4.30.2010

Egg membrane removal

I'm pretty jazzed about a tip from a YouTube user, Frubble, about removing the membrane from an egg with bleach. I have made some drilled eggs in the past that I sold on Etsy or to collectors, but I was just making them without knowing that drilled eggs were an established art form (not surprised, though. Everything's 'been done' before.) So I didn't know to take advantage of the wealth of tips out there for egg finishing and was doing things the hard way by pulling the inner membrane out with a hook after drilling the egg. It turns out it is SO much easier than that! Thanks to Frubble's tip and a few tidbits I searched out on the net from egg drillers, I took myself back to some old eggs that I didn't think would be salvageable and finished them. :D

Don't know what I'm talking about? See my You Tube video on how to drill eggs here::


The eggs I had left had long dried out and I had no idea how I could get their membranes out, but after so much work drilling them, I didn't have the guts to chuck them. ;...; Smart thinking on my part for holding onto them "just in case". I dug them out of the cupboard and got my bleach!


The inner skin is brittle and makes the holes look rough and unclean. As it dries, it might pull on your egg shell and crack it, so you want to get it out! In my video, I was showing how to pull it out with tweezers... Silly me. :D


Submerging your egg completely in bleach and rolling it around to get the air bubbles out is all you need to do! The egg releases tiny bubbles and creates a foam on the surface of the bleach as the bleach eats away the membrane, but it will also eat up the shell if you leave it in too long. I've found that a chicken egg will be cleaned out and ready to go in less than two minutes. Goose eggs can take upwards of ten minutes. I prefer to sit and watch chicken eggs until they look clean and set the timer for two minute intervals for thicker eggs, like goose.


After a few water rinses (bleach is a really icky thing that I use only for eggs and with gloves and a mask) it's done! The finished egg without any tweezers or hooks or pulling or fussing! I'm so excited... making these eggs used to be really temperamental and time consuming the 'old' and ineffectual way. Now I'm all kinds of excited about getting back to egg drilling without all the stress of membrane removal with a hook!

I think I'm going to make a ton of these now.

4.28.2010

Summer Preview

I keep making plans to reopen and I keep pushing it back. There's always something in life that makes you hold up plans, huh? I guess sometimes it feels like the challenge is not to find a break in those interruptions so much as to learn to say 'screw the interruptions' and make it work anyway. I'm going to try to do that. : ) Allow me to give a sneak of my summer stuff.

For almost two and a half years I've experimented with paper and clay rose making.

And I have finally settled on my technique for painted mulberry paper roses! Mulberry paper is fascinating because it's harvested from the bark of the mulberry tree without killing the plant. Tree bark can be harvested every year and the paper is still made, by hand, with thousand year old techniques.

My particular methods, developed by patient experimentation, for treating and shaping the paper create a very delicate look that's surprisingly strong and up to the task of being worn and adapted into various arts and look amazingly fragile! Score! :) (Although the fact that I store them in an egg carton is a fragility-coincidence... It's a convenient size. :3)

Each flower is hand-painted in three or more stages for the kind of natural variance and detail you'd expect in real flowers. Each petal is shaped and manipulated with its naturally cut shape in mind to give each flower its own distinct look and personality.

The effect is an infinitely more realistic and natural combination of colors and shapes that are more pleasing to the eye and a much higher quality than my previous components. 

It was always my goal that my floral components could better match the effort and detail I put into my wire work and now, after all of those years of experimentation, I feel that I've really accomplished my goals. I love my roses (and gardenias and pansies and all the flowers that are to come...) and I'm really excited about what I can do with them!


Don't be surprised, after seeing all of the blue flowers, when I say that my summer theme will be dusty blue, silver, gray, and pearl white. n...n!! I'm really excited about the leaps and bounds producing these new hand painted flowers will take my finished product!

4.20.2010

Beauty Dump + Honey Bee Gardens Review

Yesterday morning, I was chatting with my neighbor and something came up about brushing teeth with soap and then cloth diapers, organic beauty products, and so on. She asked me how I got so interested in natural alternatives and I said that I suppose it was always. It's just how I was growing up. Trying to do the hippy-flower thing was always my interest (Didn't make me very popular in middle school. I seriously showed my dried flower collection at show and tell. Geek alert.) but these days with there being such an emphasis on natural products and practices, there are all kinds of things I never even realised I could get into or support as far as healthy and natural alternatives. Too much to even keep up with! But I try.

