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Play Furniture and Pretend Food From Recycled Materials

November 15th was National Recycling Day and I thought it would be fun to share some toy accessories that you can make by recycling materials you have on-hand.

This all started back when Henri had received a Zhu-Zhu Pets toy hamster for Hanukkah one year. It wasn’t long before his “pet” needed to have its own house and so we adapted a shoe box into rooms with a garage.

Of course every home needs furnishings and that’s where these projects came in. According to Henri there was a bedroom, kitchen and living room, so I tailored what I made to that, but you can easily adapt any of these little projects to your rooms of choice.

The first recycled materials to be used were an egg carton and a plastic bendy straw. Cut out sections of the carton to create different types of furniture.

The cups that hold the eggs became armchairs (when the upper rim was kept on 3/4 of the edge) and a table (when flipped upside down and trimmed to have legs).

Two of the flat base of the egg cups were cut out to become vessels for food and water, and finally the divider piece that separates the eggs was cut out to become a lampshade.

One of the cup bases was painted silver to become a serving plate and the slightly deeper one had the inside painted blue to appear like water. To make the most out of using what I had on hand (pun intended!) I painted them both with nail polish!

The lamp shade was painted Henri’s color of choice with regular acrylic paints and then set aside to dry.

Once dry it was time to assemble the lamp. You need a base that’s sturdy and heavy enough to support the weight of the shade. You could use wood blocks, a little box filled with rice or sand, or anything else heavy enough. I used a few spare washers I found in my toolbox.

I cut a felt circle for the base and hot-glued the washers on top in descending size order, making sure to keep their holes lined up. I also glued a decorative bead to the top of the lampshade.

The shade was filled with hot glue to set the straw in place and then more glue was used to attach it inside the tower of washers.

With that, the little hamster’s living room lamp was complete!

The bendy bit of the straw was a nice touch, allowing the lamp to be angled wherever the little guy needed.

The silver platter received a coat of clear nail polish to seal it and the water bowl was filled with more hot glue to look full.

To make the pretend food for the hamster takes only three supplies – a pool noodle, fabric paint, and scissors.

That’s right – all these little pretend foodstuffs are actually squishies! They’re really easy to make: simply cut pieces of the pool noodle foam into the general shape of the food item then use fabric paint to make them look like their respective foods. A toothpick comes in handy instead of a paintbrush when working at such small sizes. I scaled my foods to the size of the egg carton “plate” and made (clockwise from top right) pepperoni pizza, chocolate chip cookies, donuts, a cheeseburger, and a chocolate cake.

The food storage bin was made from plastic canvas and yarn scraps.

First I made a base large enough to hold all the food. The lid is the same size but less deep, and the faux latch is simply stitched on top. The lid was sewn to the base all along the back edge but I used the same gold yarn as the latch to embroider 2 fake “hinges”.

The living room furniture was painted black and copper “studs” were added with a paint pen. One neat thing about using the egg cups is that the furniture will stack which makes putting it away after playtime that much easier.

Finally the hamster’s cardboard box bed was upgraded to one with a full headboard and footboard, and painted with gold glitter paint.

I used scraps of white felt and stuffing remnants to make a mini mattress and pillow, and leftover sock yarn knit up quickly to make a colorful blanket.

One evening of crafting and by morning the hamster had his house completely tricked out. Henri was really excited to set everything in place and added more to the decor by painting a rug in the living room and even drawing a TV on the wall!

Bonus – I wanted to take some current pics to show how well these little accessories held up after 6 years and we thought it would be really cute to include Jakob’s REAL hamster for scale. Here’s Dusty enjoying a little nap…

…and here he is foraging in the snack box looking to see what other treats there might be.

These were such simple, quick and easy DIYs to make and became playtime accessories that were loved and used over and over, AND held up incredibly well over the years. I hope this post gives you some ideas on how you can recycle items from around the house and give them new life with a new use.

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Peelable Base Coat Nail Polish Hack

Has this ever happened to you?

It would happen to me ALL THE TIME.

