Posts Tagged ‘DIY Projects’

A Holiday Craft Re-Post

Today I am re-posting a craft project idea, an Ornament How-to for the Christmas Season that was written by one of my dearest friends and fellow blogger.

As I’ve mentioned before, Aimee is a Home-schooling Christian mother and she is full of great ideas for Christmas gifts and decor on a tight budget.

The recipe included is not gluten free, but I will look for one that I can add to this later.

DECEMBER 9, 2010 · 8:06 PM

Salt Dough Again

The boys and I made salt dough ornaments again today; and things went much better.

It has been very dry here, the humidity in the house dipping below 40%; so I have been boiling a stock pot of in the kitchen for hours at a time to try to combat the dry skin, static and other effects of low humidity like the struggles we have been having with out salt-dough (the bread I made over the weekend was pretty bad too).  Today’s dough worked much better than the last 3 times I have made it this season, so maybe the boiling water helped the humidity in the kitchen enough?  I’ll be doing it next time too, just in case it is the key.

The recipe I used today:

  • 1.25 cup HOT water
  • 1 cup salt
  • 4 cups flour

I started with the cup of salt and the 1.24 cups of HOT water and spent a good 3 or 4 minutes quickly stirring the mix to dissolve the salt as much as possible before the flour.  The salt did not dissolve 100% of the way for me though.

As I kneaded the dough I still had to add more water – but by bit – but I got DOUGH.  I suspect in total it ended up being 1.5 cups of water or even a little more, but that last part I add so “little by little” I can’t be sure.  This time the dough rolled out nicely too, such a pleasant change.  I was able to get the dough rolled out thin, thinner than the other 2 batches we’ve made.  (2 batches of “cookies” made, one attempt at dough thrown out).

We work on flexible plastic cutting boards.  I love them.  They define a space for each person; especially the boys.  They also move an entire project if I need to slide the boys part (they do tend to drift into each other, must be my boys).  Also if I need one of the boys to “hand me” their project, they can slid me their entire cutting “board”’ like when I help Big Brother roll the dough and he does the rest.  The flexible cutting boards protect my counter from the cookie cutters and other tools; and they make clean up easier since I can simply pick up a good part of the work space and dump it in the sink.  Salt dough can be a very messy project, even for adults alone, and any help in the clean up department is always welcome.

The boys had a great time.  Big Brother worked and worked on his dough, in his space.  He really made an effort at rolling out the dough nicely, though he really struggles at it; rolling the rolling pin AND applying pressure at the same time is more than he can do, but he is only 5.  After Little Brother and I finished our’s I helped Big by rolling his dough out for him, so he could just use the cookie cutters and then transfer the shapes to his pan.  However, he worked at least 25 minutes independently and really made a good effort, did not get frustrated or give up.  I love to watch him.  For Little Brother I roll the dough and let him place the cookie cutters, and then I help push them down “hard”. Little brother then picks up the cookie cutters and I pull the extra dough off and transfer the shapes to the cookie pan.

Momma puts the holes in the ornaments and puts them in the over. 

I set the oven at 170 (the lowest it goes) and just let them dry.  After the first 30 minutes I flip them over and then I just leave them.  Today we put 28 of them in the oven.

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2 Responses to Salt Dough Again

  1. Wow! This is great stuff!
    “If people were concerned about what really matters in life,
    there would be a shortage of craft supplies in the stores!

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The 1st of the Long Awaited D.I.Y. Projects

Well, my friends, I hope this month of September is finding you all healthy, happy and busily harvesting if you had a garden this summer.

I had hoped to get busy on this series of posts of some D.I.Y. projects months ago, but as many of you know it has been a totally crazy-busy summer and not all of it in a good way… but I shall navigate my way away from that particular topic before I get on my soapbox and start preaching once again on the ills of the Nanny-State.  I haven’t had much opportunity this season to be on the computer, particularly after “my brain” PINKIE (my pink laptop) died in early August.  This is the 2nd hard-drive and fan that I will have to have replaced in my laptop, since purchasing it in Sept. 2009 (does not include the cd-rom that went out on it or the power jack that broke… far too many repairs for a 3 year old computer in my opinion)… so anyway, it awaits repairs until they can be afforded and for now I am using the netbook that I bought last winter to do my taxes while waiting for the power jack to get fixed (took 2 months for the repair shop to get the right part, since the manufacturer sent a dud the first time)… netbook is primarily used by the kids for research and play.  The netbook is slower, but it’s been a good little computer.  Lesson Learned: Don’t buy a computer because you like the color!

DIY Project #1

Staining Unfinished Wood Furniture

This type of project is great if you want to save a little money and like quality wood furnishings for your home.  This idea is also fabulous if your personal tastes run toward the unusual, unique or funky!