After I stopped dying my hair blue and switched to henna and indigo, I decided the next step should be healthy cosmetics so I sucked up my courage and dumped my stash. ;....;


I re-used the containers I felt I could and recycled what could be. My rules are no talc (;...; my rose talc powder!) no chemical fragrances, no mysterious ingredients. It's got to be based with natural creams and oils like coconut, shea, olive, etc. and the only scents allowed are essential oils. It really sucked squeezing out 100$ worth of at-home microdermabrasion sets... but I'm on a no aluminum vow too.


My skin needs some help right now and I'm hoping that tossing the chemicals will help in a small way. I've never had many skin problems, but moving from Hawaii to Washington for almost half a year, and now back in Hawaii I just don't feel like my skin is my skin anymore. I feel like it's mostly from climate changes that I'm having skin problems, as I haven't used commercial face washes for a good while now and have been using African Black Soap for the most part, but I don't feel like the chemical products help my skin's recovery and they don't help my long term health either.

Because I like wearing a little makeup from time to time, including nail polish, I set out to look for a some. I had already made a -SMALL- order from Intelligent Nutrients for some organic hair spray (I wanted to start with replacing the most toxic products first and moving down to the less offensive). I respect what Intelligent Nutrients is doing, but at 29$ a bottle and in the 40s for organic conditioner, I also needed a company that was a little more wallet-friendly. That led me to the company Honey Bee Gardens


I've ordered Deodorant Powder (scented), natural mascara,  lip gloss, water-based nail polish, and acetone-free nail polish remover.

I've also ordered bay rum scented deodorant powder "for men", and bay rum aftershave. 

Deodorant Powder::
SCENT:: I personally love bay rum scents and I'm not into distinguishing that only men/women can wear/use certain things so I'd have no problem recommending the "for men" line for either sex. The bay rum scent they use is kind of soapy, rather than crisp and I think it could even smell quite pretty on a girl, but is much less girly-girly than the floral deodorant powder option they have as being "for women". The floral deodorant powder smells just like the page of the Pat the Bunny book where you sniff the flowers. Super nostalgic, but not a very grown up scent. I like that, though, so I'm cool with it. Or you could just skip all that and just get some unscented.

PERFORMANCE:: Fabulous! I have been wanting to get off the typical stick deodorants for years but I haven't found a natural solution that didn't fall seriously short before now. With such a simple ingredients list, I wonder why I didn't think to make something like this at home before. It gets you dry and you stay lightly scented and clean feeling all day and it brushes off of clothes more easily than do sticks if it gets on your outfit somehow. I can put it on at the beginning of the day and don't need to re-apply at all. It can even reverse the situation if you're not feeling fresh. It's not like you have to be shower fresh first for it to do its business. I also feel like it keeps me drier when I'm active without re-applying (although re-applying after activity increases the effectiveness, obviously.)

 I don't know how they intend for you to put it on. It certainly doesn't shake out of the shaker part of the lid well so I leave it on the open hole and tip it out onto a small powder puff I had floating around and pat on that way. Unfortunately it comes out in little clumps and can tumble off my puff rather easily. Maybe I need a bigger one. 

I decided my "secret method" is to just pat it down on the puff and then I can press it to my skin wherever I wish without it falling off.  

I think that by nature of the ingredients (cornstarch, arrow root powder, etc) it's prone to a little clumping because it's so fine. But the nature of natural products is sometimes there are some irregularities because they lack the chemical additives to give them a super perfect appearance and texture. I feel like the little clumps aren't a huge deal and it's not a big price to pay. And since I'm over the moon about a natural, talc-free, no aluminum deodorant that actually works, I will definitely keep using this. It also feels more pleasant than the waxy, thick stick deodorant feeling.

Aftershave::  
SCENT:: Same as the bay rum powder. It's strong and on the sweeter side, but not in a floral way. I usually like sharp and earthy scents on Nico, but I do like this.

