how much fun it will be to drink all of that wine! 

7 News Ways To Appreciate Crochet

March 5th, 2009 by Amy

According to Joana Vasconcelos, an artist who wraps mass-produced objects in lacy, crocheted webs (see right), “Today, there are objects … that anyone can appreciate as being cool and trendy … There are objects that have changed status in this way. Status of people—of objects—changes; it isn’t static. Things that are banal today might belong in high culture tomorrow.”

So it is with crochet.

Do things become more beautiful, interesting, or amazing?

Or, do we just grow to better see how beautiful, interesting, or amazing they are?

Think back to the doilies and afghans of yesteryear.

See the beauty now?

1.  Stitch Diva

The cool ladies at this hipster site dream up sexy and sassy crochet creations (right) that raise the hook to new heights. Since not everyone can make the Bay-area classes, Stitch Diva has plenty of helpful video tutorials, downloadable patterns, and nifty products online to help get you started.

2.  Posie

The crochet patterns at Posie are so adorable you want to scream. Pretty, pretty, pretty! As you can tell from her press page, we aren’t the first to enjoy this inspired website and blog, but we’re still entirely smitten. (Note: Sewers are bound to love the fanciful “memory-keeping projects to sew and share” found in Posie’s Alicia Paulson’s brand new book, Stitched in Time.)

3.  Micro-fiber Militia

The crochet enthusiasts at Micro-fiber Militia have been wrapping public objects in endearing little cozies for some time now. Turns out, when confronted with a bit of crochet where they least expect it – like a sign post, bike rack, or telephone pole – people’s first reaction is to reach out and touch it. It’s an amazing form of graffiti. No laws broken, no property damaged, and no hurt feelings. Just a soft bit of yarn dangled forth to challenge the public’s impulse control. And, make them smile.

4.  The Portland Beanie Company
The Portland Beanie Company crochets outrageously delightful baby and children’s hats, scarves, and slippers (below) in fresh, fun patterns, colors, and styles. Support handmade, buy some on etsy!


5.  Carina’s Craft
Carina is a talented Dane living in England who puts a thoroughly modern twist on an old craft (right). Scrolling through her blog, I couldn’t help but think “stop the sherbet colors I’m already blinded by love!” Photo after photo of pure cheerfulness! I wish she’d crochet me something. Anything. 

6.  Crochet Inspiration
Knitter Sasha Kagan’s latest book focuses on her love of crochet. She’s been called the “grande dame of colorwork” and her bold designs, creative spirit, and technical prowess make her the well-known fiber artist she is today.

7.  Dania Taimina
Ok, seriously! I have always believed that crafts are an artistic expression of math. As a child, I spent hours and hours in front of a sewing machine. I’d turn half-finished doll clothes around in my head and hands, trying to grasp just how sewing them inside out and backwards made them come out perfectly. Thanks to all that practice, high school geometry was a breeze (Algebra, however, was a different and much less uplifting story!)

Then there is Professor Taimina. This lovely lady crochets the Hyperbolic Plane (above) in her free time. It just occurred to her one day to do it. Woah!

7 Ways with Beans or How to Survive an Economic Downturn

February 11th, 2009 by Jane

I am remaining positive about our country’s ability to turn around the economic situation, but in the meantime, I am cutting back and making do where I can. When my parents were newlyweds without much money and living near the Gulf Coast, they would cook inexpensive meals using shrimp or beans. Well, things have changed and shrimp is not that cheap any more, but beans are still a great way to make an inexpensive and nutritious meal. One of my friends serves bean tacos to her family when it is the end of the month and she is at the end of her budget. I love beans and I’ve done a little research to expand my repertoire. Try a few of these and watch your dollar stretch!

1. Cooking Tips
Try these cooking tips to insure your beans do not turn out tough! Try the fast soak method or make them in a crock pot.

2. Salad
This white bean and tuna salad is quick and low in calories. Pile it on top of your favorite salad greens for a filling meal. Try quick-cooking lentils or an updated cobb salad for a main dish.

3. Soup
Republicans and Democrats on the Hill all agree that Senate Bean Soup is delicious.  This yummy bean soup is on the menu everyday in the Senate’s restaurant. 

4. Chili
I love this recipe for vegetarian chili from the creative minds behind the Moosewood cookbooks. Even meat-lovers enjoy this hearty mix of red beans and veggies. To feed a crowd, try this beef and bean chili from Emeril Lagasse and take it up a notch! Or a white chili from Paula Deen, might be just what you need on a cold evening.

5. Burgers
No need to purchase pre-made vegetarian burgers when making them is this easy. Or try making falafel from this video tutorial and skip the take-out stop.

6. Casseroles
Whether you go Italian, Mexican or just plain and simple, beans are a great addition to a casserole for your main dish. 

