Saturday, June 2, 2012

DIY Topsy Tail Styling Tool Tutorial

I've been growing my hair out for almost a year and it's starting to get long enough to actually try to style now.

One of the first things I wanted was a styling tool called a Topsy Tail or a Style Weaver. This is a simple tool that can help make a variety of hair styles. I looked at a few of the local stores that would carry something like that and I couldn't find one.

YouTube had a few videos showing how people used a metal hangar and tape to create theirs and I did try that. It worked alright but it was stiff and hard to use. My second attempt was made with some heavy gauge trimmer line and masking tape and it worked a little better than the original but I still had to deal with the sticky tape and my hair is too thin and fine for me to risk much of it breaking off.

My third attempt was with a much thinner gauge trimmer line and a piece of heat shrink tubing for a handle. This created a smooth handle and a flexible tool that worked perfectly for my hair. This method is a bit more expensive than the coat hanger method but I am MUCH more satisfied with the result and I still only used materials that I already had on hand.

I made a video showing the process in more detail (below) but it is pretty simple:


  1. Scissors.
  2. Heat source (I used a candle but you can use a heat gun or something similar).
  3. Trimmer Line.
  4. Heat Shrink Tubing. 
  1. Cut a piece of trimmer line approximately 12" long.
  2. Select a piece of heat shrink tubing large enough to fit both ends of the piece of trimmer line snugly. 
  3. Insert the two ends of the trimmer line into the heat shrink tubing making sure to stagger the ends slightly so that you have a finer point on the end of the tool for styling. 
  4. Gently heat the heat shrink tubing by passing it over the flame so that it shrinks down and holds both ends of the trimmer line. 
  5. Enjoy your finished piece!


Monday, May 21, 2012


It's been a little stretch since my last post and sadly, this will just be a space filler to thank those of you who keep checking back.

My awesome husband got me this new camera after the one I was using before jumped off of my kitchen island...
(Photo from Amazon listing linked above)

I've got two or three tutorials filmed already and I'm working on editing them. I'm still getting used to the new software and file formats of these videos but I hope to have at least one of them up this week.

If you have any tips regarding my new camera or editing advice, please let me know. Also, if there is something you've been interested in learning I'll be happy to show you what I know about it and if it's something I haven't done before, we'll learn together!

Thanks so much for looking! Check back soon!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Random Tips and Tricks # 2

The Amazing Lemon!

Photo from:
There are so many uses for lemons that I would like to share but for now we'll focus on one you might not have heard about: effortlessly cleaning your microwave.

Whenever I use lemon zest or lemon juice in a recipe, I always end up with a peel or a few small slices left over. I usually toss them in my sink to send them down the garbage disposal after I've done the dishes for that day but I try to squeeze one more use out of it first.

I use my lemon peel to clean the microwave. This method is so easy you can set it up during a commercial break, let it run, and then finish during the next commercial! How's that for a quick clean up?

All you need is a small microwave safe bowl, some water, your lemon, and a few paper towels or a clean rag.

  • Squeeze as much juice as you can out of the lemon into the microwave safe bowl.
  • Add the peel and 1/3rd to 1/2 a cup of plain water. 
  • Microwave on high for about 3 minutes. (the first time you do this, please watch to make sure it doesn't burn as microwaves all heat differently!)
  • Watch the next segment of your TV show or finish whatever awesome thing you're working on while the liquid bubbles and boils filling your microwave with lemony steam.
  • After a few minutes of resting, simply wipe out your microwave. The steam will have done all the hard work for you! 
  • Carefully dump the lemon/liquid in your sink to send down the disposal later. 
Three uses out of one humble lemon! I will share more as we go along but in the mean time, I would love you to comment with your favorite uses for this versatile fruit.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Cakes Past

When I first moved to Louisiana a few years ago, I wanted to do something that would allow me to get to know a few people and try to get some formal training for a craft that I knew very little about.

I decided to try my hand at cake decorating. I had been obsessed with the different cake decorating competition shows and I thought that it looked like a lot of fun. I took the first two Wilton courses and watched a number of tutorials online and I ended up making a few cakes that I was pretty pleased with.

A few of the cakes below were made a long as 6 years ago and my most recent was the Lady Bug cake that I made for a coworkers birthday.

Let me know what you think! Please let me know if you would like more information on any of the cakes below. I currently have my tutorial up for the Mommy's Belly baby shower cake below.







Thursday, April 26, 2012

3-minute prep Italian-style bread from your bread machine.

I had been wanting a bread maker for quite some time but couldn't bring myself to purchase one because I felt like I wouldn't use it frequently enough to justify the cost. About 3 years ago I was lucky enough to receive a gently used bread maker from a coworker who swore he never had luck with it. He told me that he was confident I could make great things with it. I immediately set out to prove him right.

