long overdue

Yes, it’s been a while since I gave up some décor/crafting goods.  Sorry ‘bout that.  The sweatshop has consumed me of late.

Anywhoo, here are a couple of projects I did a while ago as part of my ‘bringing in the charm’ project for my family/craft room.  The room tends to be dark since it is situated in the back of the house under shade trees. It also had a lot of warm wood tones. In my attempt to work with the warm wood tones that came with the house, I had previously chosen this unfortunate shade of orangey-yellow (when will I learn that me and orange just don’t get along when it comes to décor??)

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A few months after the orangey-yellow mess, I went with a greyish-white wall, and ultra pure white trim.  I LOVE it.  Now the room feels light and airy, and almost scandinavian, thanks to all the Ikea in there. The white background is also the perfect backdrop for all my colorful crafty stuff.  I love color, but apparently not in large blocks.

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Since the family room doubles as my creative space (yes, it IS that big!), I decided to I add interest by hanging my large DIY word/wall art.  I  fashioned this art out of a $5 Ikea cabinet door  (gotta love the as-is room!) and some Amy Butler cardstock paper left over from another project. Lucky for me there were enough panes on this door to spell out the word “C.R.E.A.T.E.”  For this project, I simply used my handy-dandy silhouette cutter to cut out the word in various fonts.  I then attached the letters to the glass using glue-dots. Easy peasy!

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I also made some embroidery hoop wall-art to cover up some ugliness… Now you know my secret shame. My house is not perfect. Sometimes things have to be jerry-rigged to make things work, like this shameful randomly punched hole that connects our modem to Mr. AfroMartha’s home office.

So, behind this:

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Is this.

Just shameful.

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To make this project, I simply stretched some cute fabric that I had on hand over some embroidery hoops and hung them on the wall. Now when Mr. AfroMartha is not working, the cords are neatly tucked into the wall and the art covers the hole. Yeah, that’s what’s supposed to happen…

Apparently you can now make Oatmeal in a Coffee Maker

My kids LOVE oatmeal so I faithfully get up every morning and cook them rolled oats for breakfast.  The Mister, no matter how detailed my instructions, botches it every time. He even botches the little oatmeal packets! Seriously, who can mess that up? If I have to leave before breakfast, I measure everything out before I leave, (yeah, I have control issues).

Here’s my usual recipe:

1 1/2 Cups rolled oats
2 1/2 Cups water
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 C + 2Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 Cup Milk
pat of Butter for each bowl.

Combine first three ingredients in a pot. Cover the pot and cook over very low heat, until cooked (approximately 10mins) Do not stir while cooking.
When oatmeal is cooked add the brown sugar, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, and milk and stir together. Scoop into bowls and top with pats of butter.
Makes 3 large servings or 4 smaller ones. 

If cooking it from scratch is not your style, LifeHacker has this totally cool food hack. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m totally going to! Well, if The Mister will let me put Oatmeal in his precious coffeemaker, that is.

Head over there to get this fun little tute!

Image Courtesy of LifeHacker

Make Oatmeal in a Coffee Maker

Blessed Update/Budget décor for the budget-less

Okay, remember a few days ago when I introduced you to my newly charming living room? Well, it’s even better after a few more additions! It is STILL a work in progress, as there are a few more projects planned, but here it is as it stands:

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Like I said, there are a few more projects planned. Most pressing would be that green couch, which The Mister affectionately refers to as The Green Monster, or the Ugly Green Couch.  It was a craigslist freebie (way back when craigslist was good). I like the style of the couch (I think it’s called Mid-Century Modern) but it could use some new upholstery. I also love the color and it fits well into the current color scheme, so I think I’d do green again. I’m just waiting for the weather to warm up so I can tackle it. 

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How about that beautiful red rug! I instantly fell in love when I saw this at Pier 1. I love it even more because it cost me $9.00! Yes, that’s right $9.00! My $9.00 rug!!!  Okay, here’s the math breakdown:  The rug was originally priced at $79.99, but was on clearance for $39.98. I had a coupon for 20% a regular priced item (yes, clearance was considered regular price!). I also had the $25 gift card from my fabulous sis-in-law, which meant I only came out of pocket $9!  How awesome is that?