Whenever I would use a peelable base coat (like ÜNT’s Ready For Takeoff) I’d be lucky if my manicure lasted 8 hours, whereas with a regular basecoat I can get at least 2 weeks. I’d go about doing normal things and suddenly discover a thumbnail peelie in my dishes or pinky nail peelie in my sock. It was super frustrating so I looked it up and it turns out it wasn’t just me! While the ease of removal made it perfect for nail polish bloggers and reviewers, many people were complaining about the base not “sticking” long enough to make it worth it for regular use.

I’d written to my place of purchase and their reply was:

Your complaint isn’t unique. I have heard that some people’s problem with ÜNT’s peel off base coat is “that it works too well”. However, we can’t seem to discern as to why some people have such success with it, and others don’t. 

The conclusion the nail community has come to is that personal biological factors can affect a product’s success. Meaning, your body’s natural oils and your nail’s health may be the cause of a polishes’ or base coat’s success. The nail is often considered an impermeable barrier, but this is not true. In fact, it is much more permeable than the skin, and the composition of the nail includes 7–12% water. 

Following that I wrote to ÜNT themselves but their replies were unsatisfactory and seemed like a copy/paste:

We are sorry to hear that our product is not 100% satisfactory. I would like to further explain several possible reasons for this to happen:

1. READY FOR TAKEOFF or nail lacquer did not dry completely

2. Coat of READY FOR TAKEOFF not thick enough (if READY FOR TAKEOFF is applied very thin, it takes more effort to remove. We suggest applying 3-4 thin coats.)

3. If READY FOR TAKEOFF is applied unevenly, some parts of it may dry quicker than others, thus causing the issue. 

So in the end I decided to try and figure out my own solution. I know the exact ÜNT product I have is no longer available but they have a different peelable line and Holo Taco has its own Peely Base and I really wanted to make these products (and my existing UNT bottles) work for me.

After a bit of trial and error (note- do NOT try filing down the surface of your nails to make the base coat grip better!) I found a solution that actually made the product usable, and in honor of today being Nail Polish Day, I’m sharing it publicly. Bonus: it’s something I bet you already own!

Another base coat!

I use Orly’s Bonder as it’s what I have on hand but any clear base coat will work. (I don’t recommend a creamy base coat like a smoothing base for this).

All you need to do is apply one thin coat of the regular base BEFORE applying the recommended 2-3 coats of the peelable polish. The peelable polish will grip better to the base than to your nail surface, and the manicure will last much longer. It’s a really simple trick but it helps to make the peelable products actually work for those of us who have a hard time with them.

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I might make a small commission on purchases made through the links, at no cost to you.


not wearable yet

I was really hoping to wear my new sweater to Guild tonight.  I knit on it during the boys’ nap on Friday (we were home ‘cus the daycare was closed).  I knit on it on Saturday while hanging out at Colette’s while Maaike learned how to use her new loom.  I knit on it on Sunday while watching No Strings Attached with Yannick, and I knit on it all day yesterday while catching up on Alcatraz, Once Upon A Time, CSI and New Girl.  At 11:30pm I was forced to admit that unless I were to take today off from work (not an option), I would not be wearing a new sweater (or at least, one that *I* knit) tonight.

The front is complete.  It’s got the live sts from the whole sleeve length, front neck, and other sleeve all on one needle which is why it looks all bunched.

The back is about 17 rows away from starting to finish the sleeves.

I’m keeping the arm/shoulder sts live instead of binding them off, stair-step fashion, as per the pattern.  Instead I will graft them later.  I’m also going to graft the underside of the sleeves after I seam the body (which was supposed to be seamless).

Then I’ll have the neck ribbing to do, and I’ll probably add at least an inch of ribbed cuff to the sleeves to give them a more finished look.