PERFORMANCE:: Nico was wincing and didn't want to put it on when I shoved it his way after shaving his face. He didn't want to deal with the aftershave burn because it was just before bed and he wanted to relax but he was a trooper and splashed it on. He said it actually didn't burn at all and was nice. Then he leaned over and made me sniff and tell him how pretty he smelled. Strongly scented toiletries are called "smell pretty" in our house, as in "Don't forget to put on some smell pretty before dinner? For me? Pleaaaase?" He says he would definitely wear it just for the scent but that, apart from how it was nice that it didn't burn, he didn't notice it being any better or any worse as far as additional benefits like moisturizing post-shaving. 


Water-based Nail Color::
SCENT:: Definitely not as strong as a regular nail polish. You still get a little whiff of smell if you shove the bottle under your nose, but I think you could paint your nails without getting a headache, or even really smelling it at all.

PERFORMANCE:: They gave a sheet of paper describing the chemistry of how this polish bonds and turns into a solid coat and it was pretty interesting. Then I lost it. Oh well.  The nail polish applies like any other nail polish. I find it hard to get it from making streak marks and I'm not sure if it's something to do with the polish or just that it's pale and shows everything.

After one coat.

After two coats and still showing some streaks.

After it's set the streakiness seems less obvious to me.
I painted before bed so the polish could really have time to cure. I felt like it rubbed off more quickly than regular nail polish does, despite giving it all the curing time it needed. In its favor though, I didn't really see any chips flake off. As someone with really thin and flexible nails, my nail polish will chip and fleck off even an hour after an expensive manicure. At least with a pale color polish, a little rubbing on the tip is less obvious than a big chip. Still, I can imagine how someone using this polish could get annoyed if you're seeing the polish rubbing off the tips after only a day of normal use. Personally though, my biggest disappointment was the color selection. It was a pretty decent lineup of colors for a natural nail polish line, but I really wanted kind of an antique off white to replace a regular nail polish I forced myself to give up that I loved.

All in all, considering a random test I saw done on a traditional nail polish showing it had 6.8% phthalates of some kind in the ingredients, I'd rather deal with some touch ups than use a traditional polish again. Maybe it could benefit from a top coat though.


Nail Polish Remover::
SCENT:: This also does have a bit of an alcohol/plastic smell. It's, like the nail polish, not at all as strongly scented as acetone nail polish remover, or even acetone-free traditional nail polish remover, but it still has some kind of a smell if you get it close to your nose. In normal use I don't think it would be at all overwhelming or difficult to deal with.

PERFORMANCE:: My hands are in sorry shape. I've been doing nothing but deep house cleaning since I got home. (Shut your house for five months and let it stew in its own dust and then see how the house cleaning feels.) My nail polish is worn almost totally away and my surrounding skin is dry and sad looking. When I put on the remover, it actually felt pretty hydrating. I wouldn't say that it's enough hydration to erase dry skin in one application, but it does cut some of the immediate dryness. The only problem is the effort. And it's kind of a big problem. You have to rub and rub and rub. The nail polish claims it can be removed by rubbing alcohol but I thought that if they were selling an official remover for it, I'd get that because it must be easier. ...So if this is the easier version, I never want to try the alcohol. It's really a pain in the butt to get off. It comes off, but I'd say I have to spend three times as long clearing one nail as I would with traditional remover and traditional polish. Next I'll try putting a drop of remover on the nail and letting it sit first to see if it helps at all.
Lip Gloss::
SCENT:: I chose the color "Hollywood" because I like a kind of peachier and mellow color but I was really not jazzed about it being orange scent. I envisioned a gross orange ice cream smell, but thankfully the reality is actually a really crisp, true orange smell that I really like. It's probably because the company seems to use essential oils for their fragrances, rather than commercial scent blends.

PERFORMANCE:: I'm sort of 'eh' about this one. I'd probably wear it because it's better than a mystery concoction like you might get with some companies and I find the scent really refreshing, but I'm a very particular lip gloss user. I like super thick, super high gloss lip glosses and this one is not. But it's true to what they advertise it as: it's not sticky. 

Before
 After

Not really a huge difference. I see a little bit of shimmer, but that's about it. I did try to choose what I felt would be a neutral color but it's because I wanted something slick and glossy and hydrating without much color but unfortunately I didn't get the super slick and glossy I wanted. For those people who aren't lip gloss fiends though, it feels actually a lot like your own lips, just not dry. Some people may be into that even if I'm not. I probably wouldn't get this gloss again, personally. I like my lips, like, Vaseline slick. But... without the petroleum, ideally.