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Later the same day I went to my favorite haunt, the Goodwill Outlet. If you haven’t yet, read the entry I did on my old blog here. There I picked up this pair of shelves in the above pictures. They were just the perfect color for the room and I lucked out since there were two of them. I also picked up 4 large picture frames used as part of the stairwell o’ pictures. (That’s still a work in progress, hence no up-close pictures.) Oh, and the 2 yards of upholstery fabric which I used on this bench below:

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Did I mention I spent a grand total of $12.90! Again, that’s 2 nice wall shelves, 2 yards of upholstery fabrics, 4 large picture frames (complete with glass and backing) for a total of $12.90. It doesn’t get better than that.

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This small side table actually has a short story behind it. In its first life it was  desk. Yup, a desk. I purchased it for $40 from the thrift store. It was originally in my daughter’s bedroom. Her room in our current home is too small to accommodate it, so I decided to bring it downstairs and use it as my desk. During the process of moving I broke 2 of its very delicate legs! It broke in such a way that it didn’t look salvageable, until my daughter suggested the I cut off the desk side (which is the side where the legs broke.) Genius that girl. I took my jigsaw to it (on the right side) and the result is what you see above. I did a little retouch on it (more on that in the future) and it looks amazing, don’t you think?

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This lamp thingy? Actually a diy embellishment of Ikea’s new Lobbo lampshade. Here’s the basic gist of what I did (once again, more on that in a future post). I glued (what felt like) a million 1inch circles of natural colored tissue paper onto the shade. Can you see where my kids ‘helped?’ Who am I to crush their creativity and sense of adventure with my pursuit of perfection? The lamp shade: $5, Tissue paper: already on hand (but $2 if purchased.) The result? Priceless. I plan on doing another one  *ahem* without the kids’ help.

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Above is a close up of my wall art. A friend of the The Mister (upon seeing it for the first time) said ‘Oh cool, you have the Olympic rings on your wall!’, followed by, ‘No, wait, it’s Google’s logo!’ Eh.  I tried.  The wall words I cut from my little Silhouette Machine using adhesive vinyl I purchased a while back from a sign shop for about $3. Since this area doubles as my creative space, I figured the words ‘dream, create, inspire’ made sense there.

 

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Here is a close-up of the roses in the pictures above. Just gorgeous! I picked them up from our local farmer’s market the morning of my birthday party. I wish flowers didn’t have to wilt and die. Anyone have good tips for preserving them?

With everything I do, I aim for the biggest bang I can get for my buck, since my buck is getting less and less mileage these days. I think even if I was rich, I’d still do the same thing because it is so fun stretching the limits of my creativity to see what I can come up with. I hope that you do the same. Got any good tips? Leave ‘em below!

Calling all do-it-yourselfers – Giveaway time

I looked up and saw that it’s way past time to do a giveaway, and just in time, I found the perfect gift.  I subscribe to Do-It-Yourself™ Magazine.  If you are unfamiliar, it is a magazine for do-it-yourself home decor and home project enthusiasts. It’s one of my favorite magazines… so many great ideas! My current subscription is running out (oh no!) but there’s good news. I will give away a free subscription to one AfroMartha reader, along with my renewal.  Here are the rules:

1.) Leave a comment BELOW in the comments box about why you deserve this magazine subscription. Only the comments in the comments box will be entered, not comments anywhere else like facebook or twitter.

2.) Leave your comment between now and Tuesday October 12th at 6pm.

3.) The winner will be selected by a randomizer.

4.) The winner will be announced on Wednesday October 13th at 9am.

Good luck!

It happens every once in a while

Yes, I do mess up. I. Make. Mistakes. Occasionally. I know, I know, I’m supposed to be the “master of all I attempt” and all, but I do occasionally have a bad one.

Take for instance this hideously ugly batch of soap I made. The soap, while absolutely horrendous to look at, still functions as it should. It foams up nice, cleans well, and is mild to the skin.

I can think of a few reasons why my batch went awry. The first thing I thought was that I must be losing my touch.  I no longer make soap to sell, but I do still make it for my family to use. I usually make a big batch so it lasts for a while. Soapmaking is a science as well as an art. If you can follow a few basic directions, do some basic math you will do fine.  So no, it couldn’t be that I lost my touch!  Here is the order of events on that fateful day:

1. Measured and melted my oils:

2. Measured, mixed and cooled my lye water

3. Prepped my molds. Nothing much to do there since I use silicone molds which are the best invention since sliced bread.

