Posted in Holidays, Life, Personal Challenge

Personal Challenge: Cutting Glass Bottles, December 7, 2013

20131207_223835The last few days have been extremely challenging but just when I was starting to fall into a deep depression, a box of happiness arrived with a smile (Amazon) and wound up taking my mind off of my troubles.

For months, I have been curious about cutting glass bottles so you could turn them into cups.  It first entered my mind when I saw a six-pack of Monty Python’s Holy Grail Ale.  I thought if I could turn them into glasses, it would make a great gift for my college roommate and my brother.  There was a popular post circulating around Pinterest at the time, stating that you could cut a glass bottle with string and nail polish remover.  You just had to soak the string in nail polish remover, tie it tightly on the bottle where you want to cut and light it on fire.  You are supposed to turn the bottle so the flame evenly spreads around the bottle then you dunk it in a pot of ice-cold water.  Then voila, it magically and perfectly cuts the bottle, you sand the rim down and now you have a glass.

So I of course had to try this.  I tried it several times, using different techniques and failing each time.  So I took to the Internet for answers and found out that they sell kits that you can use to cut the bottles.  I found two on Amazon that sounded appealing and both offered videos to show exactly how they cut the glass.  One was called Generation Green Bottle Cutter.  This kit was cheaper in price and the woman in the video made it look so easy so I put it on my wishlist.

Then there was Ephrem’s Original Bottle Cutter.  This was higher in price but made in the USA (something that is important to me) and it looked like it was easier to use.  So I put the item in my cart and that is where it sat for months until I decided that this year I was going to make all Christmas gifts (my financial situation being the biggest factor for such a decision).

So I finally bought it (it was on sale) and it arrived today.  So while I was stuck in my apartment because of all the chaos that still gets me upset when I think about it, I decided I would play with my new toy to lift my spirits.  I skimmed the directions, pulled out all the pieces and dug out the bottles that I had planned on turning into glasses months ago.  Now the fun would begin.

I made the necessary adjustments so that the cutter would line up with the exact spot where I wanted my cut on the Monty Python bottle.  I pressed down while spinning the bottle, per the directions, so I would get the scoring mark.  (Later on I would learn you need to apply more pressure).  Then I took out the candle provided, lit it, and spun the bottle over the candle, heating the scored area.  Next step, I took the bottle away from the candle and ran an ice-cube along the score mark.  I got all giddy when I heard the little cracks.  But it wasn’t enough to split the bottle so I had to repeat the previous steps, candle then ice, candle then ice.  I had to do it several time before I heard the louder clicking noises and the bottle suddenly became two pieces.

Even though there was a big divot in the lower part of the bottle, I was beyond proud of myself.  I was so proud that I immediately called my parents so they too could revel in their 35-year-old daughter’s ability to cut a beer bottle in half.

Once the celebrations concluded, I decided to cut another bottle.  But this time, there was still a divot, the cut wasn’t coming out evenly and there were cracks in the bottle.  So this is when I went back and decided to really read the directions to see what I was doing wrong (I always have to do things the hard way first).  I discovered I wasn’t putting enough pressure on the bottle when I was scoring it and according to the directions, you are supposed to complete 3-4 revolutions with the bottle over the candle before you apply the ice.

So I tried it again, this time following the directions exactly.  This time it was a perfect cut.  So I did it again.  Perfect cut.  I kept going until I had cut up every beer or pop bottle in my house.  I was having so much fun and I would highly recommend this activity to others who find enjoyment in crafting.  Of course, I am nowhere near done with my glass cutting endeavour.  I still have to try a wine bottle and figure out the sanding/polish steps.  And of course I have to figure out what I want to do with all of these cut up bottles.  They could be made into cups, candle holders, lamps…oh, the possibilities.  I get excited just thinking about all the things that I am going to create thanks to my new, wonderful toy.

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Posted in Holidays, Life, Personal Challenge

Personal Challenge: Making Lotion, December 4, 2013

IMG_20131204_204038OK, since I enjoyed making hand and body scrub, it seemed that the next thing to try would be lotion.  I searched online and found a recipe on the Wellness Mama website.  It seemed like an easy recipe and I had all of the ingredients except the beeswax.

I was excited to try and make my very own lotion concoction so I did a quick search on where to find beeswax in the area.  In hindsight, I should have taken my time and looked at what the Wellness Mama had suggested on her site.  I would have had an idea of what to look for but I am not the kind of person who does things the easy way.  For some reason, I seemed to be cursed to always learn things the hard way but I always wind up with good stories so I guess it balances out.