7. The Magical Fruit
Worried about unpleasant side effects from eating more beans?  If you make sure to rinse canned beans before you use them and do not cook dry beans in the water in which you soaked them, then you should be fine. Or you can use the tried and true remedy: beano. for more information on the versatile bean, go to the U. S. Bean Board!

7 Ways To Restyle An Old T-Shirt

February 6th, 2009 by Amy

I’m starting to look at all the random under-used T-shirts in my drawers as free fabric. Wonder what I could make?



I love this bikini idea. It’s inexpensive, functional, and adorable. That said, I have absolutely no plans to make or wear it and am in awe of those who might! This cute video will walk you through the steps.



Well, you can’t actually make a book, but this book will give you plenty of ideas of what to make. Poking around in a bookstore the other day, Generation T caught my eye. Well, what really caught my eye was the sassy red halter and that was enough to make me take it off the shelf and start drooling. The Pied Piper of T-Shirt crafts, Megan Nicolay will have you cutting, shredding, ripping, and restyling your T-Shirts with utter abandon. She used to hold “Tee Parties” in her Brooklyn apartment so that folks gather and repurpose their Ts together. Brilliant. Her new book – with tons of new ideas – will be out in the Spring of 2009; pre-order here.


Somehow in my Internet wanderings, I ended up on a website of a Swedish design group. Fuldesign provides “design for everyone who is not perfect and does not fit into the artificial total make-over world.” Of course, I felt right at home. Check out their handy How To: Make a Monster out of a TShirt … The results are imperfection anyone could love.



A mom over at whipped up a pair of adorable play pants … in less than an hour! Right in the middle of a busy afternoon, this mom whittled a castaway adult T into toddler wear. She sounds like a pro. These super simple shorts from a different blog are a variation on the theme and just as cute!



Do what they did years ago with rags … crochet a rug! Wonderfully colorful and amazingly durable, these rugs are a great way to recycle. If you get started now you can give them away as gifts next holiday season!


Tote Bag

Check out this video for instructions on how to give your neglected T new life as a busy tote bag. 



While most folks don’t make their own undies these days, I found a brave blogger who boldly crafts new skivvies out of old Ts. Again, I am in awe.

Love the idea, but not that crafty? The sewers at will make ‘em for ya.



The folks at promise to show you how to make a vest. A little leery? They also promise that it ”doesn’t suck.” Check it out!

7 Recycled Valentine’s Day Projects

February 3rd, 2009 by Jane

Valentine’s Day is around the corner, so I am gathering small boxes and nice papers for the kids to do a decoupage project. We plan to use the boxes to hold miniature muffins and cookies to give to teachers. If the idea of a store-bought card makes you cringe, try some of these great suggestions from some very crafty people. Thanks to The Long Thread for some of these great ideas and links.

1. Everlasting Flowers
I really want to try making the flowers made from old sweaters I found on this crafty blog. Or for a more challenging project, make these soda can flowers. I LOVE these.

2. Paper
The woman who writes the Little Hut blog is a genius with paper. Who knew an egg carton could look so stylish?

3. Melt My Heart
I have been looking for project ideas for our surplus of broken crayons. Thanks to the handy Martha Stewart website, I can make these for class gifts.

4. More Paper
Take recycling to the next level by making your own paper. This craft involves a blender and is a showstopper for your kids!

5. Knit One, Crochet Too
Use plastic bags as yarn and knit or crochet a little gift for someone you love.

6. Guilt-Free Juice Boxes
Make a case for your love’s iPhone from recycled juice boxes. You’ll save the land-fill and your conscience a little stress.

7. Produce
Try this project using onion skins, of all things. Or use it as inspiration for your own creation.

7 Soups for National Soup Month

January 26th, 2009 by Jane

It is no wonder that the ultimate comfort food has a month dedicated in it’s honor.  Soup exists in all cultures and is the essence of what humans need to survive: water, vegetables, and protein.  It can be a humble dish of broth and leftovers to the most sophisticated layering of ingredients. The Japanese even eat soup for breakfast. I must be in perpetual need of comfort, because soup is one of my favorite foods. Some of the most memorable soups are those I ate while we lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico. If you are visiting any time soon, try the Hangover Stew at Carlos’ Gospel Café, the Santa Fe Trails soup at Gabriel’s in Pojoaque and everything at Back Street Bistro. I swear, the Hungarian Cream of Mushroom soup that is served there is the best thing that you have ever put in your mouth. So, try a few of these recipes or visit the websites that use soup to help others and you will feel sated and restored.

1. Year-Round Tomato Soup
Try this recipe from television chef Michael Chiarello for a twist on the childhood classic. It uses canned tomatoes so you can make this anytime. Add a grilled cheese sandwich and you’ve got a meal any one of any age will love. Don’t forget the pickle on the side.

2. Chicken Noodle Soup
Driven by my parents’ refusal to stop adding onions to every main dish, my middle sister survived on Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup for approximately two years during her adolescence. If you want to make it from scratch, you can never go wrong with any recipe from Tyler Florence. We like it with Saltine crackers!

