March 28, 2014

Easter Goodies from Stubby Pencil Studio {Giveaway}

I'm sure if you're a regular reader here, you'll know that I used to be an art teacher, and therefore have a fondness for art supplies, both kid and adult oriented ones.  I also like to think of myself as ecologically-minded, so when there's a craft or art material that involves recycling or uses natural ingredients, I'm all for it.
Stubby Pencil Studio is an online store I discovered a few years back which offers quite a variety of eco-friendly art supplies and craft materials. The products are not only safe for the environment but for people as well, using ingredients like soy and beeswax (not petroleum), as well as 100% recycled paper sketchbooks (not virgin trees), and pencils made from sustainably harvested wood and recycled newspapers (not vibrant forests).
Kate, owner of Stubby Pencil writes:  "I started this arts and crafts supply store to bring the safest, highest quality art materials to other families. You see, when my twins were toddlers, I wanted them to enjoy arts and crafts, but I didn’t want them exposed to chemicals. I tried to buy toxic-free, quality art supplies and I really had to search. Once I found products I was confident enough to give my own kids, I realized other moms would want these safe products for their kids, too."
Not only are their products ethically made, but they're cute and colorful too.  Wouldn't these make great Easter basket stuffers? 
My boys especially like the crayon rocks, but I definitely need to pick up some Smencils for them too.  Browsing their website is like being a kid in an eye candy store.
Who knew that such things as eco-highlighters existed?
This finger puppet robot is pretty cool too (there's a mermaid available too!)
Mary's Softdough is always a hit, and it's made with natural ingredients
And if you're thoughts are set on Easter, this kit is really adorable
My 6 year old loves to paint wooden objects, so I know he'd love this.

One very lucky reader is going to win this adorable suitcase filled with art supplies, all ready to give as a springtime or Easter gift!
Please enter via the Rafflecopter widget below, and best of luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

March 21, 2014

A Delectable Shepherd's Pie

I'm sharing my recipe for shepherd's pie over at a local-to-me blog today.
Not only is it tasty, but it moves my previous post down on the page so you don't have to look at the nasty kombucha SCOBY again (my husband thanked me; kombucha gives him the creeps).

Have a great weekend!

March 18, 2014

The Great Kombucha Experiment

It's time for a new science experiment in the house.  I've done the no-shampoo thing (still doing it with good results), attempted sauerkraut last week, and now I'm trying to make another weird fermented food--kombucha.
If you've never had it, it's essentially like a naturally-carbonated, fruity/vinegary fermented tea soda.  It's really hard to describe, but I like it.  It's a great source of probiotics, among other healthy things, but it's such a unique and enjoyable drink (and expensive when purchased in health food stores) that I wanted to learn to make my own.

In its gestating form, it's kind of disgusting, as you can see in the photo above (you don't actually drink the slimy stuff; the liquid is strained).  You need a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) mother, which you can buy from here or get from someone you know who makes their own kombucha (mine is from a teacher at my yoga studio).  Here's what I got:
It's like raw chicken meets placenta.
The SCOBY was packed with some of the starter liquid from its original kombucha batch, and the watery blob smelled a lot like vinegar.  It really didn't bother me too much, looking at it, oddly enough.

I followed the recipe shared by the yoga teacher, which she got from Kombucha Kamp (she got her SCOBY from there).  I found a similar recipe and instructions from this website (it's a less-spammy looking one).

Here's what I used:
SCOBY :: Wide mouth Gallon jar :: 5 organic green tea bags :: 1 cup organic sugar :: tightly woven cloth and rubber band to cover the top of the jar

The process of making the tea was easy.  I boiled 4 cups of filtered water, then steeped my tea bags in it for 10 minutes.
Then I removed the tea bags and stirred in 1 cup of organic sugar until it dissolved.
In went 8 cups (64 oz.) of filtered water to the tea, which brought down the water temp so I didn't kill the SCOBY.
Next, I poured in all the contents of the bag, including the liquid.
Yes, that looks disgusting, like a fetal pig floating in formaldehyde.  Did I burn your eyeballs?  If not, here are some more shots
It apparently doesn't matter where the SCOBY floats, bottom or top. 
I gave it a stir, then capped it with the woven fabric and tightened it with a rubber band.
 
Then I stuck it in my pantry where it's dark.  That spot still gets some airflow due to opening and closing the door throughout the day.
I'm hoping that when I taste it in a week (yes, I'm going to taste it!) it will be sweet and bubbly.  The next step is to strain it, add fruit juice and bottle it.  I'll post about that part of the experiment then.

What do you think? Does this give you the heeby-jeebys?  Have you ever tasted kombucha?  Would you?

March 13, 2014

Sandpaper Printed Shamrock T-Shirt

Hey all! Today I'm over at my friend Sheena's blog Sophistishe sharing an easy sandpaper printing craft for St. Patrick's Day.
Hope you enjoy it and make it with your kids (or for yourself!).

March 3, 2014

Wise Craft {Giveaway}

In an act of serendipity, I was contacted to review a new book from a blog that I had only just stumbled upon the day before.  Have you ever visited Blair Stocker's blog, wise craft?  It's a remarkable site, filled with crafts, quilts, upcycling and repurposing, and general inspiration for creative types (or would-be creative types).  Actually, it's very much what I'd like to see my blog turn into, someday, when little hands and bodies aren't always in my face.  But I digress...

Blair Stocker's new book, out this month from Running Press, is called Wise Craft: Turning Thrift Store Finds, Fabric Scraps, and Natural Objects into Stuff You Love, and it's full of inspiring projects to transform things you already have into beautiful and useful craft objects.
Arranged by season, the projects incorporate a variety of materials from paper, fabric, leather and found objects.  There are so many clever projects in this book, from Zombie Barbies (!!!)
to cross stitched pegboard Christmas trees
and even a reimagination of an old standby like a crocheted placemat.
This book is filled with so many creative and more importantly, DO-able projects.  Flipping through the book, I was already noting which projects I had the materials for in my stash, like these book pot holders/trivets.
At $20, this is a reasonably-priced paperback craft book, especially with 60 projects included.  For me, I love that the ideas in this book are a jumping point for coming up with ways to upcycle items from around my home or that I see in a thrift store. 

Wise Craft is And thanks to the author for including this cute little bunting made from fabrics used throughout the book.  It brightens up my living room!
This book trailer does a better job than me at showing you what's inside the book

(I'm so jealous of her studio space! )

You can learn more about Wise Craft via Blair's blog or by looking through the book on Amazon.com.
WIN IT!
One lucky reader will win a copy of Wise Craft.  Leave a comment on this post telling me something you've made this winter.  Get another entry by sharing the giveaway on Twitter and leave a separate comment. Contest ends March 12, 11:59pm EST. I'll contact the winner by email.  Good luck!
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions are my own.
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