I would have had an extra hour of knitting time last night, but I took a break and after Yannick installed them, together we filled in:

My Nail Polish Racks!  😀

They arrived!  They were my Valentine’s Day/upcoming birthday present from Yannick, and I’m so happy!  The racks are clear but he bought some white…um…stuff (a hard non-porous material they make cutting boards out of) and had it cut to size to put behind them, partially to make the polish stand out, and also for support, ‘cus the pre-drilled holes in the racks didn’t align with where our studs are, and I’m not putting glass bottles on the wall if they’re not secure!  😛


plans for tonight

(ps the story of my absence will come tomorrow…I’ve been on the computer non-stop all day and don’t want to sit here much longer).

My Linden is so close to being done- I’ve only got about a 1/2 inch to go on the lower border, and then I’ll probably end up lengthening the sleeves.  The problem, totally my fault, is that I modified the sweater kinda…knitting a smaller size than my bust to have a narrower lower edge…and while I lengthened the sleeves to the length in my actual size, I forgot to take into account their width.  So my sleeves fit, but actually fit at 3/4 length sleeves instead of having open, slightly oversized 3/4 length sleeves.  I had asked around for opinions on if I should lengthen the sleeves to full length and the general consensus was that the baggier sleeves at full length would probably get annoying, but at 3/4 were perfect.  So I did 3/4…and forgot to account for them to be oversized…so they’re not.  They are just normal, 3/4 length sleeves that don’t seem to make sense with the jacket.  Again- NOT a design issue, TOTALLY me.  I should have cast on for the sleeves in my actual size and then finagled to make them come out to the same by the sleeve cap.  I can block them a bit wider, but they will look better at full length I think.

The problem?

This is how much yarn I have left.  Well, I have more yarn, but it’s in single skeins, and this is knit with the yarn held doubled, actually spun into a doubled skein by Maaike.  I’ll wind 2 balls into cakes later this week, and sometime soon Maaike should be able to spin and set one more b.a.b. (big a$$ ball) for me.

This means that in the meantime I can’t finish Linden.

I deliberately didn’t seek out any chances to publish any designs over the next few months, because I’m going to be off work for a bit after my surgery, and while it would give me ample knitting time, I’m going to take advantage and for the first time…ever?…am going to only knit for me during that time.  And for my kids.  Maybe finish the spidey blanket.  Maybe work on the sock yarn blankies.  Maybe knit myself a sweater.  Ahh the possibilities!

And speaking of possibilities: my plans for tonight.

I plan to swatch.

Exciting, huh?

I’m at least halfway done a 5″ swatch of plain stockinette in laceweight, so I want to finish that and free up my little “purse knitting” bag to tuck in a new pair of socks (March/April needs a pair).  I think I can get the rest of it done tonight, and then I plan to swatch up some fun ribbon yarn.


It’s not purple like it appears, the yarn is actually varying shades of blue, from a silverish hue through medium down to indigo/navy.  My mom had knit it up into a long, wide garter scarf which was lovely- if it were a shawl.  As a scarf it was huge and heavy and I showed her how to use her ball winder and meter counter this weekend and we ripped it back into cakes.  (FYI- ribbon yarn and meter counters don’t play nice together.  I ran through 4 other random yarns with no problem, but every time I tried to put the ribbon through it would stop counting).

Anyways, I had admired the yarn and Mom gave it to me.  I want to make it into some kind of summer top, either an open-knit loose tee to wear over a tank, or a no-closure cardigan with short sleeves.  I only have these 4 balls, and there is only about 250 yards total, with no ball band so I can’t try to find more.  So I know whatever it is, it will have to be open-knit, on larger needles, to give me more area while using up less yarn.

For fun, here are my current nails, done last night.  That was all I did.  I did my nails then went into bed and played video games.  (And you wonder why I don’t blog more LOL).  Anyways, it looked better in my head.

There’s this style…the reverse French…you do one color then another one just inside leaving a border.  And I loved the combo of the hot pink and the nude…but now that I have it on all I can think of is zombies.  It looks like my cuticles are bleeding.  And yet…it’s one of the smoothest, most even polishes I’ve ever applied, so I can’t bear to take it off yet!  (It looks worse in the photo)

(I swear).


getting my weave on

The boys were both home today.  We did the strep test, and the 5 minute one was negative.  They would now grow it for 24 hours, and if that was negative they’d grow it some more until it was 48 hours, and notify us if it ever turned positive.  Great.