I had read through many recipes and they all varied so much that I thought that it would be best to start simple to gauge my machines abilities and decided on a pre-prepared bread mix in a box to rule out any errors I might make with measurements. I have read in a lot of reviews that adding 1/4c of powdered milk will give your machine made bread a smoother texture and improve the overall flavor. I agree and always add it in to all of my bread recipes now.

My prep time was about 3 minutes from box to baking:
  • I added a cup of warm water to my bread machine pan per instructions on the mix box.
  • I added 1/4 c of powdered milk.
  • I emptied the contents of the dough ingredients pouch on top of that (most bread machine instructions have you add your wet ingredients first and then the flour and other inclusions).

But I couldn't stop there! We were having an Italian themed meal that night and I wanted something that could accompany the dinner so I added about a teaspoon each of the following dried seasonings and then added the yeast packet:
  • Onion powder
  • Garlic powder
  • Basil
  • Rosemary
  • Oregano
  • Crushed Red Pepper (increase or decrease to taste)

I placed my bread pan into the machine and started it on a 2 lb loaf with a light crust setting. As the machine started to mix the dough I realized the mixture appeared slightly dry and wasn't forming a ball.
I drizzled in a little bit of water until the dough formed into a ball. After that I closed the lid and walked away. The machine whirred and kneaded and then spent 2 hours filling my kitchen with the most amazing smell.


When the machine beeped to let me know the bread was ready I could barely contain my excitement. The top was perfectly domed and lightly browned. I tipped the loaf onto my oven rack to cool (but couldn't wait the entire recommended cooling time!) and sliced into it to reveal an herb speckled, creamy textured bread.  I was amazed. The flavor was strong enough not to overlook but mild enough not to overpower the meal.


The next morning I took what little remained of the loaf to work for my coworker to try. He was not easily convinced that I had used the same bread machine that he had given me.

With the success of my test bread I have gone on to experiment with other recipes from various websites and bread machine cookbooks. It is a wonderful medium that lends itself to a variety of uses above and beyond slicing and eating. This particular recipe makes amazing croutons and bread crumbs and tastes great when cubed warm from the machine and dipped in olive oil for snacking. A grilled cheese or turkey sandwich made with this bread may ruin you for life. Try it out for yourself and share your leftover (hah!) ideas for this recipe. Thanks!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Random Tips and Tricks 0.1

I have spent a lot of time throughout my life reading and talking to friends and family about random tips and tricks for things like gardening, cleaning, & minor repairs. I have built (and continue to build) a wealth of random information. I have spent so much time in fact, that I now get phone calls from friends (even those I haven't spoken to in weeks!) asking me about how to fix one thing or do another. When they stump me, I will readily admit it and then run to research for myself. I have even had complete strangers come up to me in stores and ask for my thoughts. Having an answer they like makes me happy. I guess that's why I do it.

This leads me to my new Random Tips and Tricks posts where I will share (in no particular order and with no clear plan!) some of the helpful bits and pieces of information that I have acquired along the way to hopefully help you have that "Ahh, so that's how to do it!" moment that makes me grin. I will say that I will try to avoid posting anything that I have not personally done/used so that I can give you an honestly helpful tip and avoid just re-printing some list I found in a book or website. All of the traditional “do it at your own risk” warnings will apply but I will try to provide any specific cautions I have found necessary, and, when pertinent, also provide a summary of any related expenses which, for me, can generally be summed up as cheaper=better.

So, without further adieu...

Random Tips and Tricks #1  - Who drew on my shirt?

You don't pay attention to where your wrists are when you're typing and look down to find an ink spot growing on your sleeve. I have worked in an office environment for a few years and this is the most common thing that catches my eye during meetings. Even the CEO has fallen victim to this sneaky writing implement. Don't stress, the fix is so simple and only takes a few minutes. When you purchase materials like these from the dollar store, your expenses are minimal, if you don’t already have the items on hand. We'll call this a $3 garment fix!

Materials :
1) Hair Spray or Rubbing (Isopropyl) Alcohol (make sure there isn't any glitter or coloring in the formula)
2) Bar soap (something like Ivory works great, no dyes or inclusions)
3) Clean Soft-bristled toothbrush

Saturate the ink spot and the toothbrush with the hairspray/alcohol. Scrub the surface of the bar soap with the hairspray/alcohol-wet toothbrush to generate a little bit of lather. Gently brush the ink stain with the toothbrush. Add more hairspray or bar soap if necessary. Once you are satisfied with the removal, send your garment through the wash on a cool cycle. Avoid hot water which has a tendency to set stains making them harder to remove later.