Mascara::
PERFORMANCE:: This stuff is pretty nice. The oddest thing about it is that it's totally clumpless. I finally managed to goop up one lash after putting on a third coat of it. I think it goes on smoother than even a brand new mascara. They claim that because this mascara has no clay, it won't clump, and I'd like to see if, as time goes on, that's true. If it is, that'd be great.

  Before mascara

After mascara

Because mascara goes right next to your eyes, if you choose to wear it, I think the formula of your mascara being as healthy as possible would do nothing but help you. Especially if you inevitably rub it into your eyes during the day, like I always seem to. 

Comparing :: left side- natural  right side- with mascara

The mascara really does as promised. It's very light, subtle, but can be built up, and doesn't get heavy and chunky. There's not a single chunk on my eyelashes after applying even two coats and to even the finest lashes on the bottom corners. They look more like my eyelashes, but darker, than they've ever looked with normal mascara. I think it's definitely a win. Too bad they don't have colored mascaras like blue or purple...


OVERALL OPINION::
I'm pretty pleased with my purchases from Honey Bee Gardens. Apart from the lip gloss, which isn't -bad-, it's just not my ideal, I was really surprised by how well everything worked for being natural. I'm used to natural products being a little less convenient but the deodorant powder and mascara are even better than their traditional counterparts, in my opinion.  

It would be nice if they were organic ingredients, or more organic, but I wouldn't really expect to get a certified organic lip gloss for only 8.99$. Everything I tried was 9.99$ or less. 

As a formerly Mary Kay girl, I am used to getting to try colors before buying. This is my first time buying before trying since that terrible experience with buying a 30$ lipstick online only to find out it was a totally orange-red on me instead of pin-up red. I suppose that with the prices being so reasonable for natural ingredient cosmetics that it wouldn't be the end of the world if it didn't work out.

I will definitely order again and probably try some lipstick and the mineral powder colors.

As a last note, I'd decided to order the nail polish remover last minute and sent an e-mail asking if it could be included in the same order and got a call back in a timely manner from a very friendly rep who handled changing my order over the phone. I think they'd probably be a good company to deal with if you had any special situation.

4.13.2010

Flora's First Birthday

Okay, so if anyone is inspecting the dates of these posts, they'll see that this is my third post today. What can I say? I had a back log to catch up on. I'm sure it's not the end of the world. :3

The first birthday, and my first real party (apart from some crafting events) went off pretty well! There were a few hold ups like running out of milk and waffle production falling behind. Yeah, waffles were a part of the party menu. All in all, I think we managed alright though! Nothing major fell apart and we had plenty of time to relax and talk with our guests. Rather than do traditional party games, we even did a kid craft project! It was a nice memory. I got a ton of pictures.

Here.


Let me prove it to you.






The Party : )


In a  previous post, I showed the paper garlands I made. Nearly all of the decorations were paper based and I hardly spent a dime on them. I'll be reusing every one of them as decorations in Flora's room at home.


What I did spend a little money on was having photo prints made. I ran them through the sewing machine just like I did the paper circles and then had my mom and sis help me choose some to hang.

I had intended to hang maybe two strands along with a birthday message. They got pretty excited about it and the pile kept growing. At least I can take these home and hang some in her room or whatnot. I think sewing pictures together is actually kind of cool and a nice way to hang lots of pictures without needing tons of expensive frames. I like the effect. Granted, not a cluster this big in my home. This kind of baby shrine is a little ridiculous, maybe even for a birthday.

I couldn't resist doing the tissue paper pom-poms. Tutorial can be found here!

Big paper flowers were inspired by Rouche's lookbook and DIY instructions can be found there.


I also cut some butterflies. The flowers are made from butcher paper my dad had and the circles and butterflies are from computer paper.

All of the main party area walls were decorated as such. : ) When you can see a full view of the room, it actually looked pretty neat all together. Of all the pictures I got, you'd think I'd have taken a few more of the decor, but we had to do so much right at the end that I missed the chance before people showed up.