If you are lucky to have a shop that carries unfinished wood furniture nearby and find yourself in the market for a new desk, an entertainment center or some other wooden object for your home or office, do yourself, your pocketbook and a local business a big favor… stop by and see for yourself the unfinished gems these businesses have to offer.  If you don’t have such a shop locally or within reasonable driving distance, check online and order some mail-order catalogs.

We have a local shop that sells unfinished furniture and refurbished pre-loved furniture  in Mitchell, SD (about 35 miles from us one-way).  We love to stop in there on occassion (usually a Saturday we are in town already for an excursion to the lumberyard/home center or to the fabric store)… many times we just window-shop… other times we find a piece tha we fall in love with.  Over the years we’ve purchased a pair of pre-loved wingback chairs, a loveseat, a dresser for the baby and an unfinished wood entertainment center designed to fit into a corner.

Love the entertainment center as we did, it sat in the basement for several years before we got around to working on it.  There were several debates over “how we should finish it” that had to ironed out during that time and even the kids weighed in with their individual opinions on the matter.  Pioneer Pa loves “wood” (as in traditional stained wood finishes)… he is fond of saying “If it’s wood, it’s good!”  My answer to that is that the entertainment center is already made of wood and plain old brown wood is rather boring and lacking in personality.  I love painted wood furniture, painted to look like furnishings from an 18th or 19th century farmhouse.  I also love to infuse my love of color into my home.  In Farmer Boy Charles’ opinion, the entertainment center should be green and yellow and John Deere all over.  Henry said it should be red, white and blue… and painted like the American Flag (could have been cute, but was not going to go with anything else in the room.)  As green is a favorite color of mine and several of the chairs in our living room were already green, green also going nicely with our wall color (a faux finish with an orange-peach basecoat white washed with a nearly white “peach” glaze), the pecan colored wood bookshelf and the autumn oak colored hardwood patterned vinyl flooring, we decided to go partially with Charles’ suggestion of a bright green and compromised on the stain vs. paint debate by choosing a tintable Minwax water-based stain in “Northern Ivy”.

Supplies Needed for this Do-It-Yourself Project:

Unfinished Wood Furniture (or old funiture that has been sanded for refinishing)

1 qt. Minwax Water-based woodstain in your choice of color

Minwax Spray-on or paint-on water-based Poly-acrylic wood finish in your choice of satin, semi-gloss or gloss finsh to seal the wood after staining

Minwax Water-based Wood Conditioner (optional, highly reccommended if you are working with a softer wood such as pine)

Sand paper (in fine and extra fine grits)

Screwdriver (choose one that matches the type of screws on your furniture piece)

Tack-cloth or a barely damp cotton cloth

Painters rags

vinyl gloves

Newspaper or drop cloth

Old clothes and shoes you don’t mind staining

Step-by-step Instructions

1. Using the appropriate type of screwdriver, remove all hinges, knobs, latches and other hardware from your furniture piece.  I like using a plastic zipper bag to store the hardware (if you want to purchase new drawer pulls, knobs etc. you can to achieve the desired look.)

2.  If you are using the water-based wood conditioner, apply it to your furniture piece according to the manufacturer’s instructions on the product label.  If you are not using the wood conditioner, skip to step #3.

3.  Lightly sand your piece to remove any “raised grain” in the wood surface along with dents, scratches or other imperfections (unless you love the distressed look then you can feel free to leave some of the flaws in your furniture item), including the wooden portions of all drawers, doors and shelves.

4. Using a tack-cloth or lightly dampened rag, remove all the sanding dust, you can use a vaccum cleaner attachment to remove dust in grooves, molding/carving or other difficult places if needed.

5. If you used a damp cloth, allow several hours for any moisture to dry before proceeding.

6. Stir your stain well, particularly if it has been sitting for any length of time.  Put on vinyl gloves to protect your hands and nails… stain… well… it stains. I didn’t bother with the gloves for this project and looked like a green handed monster for almost a week. You may also wish to use an old shirt and jeans (do NOT wear good clothes for this project), old shoes and possibly your husband’s old BBQ apron.  Also protect your work surface with newspaper or a drop cloth.

7. Open the can of stain and using a painters rag, test it in an inconspicuous area (like the underneath side of a drawer or the bottom of the piece) to make sure you love the color you choose (different woods will yield slightly different results with the same stain due to the natural wood color and wood grain of various species of wood).  If you don’t like it, stop here and choose another color… I know that’s another trip to the hardware store… but you want to love this thing you are making for 20 or 50 years, right?