I did some weaving in the afternoon while they napped.  The purple/green section is my 3rd shuttle, using yarns 5 and 6 together (a green-y blend and a purpley blend).  The stitch marker is just my marker for where I stopped counting picks (rows).  As I wind it up I’m keeping track of how many rows there are so I can make each of the 5 panels the exact same length.

I’m at about 47″, and I hope it will be about 80″.

Here’s a better look at my current manicure.  Jakob was surprised that while I was home sick I had bare nails, and asked me to paint them again.  I was in the mood for a chrome and couldn’t pick which one, so I used all 3.  Then I topped them with the black-dotted clear topcoat.  I considered them “Spring-y”, but someone said they look just like the foil-wrapped little chocolate Easter eggs, and I think they’re right!

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so in love

Oh my gosh.  I didn’t know I could fall so hard, so fast.

I love this scarf so much.  I cast on while the boys were playing after breakfast and I made it through 20 rows before calling it a night.

Totally gratuitous shot of my sparkly nails.

I love these yarns so much.  Each row is so delicious to knit I can practically taste it in my mouth.  I love seeing the colors line up, and seeing the mix of garter, stockinette and reverse stockinette.

I will confess that this is going to be called my “Organized Chaos” Vegas scarf for a reason.  I wanted to stay true to my original plan, and my original rolls of the die, and flips of the coin.  Luckily I’d prerolled 63 rows for the original scarf, and I decided to use them all, exactly as is.  I only did one teensy bit of pre-planning.  Two of the yarns (Bonsai and Tiara) had pretty short yardages, under 100y each.  I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t run short, so I quickly tallied up how many rows of each color I had prerolled, and assigned the rarest number to the Bonsai, which had the shortest yardage, and the 2nd least common number to the Tiara.  The rest were nearly the same, so I plugged them in randomly.

I did find it interesting to note that although the rolls didn’t seem “random” in the sense that threw people off on FB and in Rav (some numbers occurring repeatedly, or too close together), in my case it turned out that my non-appearing random numbers actually had a pretty even split of the rolls.

Wait, did that come out clear?  Let me rephrase- some people rolled the same number in succession, and chose to re-roll the “non random” number, or swap it for something else.  While the rolls really were random, it was bugging some people that they weren’t turning out “even”.  So what I found entertaining was that even though in some sections of the 63 rows the same colors kept coming up, so that area didn’t feel “even”, overall I got a pretty good split.  See:

Yarn 1: Polaris (gray with sequins)- 11 rows

Yarn 2: Bonsai (green tape)- 8 rows

Yarn 3: Marble (jewel tones)- 13 rows

Yarn 4: Campus (darker green/purple)- 12 rows

Yarn 5: Tiara (mauve with sparkle)- 9 rows

Yarn 6: Party Angel (fuchsia with sparkle)- 10 rows

Which means that yes, out of 63 rows (of which I counted row 1 as my cast on and row 63 as my bind off) I had each of the 6 yarns coming out with 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13 repeats.

That’s pretty cool to me!


ow and wow

So I started a new project a few days ago, but I can’t show it to you. See my cousin had a new baby last week, and I was waiting to know the baby’s gender before making my gift. Now I know that they had a baby boy, but I also know that the baby’s mom sometimes reads my blog. I’m pretty sure she’s too busy right now to be reading, but just in case I’m going to hold off on a pic.

What I can show you, though, is the knitting-related injury this project has caused.


See the cut on my thumb? That’s from using it to help force a 4mm needle through double-stranded worsted weight yarn. I ended up with 2 long cuts along the ridges of my thumb and index finger. (I knew my thumb/finger was sore from pushing but i didn’t know the cuts were there until I held an acetone-soaked pad when removing my last manicure. Hence- “ow”!)

On the flip side, (literally, heh) I can show you my current manicure. I am so in love with this polish! (Hence- “wow”.)

Doesn’t it look like my nails are covered in slices if Tiger’s Eye?