Why does it work? The hairspray/alcohol acts as a solvent. It breaks up the ink. The soap helps to lower the surface tension of the liquid and, I personally believe, it helps to keep the ink from re-binding to the fabric. Please note that, as with all forms of spot removal, it is best to test the fabric in a hidden spot so that your fix doesn't end up doing more harm than good.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Throwback to Instructables

I am secretly a gamer chick.

Back in 2008 I was obsessed with a big fan of playing Halo on Xbox and played way too much very often with a group of friends. We used the in-game chat to talk about our strategy (yes, there is a strategy to winning a Halo match) and to just chat in general about things going on with work, school, and friends.

The one thing I could not stand was the quality of the average Xbox headsets that you get at the stores at that time and I wasn't going to spend the money to get one of the expensive Turtle Beach ones when I already had a pretty costly PC headset (for other gamer-chick vices) that could do the same thing. Luckily I am married to someone who is pretty handy with electronics and so, our adapter was born!

Granted, it was a pretty awkward piece but it did the job. I like to think the idea originated with us since we  built it because we couldn't find any for sale anywhere. I originally posted this on the Instructables site in 2008 and since then, we have seen mass produced models of the connectors become available including  a product through a company called The Headset Buddy who started their website in 2009. Purchasing one is a good option for those of you who might not be so inclined as to solder one for yourself. I invite you to read through the comments left by Instructables users during the last 4 years for more tips and information.

Step 1: Gather Tools

First, you'll want to make sure that you have a few handy items to complete this project. Everything we're using can be picked up at your local Radio Shack or similar Electronics parts store. You'll need: solder, a soldering iron, wire cutters, a blade of some sort, and wire strippers (if you're not able to use a blade).

Note: you'll also need a very small piece of wire you can solder on as a bridge. But more on that in a later step.

You're also going to want a safe place to solder and you may like to use gloves if you're skin is sensitive to cutting or burning...

Step 2: Go Shopping!

Unless you have these just laying around, and believe me, I know some people who do, you're going to want to purchase the items listed below. As I said in the beginning, as long as you have all the materials listed in step 1, these parts cost less than $20.

You'll need:
(1) 1/8" to 3/32" Adapter
(1) 4" Stereo Headphone Cable Y-Adapter
(1) 2 pk Solder-Type Stereo In-Line 1/8" Phone Jack

Step 3: Preparation of the Y-Adapter

Cut the existing ends off only the top two arms of the "y" adapter. You want to get as close as possible to the jack to leave yourself plenty of wire to work with. Remember, only cut off the top two arms of the adapter, leave the bottom piece intact.

Step 4: Start Stripping!

1) Very carefully score about 1/2" of the black insulation off the arms of the newly cut "y" adapter.

2) Using your wire stripper or some pliers, Pull off the 1/2" of black insulation you just scored to expose a bundle of foil wrapped wires.

3) Using your Xacto blade, slit open the foil shielding to expose the Black (headset), Metal (ground), and Red (microphone) wires.

4) You'll see that we've also slipped the plastic housing from the 1/8" phone jack over the exposed wires so after we solder we can screw it all together.

Step 5: Start choosing Sides.

Determine which side, left or right you want to be your speaker. Don't stress too much about this as you can always flip it over and left is right and right is left!

1) On side A, strip half of the exposed Red wire.

2) On side B, strip half of the exposed Black wire.

3) {here's the tricky part} On BOTH sides, thread the ground (the silver metal wires exposed w/o stripping) through the small hole at the base of the metal jack and curl it around the base.

4) On side A, connect the Red wire to one of the terminals. You DO NOT want this to touch both terminals.

5) On side B, connect the Black wire to one of the terminals. Here, we'll be adding a bridge to connect the two terminals. A bridge can be any small piece of wire you have laying around. You only want the bridge to connect the terminals, not touch the rest of the jack. (see next step)

Step 6: Ready, Set, SOLDER!

1) On Side A (red), solder your ground wire from the back where it was threaded through, all the way around.

2) On Side A (red), solder the point where the red wire connects to the terminal and snip off the remaining black wire ensuring that none of the black wire will come in contact with any of the other wires or solder.

3) On Side B (black), solder your ground wire from the back where it was threaded through all the way around.

4) On Side B (black), solder the point where the black wire connects to the terminal and snip off the remaining red wire ensuring that none of the red wire will come in contact with any of the other wires or solder.

5) On Side B (black), create a bridge out of a small piece of wire and connect both terminals together. Note, this is only done on the BLACK side. This is going to cause you to have pseudo Stereo sound as you're really diverting the mono signal to go through both sides of your head phones.

Step 7: Finish

With both sides soldered as instructed, you should be able to slide up the plastic housing and screw the jack into it.