8.  If you are please with your color choice, proceed as follows…

9.  Using  painters rags, wipe on stain in approximately 18″ x 18″ sections then wiping off excess stain with a clean painters rag.

10. Repeat step # 9 until you have stained the whole piece.

11.Allow stain to dry for several days.

12. Lightly sand any rough feeling areas where the wood grain may have raised with fine grit sandpaper.  If you like a distressed look, you can also lightly sand any corners and edges to give a lightly worn appearance.

13. Using a tack cloth, remove sanding dust.

14. Apply 3 coats of spray-on or paint-on Poly-Acrylic finish in your choice of finish, allowing finish to dry and then sanding lightly with extra-fine sandpaper between the coats and removing any dust with a tack cloth.

15. Allow your project to thoroughly dry for several days.

16. Reattach all of the hardware.

17. Find a buddy to help you move the piece and place it in your room where youd like it to be.

Mystery Recipe Monday- July 9, 2012

Okay everybody, I know it’s been quite a while since we have done the Mystery Recipe Monday thing… but I really feel like we should get back into the habit once again.  All of you really seem to enjoy it when I post recipes, as we get lots of visitors and regulars who stop by to see what the “good lookin’  Modern Pioneers have got cookin’!”  Many of you will remember parts of that line from a Hank Williams Sr. song entitled “Hey, Good Lookin’, Whatcha Got Cookin’!”

Today we have something really good lookin’ a-cookin’ in the Modern Pioneer Kitchen. (Oh, and it’s also really good tastin’ too!)  I (Modern Ma) am so delighted with my newly remodeled kitchen that I have been itching to get in there and really put this beautifully functional and just plain beautiful work-space to hard work. We finished this huge home improvement project (stay tuned for several upcoming DIY posts about remodeling a farmhouse kitchen on a budget), just in time… for a monumental heat wave… OF COURSE!  So the past couple weeks have been mostly salads and foods that can be cooked via microwave, such as turkey enchiladas made with ground turkey I had            pre- cooked and frozen for later use and Spanish rice made with leftover rice I had also frozen as an easy prepare staple for hot or busy evenings.  Due to the heat-wave, Pioneer Pa and I decided to put off having an anniversary cake until the weather cooled (our wedding anniversary being June 29th and being as this one is #10, I felt like I ought to do a special dessert.)

Having seen a variation of Red Velvet Cake done in blue by the Betty Crocker test kitchen , I decided try my hand at a beautifully decorated Gluten Free version of my own variation a Black Velvet Cake (okay I was actually aiming for a Royal Purple Velvet, Pa’s favorite color being purple… but alas I was completely out of both red and purple food coloring… trying to use up much of my old Wilton gel food coloring before the kiddos return home)… so I did it with black food coloring which I had a lot of (if you think red and yellow food coloring makes little boys hyper-active, try giving them black food coloring! Grab a putty knife and prepare to scrape those boys off your ceiling!).  Yes, Black Velvet Cake, sounds very “Elvis Presley”, but it should be very beautiful and dramatic (is anything quite so elegant as a black and white cake in the world of desserts?)… quite suitable for a 10th Wedding Anniversary.  Especially considering that we had a Christmas In June Wedding, which was also quite stunning and dramatic in it’s own right.

So, now for our Mystery Recipe Monday recipes.

Black Velvet Anniversary Cake

(A Special Gluten-Free Dessert for Special Occasions )


2 pkg. Betty Crocker Gluten-Free yellow cake mix

6 large eggs

2/3 cup. canola oil

1 TBSP Cocoa Powder, leveled

1 cup plain soy or almond milk

1 tsp. cider vinegar

1/2 cup water

1/2 of a large jar of Wilton Gel Food Coloring (Black)

Prepare cake mix, as per manufacturer’s directions, adding the cocoa powder into the cake mix before adding the wet ingredients. Substitute the soy/almond milk, vinegar and 1/2 cup water for the water called for on the box.  Mix in food coloring

Grease  four 8 inch or three 9 inch  round cake pans and divide the batter equally among the pans.  Space them equally in the oven on both racks and bake at 350 F for 30 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick test comes out clean.  Remove from oven and cool in the pans on a cooking rack until about room temp. If your cakes mound up in the center, you can level them once they are removed from the pans with a serrated bread knife.

Place bottom layer on a cardboard circle or a  cake plate/cake stand. Fill with cream cheese icing or another favorite filling (such as raspberry or blackberry jam, or both jam and cream cheese icing together would be lovely, 2 layers of filling).  Place next layer on top of  bottom layer, leveled-side down, and once again fill between layers with icing or favorite filling.  Repeat for 3rd and 4th layers.