3. Bean Soup
Black bean soup is one of my favorites. Add some grated cheddar, a dollop of plain yogurt, chopped tomatoes and loads of cilantro on top and you will have a filling, healthy meal that stretches easily for a crowd.

4. Need Your Sinuses Cleared?
In Texas, when you are feeling poorly, someone who loves you might bring you Tortilla Soup from your favorite restaurant.  If not, try this recipe from Rachel Ray and keep some in the freezer! It will cure what ails you.

5. Vegetable Soup
I can throw together a pot of homemade vegetable soup in twenty minutes.  Just keep some good-quality broth on hand and use what you have.  Here is a recipe to use as a guideline. Throw in some alphabet noodles and trick your kids into studying their spelling words.

6. From Soup to Jobs
The Soup Peddler in Austin, Texas has one of the best jobs in the world. David Ansel started selling homemade soups to his neighbors, delivering the yummy goodness on his bike. Years later, he is a food business phenom! Check out his site and buy his cookbook for an entertaining read. The Women’s Bean Project teaches job and life skills to women when they are hired to work in this gourmet food company. Sales of soup mixes help fund the Denver, Colorado non-profit dedicated to stopping the poverty cycle.

7. Book Soup
Soup has even been the inspiration for many books including the children’s classic Stone Soup. This heartfelt tale about a village of stingy people illustrates a wonderful lesson on sharing. The charming book of poetry for children, Soup for Breakfast, would make a lovely gift for a child or teacher.

7 Steps to a Great Salad

January 22nd, 2009 by Jane

Ancient Greeks and Romans are thought to have made simple salads of greens with dressing, but I am sure they would not have predicted the myriad ways we currently enjoy them. A salad can be a small accompaniment to your entree or an entire meal. If I had my choice I would eat a salad everyday and my salad creations have become famous in certain circles, if I do say so myself. In fact, one friend said “If this salad were running for president, I would vote for it.”  I am unable to make the same salad twice, but I do have some tips on how to make a great salad that I thought I would share with you. Check out this beautiful book for more recipes.

1. Presentation
Start with a lovely bowl or tray on which to serve your salad.  Consider what type of salad you are making when you choose the dish.  Sometimes I make a mini-buffet on a tray by grouping the ingredients so that guests may choose what they would like to take. This is an especially great way to serve Salad Nicoise, as not everyone cares for all of the foods that are included in that delicious recipe.

2. Greens
I like to mix many types of greens for maximum punch. My favorite right now is spinach and arugula. I will also mix in whatever herbs I have on hand, even cilantro. For a taco salad, I use romaine paired with good old iceberg for lots of crunch. Make sure the greens can hold up to the toppings you are using. Heavy vegetables need a good foundation, so you wouldn’t want to use delicate baby greens. Save those for a more subtle application.

3. Toppings
Carrots, celery, bell pepper, red onion, cucumber are all great when they are ripe and in season, but try some different additions to make your salad more interesting. I like to add artichoke hearts, julienned jicama, garbanzo beans (make sure to rinse and drain them), hearts of palm, several types of mushrooms, steamed asparagus or green beans, thinly sliced radishes, or sliced pear or apple. My kids love it when I put some grated cheese of any kind on top. Find your own great combinations based on what you have or what is in season.

4. Garnishes
I love to put something crunchy on top like sunflower seeds or candied cashews. A sprinkle of dried cranberries or cherries will add just the right amount of tartness to a salad of arugula, pear and goat cheese. Using what I had on hand led to a great salad with cornbread croutons and a cilantro vinaigrette. Toast leftover cubes of cornbread with olive oil and chili powder sprinkled on top. Throw minced cilantro and a few squeezes of lime juice into a simple oil and vinegar dressing and you’ve got an unusual combination that people will love. And of course, olives. I always include olives, unless Amy is coming over.

5. Dressing
A salad with the most pedestrian ingredients will shine if you make the dressing from scratch. I know, you are saying “Who has time for that?”  Well, you do if you follow this recipe.  Experiment and add different herbs, flavored vinegars or unusual types of mustard. You say you are a Ranch Dressing kind of person and nothing else? Try it from scratch and you will never buy another bottle of gelatinous Ranch Dressing again. Making your own salad dressing is also a great way to control your intake of salt and high-fructose corn syrup, and that just makes a body healthier.

6. Make it a Meal
You can top your masterpiece with leftover grilled chicken, pork or any type of lunch meat to expand it into an entree.  Vegetarian? Add some diced hard-boiled egg or a can of rinsed black beans. My favorite vegetarian salad entree’ is a taco salad. Brown some vegetarian crumbles with garlic and taco seasoning. Put on top of a sturdy mix of greens and tomatoes, then add salsa, plain yogurt, grated cheddar and tortilla chips. Yum!

7. Servers
Try these great salad hands or tongs to get your portion from the bowl to your plate without spillage! Enjoy! 

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