You may want to mark which side is Headphones (black) and which side is Microphone (red) so it will be easy to hook up. Attach the 1/8" to 3/32" adapter to the bottom of the newly modified "y" adapter and plug into your controller.

If you're having trouble with interference, try hot-gluing around your solder work to isolate the connections.

You can also use this set-up to connect your gaming headset with most cell phones too as they take the same jack.

Millefiori Clay on Papier-mâché

At a previous job, I was inspired to enter a piece into a company wide art competition that would include participants from around the world. I had to incorporate the 5 business values of the company into a piece that demonstrated something that I was passionate about. I chose to create a papier-mâché hot air balloon ornament that would be colored with the symbols that represented the values. My piece won the local competition, the regional competition, and made it into global semifinals.

I had not seen this type of project done before and so I wanted to share my idea and my processes with you!

Here's the final project:

I made the  papier-mâché form with a water balloon. The basket base was done over a small balloon over a plastic form. The polymer clay canes were made in the shape of my employers core values. For some tutorials on how to work with polymer clay watch a few videos on youtube. I’ve been working with clay for years but this is the first time I’ve made canes.

The following videos show the steps of the process in a little more detail:

Sculpture Part 1 - Creating a Polymer Clay Cane

Sculpture Part 2 - Rolling out the Polymer Clay Cane

Sculpture Part 3 - Slicing Polymer Clay Canes

Sculpture Part 4 - Creating a  Papier-mâché  Form

Sculpture Part 5- Tiling the Balloon Form with Polymer Clay Cane Slices

Comment below if you have any questions about the materials used, techniques, and results. I’m glad to answer any questions regarding my project but I’m not an expert and can only tell you about my research and personal experiences.
Enjoy and be inspired! I’d love to see your projects too!

Blue Wave Water Marble Nail Art

Water Marble nail art caught my attention while cruising through Youtube the other day. I was mesmerized by how the colors flowed over the surface of the water & spread out so thin.

Pushing my rational mind aside as it was trying to re-educate me on the science of it all, (like in paper marbling the dye, in this case the nail polish, sits on top of the water and after a design is created, an object is passed through the dye and into the water where the design stays on the object.) I instead gave into the little girl voice inside screaming "Ooo Pretty!" and decided I had to try it. It seemed like a quick way to get some dramatic results.

I hit up my local dollar store to track down some cheap nail polish to experiment with. After a little bit of trial and error and another hour or so of watching tutorials, here are the steps for what I did (please note, I took pictures through the whole process so I'm not always showing the same nail in the pictures):

1 ) Pick the colors you want to use for your design. For this design, I decided on with a medium blue and white.

2 ) Apply a base coat of clear polish to your nail. This keeps any colors from staining your nails and will give the next layer something to stick to.

3 ) Using 2 pieces of tape I masked off my finger so that the rest of the polish wouldn't coat it when I applied the marbling to my nail. Put one small piece of tape across the base of your cuticle and around your finger and take a longer piece and wrap it in a  "U"  shape around the tip of your finger and both sides of your nail so that it sticks to the first piece.

4 ) I didn't want my nail to show through into the design so I also applied one thin coat of the same white polish I was using for my design over the clear base coat.

5 ) You need a small cup of room temperature filtered water (I used distilled), your polishes, a long needle or orange stick, some paper towel, and some cotton swabs.

6 ) I filled my 3oz plastic cup almost to the top with the distilled water. Begin building your bulls eye pattern one drop at a time but work quickly. If your drops aren't spreading, gently tap the sides of the cup. This will help distribute the polish.

7 ) Begin your design by anchoring one of the sides of the design to the side of the cup by dragging the needle through and wiping it on the inside edge of the cup.

8 ) Continue dragging the needle through the design, sometimes from the center out, sometimes from the outside edge towards the center, draw circles, or whatever makes you happy, until you get a pattern that you like.

9 ) When you're ready, aim your nail so it will touch down directly onto the part of the pattern that you want and push your finger straight down through the pattern and into the water making sure you don't touch the edge of the cup or lift your finger out of the water.

10 ) Hold your finger in the water and blow across the top of the remaining polish, when it dries (about 4-8 seconds) use a cotton swab to wipe the polish off of the top of the water. This makes it safe for you to lift your finger without ruining the design.

11 ) Lift your nail out of the water and behold your success! Or utter failure, but hey, that's what practice is for.

12 ) Remove the tape and use a cotton swap dipped in acetone or nail polish remover to clean up the polish around the nail.

13 ) Finish with a clear coat to seal and protect.

14 ) Repeat 9 more times and you're done with your manicure!

I really enjoyed playing with this method. Watch a few tutorials, haul out your massive nail polish collection and try it for yourself! 

Make sure and share your experiences, I'd love to hear about them!