To seal in crumbs, thinly frost cake w/ room temp. cream cheese icing, starting at the top center and working out toward the top edge and then down the sides with a large angled (off-set) metal spatula.  TIP: If you have a rotating cake stand or a lazy-susan from your spice cabinet, place your cake plate/round on it and use this to smoothly turn the cake as you frost it… this makes the job a little faster and easier and usually results in a more professional looking cake.

Once cake is crumb-coated, place in the fridge for about 2 hours to set the icing.  Remove from fridge and frost cake again so that cake does not show through the icing.  Return to fridge for about 2 hours to set again.  At this point,you can either serve it as is or decorate it with contrasting tinted icing using a piping bag and decorating tips for a special occasion such as a birthday anniversary or even small wedding or wedding shower. Once again, allow a couple hours in the fridge for icing to set, especially in the summertime, it will solidify the shortening/cheese mixture that is the basis of your icing and prevent all your hard work from sliding down the side of your cake.

Cream Cheese Decorator Icing

(Note: if you have a stand mixer, definitely use it for making decorating icing, as this type of icing is quite thick.)

8 oz pkg. cream cheese, room temperature

3/4 cup vegetable shortening

3 lbs powdered sugar (approx. as moisture levels in this product can vary, adjust as needed)

2 tsp. double-strength vanilla extract

1 to 2 tsp. rum flavoring

1 tsp. raspberry flavoring

2 to 3 TBSP Almond or Soy milk

Using an electric mixer (stand type if you have one), cream together the cream cheese and shortening.  Slowly add in sugar1/2 cup at a time, beating well between additions.  After adding 1/2 of the sugar, add in the flavoring extracts and 1 TBSP of milk.  Mix well.  Add more sugar, a little at a time, until most of it is in the icing.  Add another TBSP of milk then finish adding the sugar.  Adjust thickness of icing by adding more sugar or milk as needed for a spreading consistency to ice the cake with.  To make stiffer icing for piping decorative designs and borders onto cake, thicken with more powdered sugar.

To make black decorator’s icing (that doesn’t taste like ink), darken your icing with baking cocoa (powder)… this will also thicken consistency slightly, then begin adding black gel food coloring until desired color is reached mixing color in between additions (let stand 5 to 10 minutes when color is a shade lighter than you think you want, as they sometimes darken a little in a buttercream/cream cheese style icing with time.  You can always add more color, but you can’t take it away… you can add more “white” icing, but you may end up with far more than you need.)

You can find Wilton Cake Decorating supplies at many local discount or craft stores (such as Walmart, Ben Franklin Crafts or Hobby Lobby) or at .

To decorate the cake above:

1. Using black icing in a disposable decorating bag fitted with a coupler and a #2 round tip to  pipe a pretty scroll design on the sides of the cake, which I repeated 5 times around the side of the cake. (I used a tool I’ve had for years called a pattern press to mark my scroll-work, this product is no longer available unless you get lucky finding one in a thrift shop, but you can find a design or clip-art you like, print it out and trace it onto waxed paper and then use the wax paper to position the design and mark the design onto the cake using a toothpick to prick the wax paper and leave marking on your cake icing.)

2. Using Tip #107 and white icing in another disposable decorating bag fitted with a coupler, pipe drop flowers onto the scrolling vines.

3. Using the black icing and #2 tip again, pipe dots into centers of flowers.

4. Using  a #10 tip and white icing pipe a line of white icing around the base of the cake at the plate.

5. Changing black icing bag to a #97 ruffle tip or a #104 rose tip, fat end up, pipe a ruffled border at the base of the cake on top of the line of white icing (this will help it flare out like a ruffle), wiggling up and down slightly as you pipe around the cake.

6. Changing black icing bag to a #10 round or a # 32 star tip, pipe a ball border or a shell border on the top edge of the cake.

* Refill our decorating bags with icing as needed as you go, leaving  enough room to twist the bag closed at the top so icing does not squish out the top and make a huge mess.

For more complete instructions on these decorating techniques, please check out the Wilton link above or consider purchasing a very basic starter kit from Wilton locally.

You might even be able to find cake decorating class locally that you can take (possibly with your spouse if he’s interested, or with one of your kids… most 7 or 8 year-olds are plenty old enough to learn cake decorating with parental supervision.)  My mother took the first two courses in a local Wilton Decorating class and taught me at the age of 5 while she was practicing at home.  As a teen, I self-studied the more advanced classes.

For Pioneering Families in this Modern Era,  the basics of cake decorating are a terrific skills to consider learning.  Not only is is a great, fun-filled family activity, it can also be a frugal, money-saving skill compared to the rapidly increasing costs of having a cake professionally decorated by a bakery… particularly when you are at a stage where weddings, anniversaries, baby showers etc. are frequently in order.

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