4. Mixed the oils and lye when the proper temperature was reached (around 110 deg F)

5. Waited for the beloved ‘trace’, then scented my batch with ‘Bedtime Bath’ Fragrance Oil. So far so good.

6. Poured my soap into the prepped molds and popped them into the oven at 250 deg F.

7. (This is where things go screwy) I left home for about two hours and come back to find this:

WTH???  My soap rose like muffins and spilled over the sides! This. Was Not. Supposed. To. Happen.

8.  After stuffing as much as I could back into the molds with a spatula, this is what I end up with:  Bleccccchhhhhh!  Ugly Soap!!!  In addition to being ugly, my soap seems a little more oily than it should be. It still cleans, but I’m not happy about the extra oil.

Now, here are my hypotheses as to what went wrong. The problem could be any one or combination of these.

1.  My lye may be faulty. I’ve had this lye for years and some of the crystals have banded together to form bigger clumps, making them hard to dissolve sometimes.  The lye also seems to leave a film on the water, which is not supposed to happen. I don’t think lye goes bad but it’s possible.

2. My scale may be faulty.  It may not be weighing right. I normally leave 4% extra fat as a buffer to keep the soap very mild. I may actually be leaving more than 4% if my scale is off.

3. The oven oven temp may have been too high for this batch, causing the soap to get too hot and rise out of the pan. This might have also caused some of the oils to separate from the lye causing the extra oiliness. This I strongly suspect is the biggest culprit. I will try it again at 150 deg F.

Whatever the reason we are now bathing with some sweet smelling, very mild, very ugly soap here at the AfroMartha household.

I hope to have pictures of pretty soap soon!

Fabric Printing

I have been practicing printing on fabric using screenprinting, block printing, stamping, and stenciling.  I am itching to get some products out there onto my (currently empty) Etsy store.  For now I will content myself with practicing honing my craft. (Note: I don’t have pictures of my block prints here)

These prints I did on repurposed fabrics. I am really fascinated with the idea of printing on repurposed/recycled fabrics, which are  abundant. I detest waste. I feel like objects have more than one life in them and I try to use what had been previously cast aside as being no longer worthy. In the following prints I’ve used fabrics that would otherwise be destined for the landfill.  It was a great feeling to know that I got a little more use out of them.

The picture above shows my attempt at printing ‘ribbons’.  I printed these using block stamps of my own designs that I cut by hand out of self-adhesive craft foam, I then mount the shape onto a piece of clear acrylic.  (Side note: The acrylic blocks are sold in craft stores with the rubber stamping materials.  Buy those if you like paying a lot of money for your things.  I prefer to go the the glass/plexiglass section of home depot or lowes, as asking them to sell me their discards.  I got a bunch for about $2, which I cut down to size using the plexiglass knife.) These ribbons were printed onto a deconstructed twin fitted sheet I was kind of tired of. I ripped it into strips about 2 inches wide.

The image above shows a design I drew and cut out onto plain ol’ contact paper.  I used the contact paper as my stencil by sticking it onto the screen. I do this method for short run printing or when I’m just itching to print and don’t want to burn a screen. The fabric comes from a cut up pair of linen pants that Mr. AfroMartha didn’t want anymore.

I love doing repeat/allover patterns just as much as single placement patterns but they can be tricky when using the the screen printing method!  The pattern above is my first attempt at a repeat.  I had a hard time lining up  my design on the fabric. I am going back to the drawing board to master registration before I burn any more screens.  The fabric comes from an ikea curtain I purchased from the thrift store.  The fabric is really nice and sturdy, and I wish I’d gotten both panels instead of one.

The ribbons again… The pink and red ribbon was hand-stamped.  The fabric was some random piece of fabric I had around and decided to dye to try out the packet of iDye. The dye took pretty well, and I thought it was a nice backdrop for the stamping.  My daughter begged me to dye her white sundress pink, which I did along with this fabric. It looks smashing and she loves the dress even more now, but I can’t wait to add some designs to the bottom of it.  Of course I will post once it’s completed. Stay tuned…


Liquid Soap Pictorial

Here are my steps, documented in pictures. This should in no way be taken as a tutorial. If you need some info on where to get a bonafide tutorial, send me a comment and I’ll point you in the right direction. There are so many tutorials out there, but most don’t have step-by-step pictures.