I got help from my mom and gran for the labor of making cake ball pops.

Call myself clever, I figured why not cut some daisy petals from fondant and put them on the bottom and make a daisy? The cutter made some rough edges sometimes but overall I think it made the job pretty easy.

The all-white + bits of yellow made for some bright pops of color. Oh... um, pun not intended.

Next was the cake. I used the All Occasion Yellow Cake recipe from The Cake Bible and proceeded to make cake... after cake... after cake. I used local organic flour, eggs from our own chickens, organic sugar, organic, organic, organic, et cetera. It was an almost 100% organic cake, which was pretty exciting to me.

Nico helped me make the fondant out of marshmallow fluff. Marshmallow fondant is supposed to taste better than regular fondant (It did!) but I chose to use the fluff recipe instead of the recipe where you melt actual marshmallows so that it would be vegetarian. 

It reacted pretty much like regular fondant except I had to add a lot more powdered sugar than I thought it would take. I've never actually used fondant before today! Sure, there's a wrinkle in there, but I'd say not too damn bad! I just tried to think of the fondant as clay and to work gently and aim for perfection as much as possible.

My sister and her husband helped with the being pressed for time-ness by putting on these twisted drapes! My mom piped the edging!

Here I am, hauling ass on the day of the party and putting on the icing drapes. I've also never really decoratively iced a cake before. Drapes are challenging! I tried to think of it like doing henna, which I'm comfortable with, so that gave me some confidence to just go for it. (See my new jade bracelet? Nico brought it back for me from Hong Kong! Yay!)

Good thing I have all that experience making roses, trying to perfect my components for my nature wire-art line, Wear Nature. I've been fiddling around with different methods of paper and clay rose making for a few years now so I was able to bang out some simple fondant roses and leaves in no time.

The cake even had a wild looking cherry on top! My brother made the seven-minute frosting that went on top and my mom constructed the cupcake topper.

Love this cake!!! I wanted something that looked like a cartoon and I think I got that. n...n!


All together with the white decorations and white buffet setting it was super fabulous!! I can't believe this is the first real cake I've made and it didn't fall apart and explode. Talk about ambitious project... make a home-made cake, home-made fondant, totally over-the-top design inspired by Cake Journal, via Cake Wrecks, and to make it organic on top of everything! And with almost zero experience above slathering on a coat of frosting and calling it good. I'm really pleased with how it turned out, imperfections and all. For a first time effort it could have been exceedingly more ugly than it was!

What's a fancy cake without a big mess up, though? It was a good thing I took those pictures before setting the buffet because, when I was worried the cupcake on top was leaning (home made cake is kind of heavy!), my sister and Nico tried to put a skewer in and accidentally punched the top of the cake. Like, literally punched it. The cherry stem broke and it didn't help the cake's posture, but I wasn't bothered. It was just going to be eaten anyway!

It was an all vegetarian menu of spinach dip, lemon tarts, and spinach quiche with my mom's home made crust and eggs from our chickens (so they were nice and fresh and rich tasting!)


We also had cake pops, fresh fruit, and waffles with strawberries and cream. I thought it'd be kind of funny because Flora loves waffles. Unexpected finger food, yays!


Although I know it's not really proper etiquette to ask for no presents on an invitation (one should never assume a guest should bring a present in the first place) these days I don't think many people are that anal about etiquette so I asked directly for no presents, please and hoped for no offense. Flora, I suppose like plenty of other kids her age, isn't super interested in toys anyway. And on top of that, with us just getting on the plane soon, I didn't think there was a lot of point trying to pack more things. I just wanted to enjoy the company of my family, but I did want to give her a little something to mark the occasion without going overboard, so I gave her the doll I made in a previous post.

My mom couldn't resist either and gave her a special teacup. n...n


Flora and Issiti, the dolly.

Nico and I also each picked out a charitable gift for her. I chose for her to donate a month's worth of RUTFs to a malnourished infant and Nico chose for her to donate to the cause of providing wheelchairs, prosthetic limbs, and other handicap and mobility support in third world countries. If you're interested in donating to charitable causes, a great site to start is The Hunger Site, where you can even donate food for free by clicking their donation button.

Flora and her cupcake 




Happy First Birthday, Flora!