Natural Crafts

Easy Non-Toxic Air Freshener and Play Clay

Homemade Gelatin Air Fresheners

My kids really enjoyed making these and giving them to friends and family. Everyone we gave them to was thrilled with their gift and asked for refills throughout the year. So be prepared for future requests or, better yet, include the recipe on the jar or glass.

We usually double the recipe to make a quart and then pour it into pretty 4 oz jars that we get at the dollar store or yard sales.Votive candle holders, little vases, juice glasses and even little bowls work well. Just make sure that they’re clear if you’re adding color to your gel. You can even get fancy and use the smallest fishbowl you can find, let the gelatin set somewhat and add tiny toy fish, plastic plants or pretty stones. Use your imagination, but just remember that the gel is going to dissolve eventually and won’t be propping up whatever you add to the jar.

Non-Toxic Gel Air Freshener
2 Cups of Water
4 pkgs of unflavored gelatin
large pkg of DIET flavored gelatin
20 drops of essential oil
1 Tbsp Salt or Vodka (keeps it from getting moldy)

Optional-Food coloring for unflavored gelatin

Heat the water to boiling. Stir in the gelatin and remove it from the stove. Add the other cup of water and stir thoroughly. This is important because you don’t want lumps in your gelatin. Add the essential oil. If you’re adding coloring, add it now. Pour into decorative containers and cool until firmly set. (If you put them into your fridge uncovered, your fridge will smell like the essential oil. This might not work if you’ve used something very strong.)

Non-Toxic Play Dough
1 Cup Water
1 Cup Flour
1 Tbsp Oil
1/2 cup Salt
2 tsps Cream of Tartar
1 regular pkg DIET flavored gelatin

Combine and mix all ingredients, then knead with your hands. You may want to sprinkle flour on your hands first. When smooth and dry, put it into plastic bags and close tightly. This will keep for up to six months. You can use it to make ornaments. Roll out the dough and then cut it with cookie cutters. Put a hole in the top with a straw and let them dry. Thread a ribbon or ornament hanger through the hole and hang them on the tree. This dough can almost be painted.

Some ideas: Use powdered ice tea mix and add some ginger to make brown “gingerbread” people ornaments. Because of the salt, this shouldn’t be eaten, although it’s technically non-toxic. Too much salt can cause nausea, especially in kids.

Natural Crafts

Make a Sweet-Smelling Pomander

Pomanders are easy to make. They’re a good craft project for kids and can be made in an evening or afternoon. However, if you want your pomander to be ready for Christmas, now is the time to start it. And if you want to make something other than the usual clove-studded oranges, read on.

The basic pomander that most of us have made at least once in our lives is the orange pomander. To do, poke holes in an orange with a sturdy toothpick or one of those plastic flossing picks and then stick whole cloves in them. You can make a pattern, such as spirals or any geometric pattern. Just don’t put a row of cloves right around the orange, or the skin might peel off at that point. When you’re done, shake the orange in orris root powder in a paper bag. Orris root powder is a fragrant preservative.

For a pomander that’s a little different, start with an apple. Stud it with cloves in the usual way, but then roll it in cinnamon or cinnamon and ginger, or cinnamon, ginger and allspice. Or apple pie spice. I used pumpkin pie spice by mistake once and it still smelled heavenly.

Another variation: Use a lemon, stud it with cloves and then shake it in ginger in a paper bag. This is one of my favorites, because it reminds me of my favorite ginger ale. The one with the twist of lemon. Or use a lime, stud it with cloves and shake it with nutmeg.

Whatever kind of pomander you decide to make, you must leave it in the paper bag, in a dark, dry place for three weeks or so until it’s thoroughly dry. When it’s dry, take it out and cover it with a piece of netting. This keeps it together as it ages and dries out more. I like to embellish my pomanders with beaded straight pins and sequins. Just put a straight pin through the hole of a sequin and push it gently into the fruit. A pretty ribbon to tie the top of the netting and the pomander is ready to hang or give as a gift.

Pomanders may also be hung on the Christmas tree, from a curtain rod in a window, or in a closet. They can be tucked into drawers like sachets or several can even be used as a centerpiece in a pretty glass bowl. Use your imagination and get started now, so that when Christmas comes, you’ll have plenty of pomanders to keep your house smelling sweet or to give as gifts.

Natural Crafts

Daylight Savings Time Changes Everything

Last March, I started knitting a pair of wool socks. They were my third of 2009 and somehow I lost the thread – literally – after I finished the first one and right after I started the second one. Slow forward (this IS Maine, after all) to last night while Daughter and I were watching “My Man Godfrey” one of our favorite movies. I dropped the TV remote and when I reached down beside my chair to pick it up, I came up with a sock. With a little more rooting around, I found the other sock – the one that I had just begun last March.

After the movie, I started knitting and didn’t stop until I got to where it was time to turn the heel. By then it was after midnight and even though I knew that, with the time change, I’d be gaining an hour of sleep, I put the sock aside and went to bed. Reluctantly though, because I was in that zone knitters get into when they’re really into knitting and the stitches are almost knitting themselves. I had work to finish today, but tonight, I’ll continue to knit on it. If I take it along to Daughter’s dental appointment, I should be finished with it by Tuesday at the latest.

What made me suddenly return to knitting socks? Or, more to the point since I love to knit socks, why did I suddenly stop in March even though it was mud season in Maine which certainly calls for thick socks, preferably wool, because wool is warm even when it’s wet? Maybe it was because March is also when gardening season starts, the weather gets better and the roads aren’t so icy and we can get out to Audubon meetings and meet-ups with other home learners. Or maybe it’s because I’d knit one too many pair of the little buggers and even with the stripey wool I use that self-patterns into interesting designs, I’d just had enough of fashioning footwear from scratch.

On reflection though, I think it was just that the light had changed. The days were getting longer and the angle of the sun was changing and making it feel like Spring, the season for seedlings and new beginnings and bare feet – well, Crocs, at least – not boots. Or maybe it was because, in March, we lost an hour, so even though I went to bed at 10 that night, when I got up at 6, it was really already 7 and I felt like I just couldn’t catch up. There was barely enough time for the basics, never mind time for knitting. Besides, I was yawning by 8 o’clock and in bed by 9 for a couple of weeks until I got used to the time change. I was cranky and edgy and out of sorts and didn’t feel like dealing with turning heels and picking up stitches to make gussets and don’t even mention Kitchener stitches to me in Spring!

The only part of knitting socks I don’t like is making the toe seam. For years now, I’ve been using the Kitchener Stitch, which involves weaving the two sets of stitches together with a large darning needle. It’s not knitting. It’s sewing, and I hate sewing. I’m not good at it and I always make a mess of it with at least one stitch that won’t lie down and spoils the line of the seam or rubs against my toes and reminds me, every time I wear the blessed things, that I’m lousy at Kitchener.

So, you have no idea how chuffed I was when I stumbled across the following link to An Alternative To the Kitchener Stitch! I was almost afraid to try it, but I found an almost finished sock I don’t have enough wool to make a mate for and tried it on that and it worked so well, I wanted to go back and unravel all my knitted socks and redo the toes. Alas, I’m not good at unraveling either. (And what is the difference between raveling and unraveling I’d like to know?) Well, anyhow, if you’re a knitter, try the alternative and let me know how it works for you. And, TECHknitting, you’re going right onto my blogroll of Good Sites. Mind you, I almost feel as if I should make a special category for your site. Sanity saving sites, perhaps?