Anyways, I ran up to Michael’s and bought the brick of beeswax in their candle making section.  That was the only beeswax I could find.  It was pricey but I figured I could get a lot of lotion out of a pound of beeswax. (Again, I should have listened to my gut instinct to continue shopping elsewhere and find a lower price and better product.  If only I could go back in time and smack myself).

I got home and couldn’t wait to start making the lotion.  I had everything measured out, per the Wellness Mama directions, except the beeswax.  Her recipe called for a 1/4 cup of beeswax.  I had this 1 pound brick.  So logic stepped in…1 cup is 8 ounces so a 1/4 cup would be two ounces.  There are 16 ounces in a pound, so I just need to divide it into 8 equal pieces and use one piece.  But I was working with solids here, not liquids.  And boy was it solid.  I could not get a knife through the beeswax.  I ran it under hot water to soften it up.  It took a while but I finally cut off my 2 ounce piece.  (I do have a food scale packed up somewhere…in my storage space).

So I made up my own version of a double boiler with an old pickle jar in another pan with boiling water.  I let all the ingredients melt together, per the instructions.  The beeswax took the longest to melt but the rest smelled really good.  I had added in some honey, vanilla, sweet almond oil along with the coconut oil and olive oil needed in the recipe.  I also put in Vitamin E oil (as a natural preservative).

I cleaned up a half pint mason jar and poured the mixture into the jar and let it cool.  After about 20 minutes or so, I went to check on it and was surprised at how hard it was on the top.  I basically made a candle, not a lotion.  I attempted to mix it up but I think in the end, there was too much beeswax.  It was a little like the thick night treat that goes with the Mary Kay Satin Hands but too waxy.

No big deal, I just figured I would try again.  This time I used half the amount of wax and put in a little more coconut oil.  I let it sit and when I went to check on it, there was stick a thick waxy layer on top.  I mixed it up as best as I could but again, it was not what I had hoped for.  It wound up with the texture of a body butter but on the plus side, it did what it was supposed to do, it moisturized my skin.  It didn’t take very much to the job but it did do the job nonetheless.

So in the end, I guess I just wound up making body butter but without the actual butter ingredients.  Maybe I did something wrong or maybe this is what it was supposed to be, I don’t know.  Overall, trying to make “lotion” was a bit of a pain in the dupa so I think, for now, I am just going to stick with making scrubs.

Posted in Holidays, Life, Personal Challenge

Personal Challenge: Making Hand Scrub, December 3, 2013

2013-12-04 00.09.13Even though I haven’t been very good on keeping up with posting, I am still going strong with my personal challenge to try something new every day.

Sometimes I just try a new recipe or order something new at a restaurant that I frequent but other times, I search Pinterest for new things to try.

Since money is tight, I decided that I would make the majority of my Christmas gifts for friends and family.  I used to buy the Mary Kay Satin Hands sets for my teacher friends and for my Mom.  On Pinterest, I found a recipe where you combine Dawn dish soap with sugar to make your own version of Satin Hands exfoliating hand scrub.

I wanted to go a step a further and make it all natural, using essential oils.  So I did a search on Pinterest and on the Internet looking for hand scrub and body scrubs recipes.  Aside from a few comment battles on adding preservatives or anti-microbial components, I discovered that most contain the same core ingredients: sugar, salt and oils.

So I decided to play around.  I used sugar, sea salt, and olive oil as my base.  Then I started to add in some additional ingredients like vitamin E oil, sweet almond oil, and honey.  It made for a nice, thick hand or body scrub.

Now, don’t do what I did next–just stop with the above ingredients if you want to do this at home.  I wanted to make it so it could go through a hand soap pump.  Then I thought that perhaps it did need soap added to make it more like the Satin Hands.  So I added Dawn soap with Oil of Olay.  No matter what I tried, it wouldn’t pump through the dispenser and the Dawn soap took away from my original goal to make it all natural.  It wound up being more of a Dawn soap concoction so I guess this is what you would call an experiment fail.

So I went back to my original ingredients, all natural, and made up a new batch of hand/body scrub.  Since I have super sensitive skin, I decided I would be my own guinea pig.  If I had any bad reactions, then I would just scrap the whole idea and order from Mary Kay.  So today, I used it as a body scrub and no bad reactions.  Actually, my skin is super soft.  So sorry Mary Kay but it looks like I am making my own gifts this year!

