Thursday, February 12, 2015

The World's Easiest Candle Holder

Yesterday felt a bit dreary and stuffy in my office. It was a grey and tired day, and I was sleepy, but determined to slog through my tasks with a bit of cheer. In a burst of inspiration, I reached for my favorite candle, one with a rich, sweet, rosy scent and a colorful, funky jar. Soon I was feeling so luxuriously comfortable and ready to get to work.

I picked the candle up on clearance, with a gift card, so it was a great buy. However, I wasn't crazy about its stock image of roses, or the neon yellow CLEARANCE sticker irremovably plastered onto the jar. I decided to get the candle anyway, and fix it up to a more attractive state.

Fixing it up was one of the easiest craft projects I've done. Here's how to do it!

First, do a little hunting to find the most visually striking pieces of ready-to-be-recycled paper you have. I chose a wide strip of newsprint and a page from a knitting catalog. It's important to choose a page of newspaper that was mostly text, and all black and white, so that it will appear as a subtle pattern; a graphic, not distracting text. (I find that the Catholic Worker is best for newspaper craft projects.) For the strip of magazine, I was attracted the colorful swatches of yarn in the knitting catalog, and the simple, geometric way they were presented. In other words, what started as an article or a product display worked, for the purposes of my candle, as straightforward patterns. 

Cut the newspaper to be as wide as the thickest part of my candle was high, and cut all the way along the page, so you can be sure the strip will be long enough to wrap around the candle. Since the second piece of paper will cover the bottom edge of the newsprint, it doesn't matter if you cut awkwardly through a column on the bottom edge. Place the neat edge of the paper at the top, affix the first end of the paper to the candle, and wrap the paper around.  Trim the excess length, being sure to leave half an inch of overlap, and attach the second end to the paper. I used Zots Glue Dots, but you could also use rubber cement, a very tidily-applied loop of Scotch tape, or a judicious dab of craft glue. 

Next, cut the magazine paper to fit around the candle. This time, instead of half an inch overlap, you'll want about two inches. Fold the top and bottom edges under so that you have two clean edges, and so that the final width of the magazine paper is half the width of the news print. 

Place the magazine paper over the newsprint. Use a glue dot, tape, or dab of glue to affix the first end to the newsprint before you wrap it around the candle. Finally, twist the end of the paper about two inches back from the end. You can twist it once or twice to get the look you want. Then affix the end with another glue dot, loop of tape, or dab of glue.

Now light your candle and enjoy!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Thrifted Scarf Braid

Some of my all-time favorite thrift store finds are scarves. There's the floaty ombré grey scarf that looks like smoke or mist. There's the square silk with abstract splotches, like a Calder mobile came to rest in two dimensions. And this black scarf shot with gold thread and tiny, jewel-tone flowers, like cloisonné. I like scarves because they're an inexpensive, easy way to add flair and interest to an outfit, and can be used in so many ways. 

For Christmas this year, my best friend gave me Fifty Ways to Wear a Scarf, by Lauren Friedman. I really enjoyed the whimsical illustrations and fresh ideas for scarves. I tried the scarf braid, giving it the unique twist of pulling my braid to one side. 

To begin, part your hair one side, then gather your hair and pull it to the opposite side.

Next, take your scarf and place it about two inches back from your hairline, and place it so the ends rest along your ears. The end that is on the same side as your part should be about two inches longer than the end that is on the same side as your gathered hair.

Pull the end that was on the same side as your part across the nape of your neck and under your gathered hair. Let it rest a sec.

Bring the front section of your hair, the chunk that is in front of the scarf (and your ear), forward and out of the way. You can clip it or hold it with your mouth if you need to. 
Make sure both ends of the scarf are about even and tie them together once - in other words, into the first half of a square knot. 

Now put the front section of hair back with the rest. Separate your hair into three sections, and put the scarf into the front section.  Braid away! 

When you reach the end, put an elastic around the whole thing, scarf included.

Now tie the scarf in a square knot over the elastic and let the ends dangle!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Orange-Mango Roasted Carrots

Another snow day! All day, the scene outside my window was shades of white and grey, and as evening fell and the shadows lengthened across the snow, I was in the mood for something bright. I was glad to remember the bag of baby carrots I'd stashed in the back of the fridge to have as a snack someday. When I decided to repurpose them for dinner, glazed carrots came to mind, but the brown sugar and butter seemed too heavy for a day I'd spent barely moving! Instead I put together a glaze with orange-mango juice and put the carrots in the oven to roast. The bright color, fresh taste, and satisfaction of creating a masterpiece from what was already on hand cheered me right up!

Orange-Mango Roasted Carrots
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 C 100% juice orange-mango juice
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 t cinnamon
dash or two of nutmeg
1 lb. bag baby carrots

Preheat oven to 425°.
Mix the glaze ingredients together in a 1.5 quart baking dish.
Toss the carrots in the glaze to coat evenly.
Cook for 40-60 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Here they are with sweet-potato-tortilla crusted fish and paper-maché candle lanterns - projects coming soon!