Posted in Life, Personal Challenge, Writing

Time to Catch Up

OK, so I am behind on my postings.  I just realized that I have lots of blog entries that I started but never finished.  Most are reviews of places I have visited or things I have tried while living up to my personal challenge to try something new every day.  Many of the entries are finished, they are just missing pictures or some just have pictures and are awaiting my witty words of review.  So I am making a new goal for myself…I need to finish what I started!

Posted in Life, Personal Challenge, Relationships

Single’s Awareness Day: Personal Challenge, 2-14-13

Today is known as Single’s Awareness Day or what I like to call “Make Single People Feel Like Crap” Day.  Since I am single and have been single on every Valentine’s Day since I was born, I have certain traditions for celebrating this day.  But since I am striving to try something new every day, I discovered something at Target yesterday that has enhanced my celebration.  I discovered Red Velvet Pop Tarts!!!!!DSC_0229

So now, I am sitting here and starting a new tradition.  I am eating my Red Velvet Pop Tarts while watching the 1967 film, The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.  Following this glorious holiday film, I will watch Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho followed with a Ghost Adventures Marathon.  Since I highly doubt I will find a man who would enjoy my February 14th traditions as much as I do, I think this is going to be my Single’s Awareness Day celebration tradition for many years to come.

Happy “Make Single People Feel Like Crap” Day!!!

Posted in Family, Holidays, Life, Personal Challenge, Southern California

Christmas in California: Personal Challenge, Day 100 (12.25.12)

Well, this is my very first Christmas in California, even though I have lived here for years.  I normally fly home to Detroit on Christmas but this year it was too expensive so I am spending the holidays alone in California, something I have never done before.

I thought I would be sad, not being with my family on Christmas, but to be honest, it doesn’t feel like Christmas here.  I am from the midwest where there is snow and freezing temperatures.  You have a roaring fire in the fireplace while opening presents.  Yes, every store is playing Christmas music (even though Target already has their Valentine’s Day stuff out) but it just isn’t the same as a Midwestern Christmas.  It feels like a normal day–except I don’t have to go to work and all the stores are closed.

So I thought about how I would spend my first Christmas alone.  I was going to see a movie at the iPic Theaters in Old Town but the movie I wanted to see (The Hobbit) is sold out for the day.  I am having dinner with friends but not until later this evening.  So I decided to create new traditions based on my family traditions.

Every Christmas, my Mom makes her famous pistachio cakes as gifts for friends, co-workers and neighbors.  I made my first cake last year for my California Sister.  But since I am in California this year, I decided I would make pistachio cakes for my neighbors.  So I spent the morning baking cakes (and discovering American Horror Story on Netflix–odd combination, I know).  Later on, I will deliver the cakes, starting a new tradition here in California.  We’ll see how my neighbors respond.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Posted in Exploration, Life, Personal Challenge, Southern California

The Slaw Dogs: Personal Challenge, Day 94 (12.19.12)

For some reason today, I had a craving for a good ole Detroit Coney Dog.  But I am in Los Angeles, not Detroit so I need to find some place that makes a good hot dog similar to my hometown favorite.

wpid-2012-12-19-16.51.22.jpgPreviously I had tried the Dog Haus but it wasn’t the same as back home.  I have also been to Pink’s, again, not a Coney dog.  But on Yelp, I read reviews that The Slaw Dogs in Pasadena is one of the best, and most unique hot dog places in Los Angeles.  Actually, they have several locations in the LA area.  So I decided to check to check out the one in Pasadena.

wpid-2012-12-19-16.51.38.jpgWhen I arrived, I couldn’t quite figure out the parking situation so I just parked on the street in the 1 hour free parking zones.  Inside, the decor is reminiscient of a bar but the family section of a bar.  There are tons of options, including “build your own” style hot dogs.  I asked for recommendations but their most popular items seemed to be heart attacks waiting to happen.  And I was craving something close to the Detroit Coney dog.  So I chose the traditional hot dog with Chili, cheese, onions and mustard.

wpid-2012-12-19-17.12.02.jpgSince I was the only customer, the service was fast and I was on my way home with my “doggie” bag.  Upon first glance, the hot dog looked good.  But my taste buds were disappointed.  It wasn’t even close to a Coney dog.  It was good, don’t get me wrong.  It is a good hot dog but not exactly what I was craving.

So my search continues for a Detroit Coney Dog out here on the west coast.