Weekly Finds

Low Tech Photo Filters

Friday, April 26th, 2013

30 Days of Pinterest – Day 23

The Pin!

These days, it can be so easy to get caught up in all the fancy schmancy photo editing tools! So today, we thought we would try something a little more low-tech.

At first glance, all I thought this pin did was create a heart shaped frame around whatever you were taking a photo of. Neat, but easily editable with even the simplist photo editing apps available out there. I was really surprised to learn that it actually creates a neat artsy light image of the shape you’ve cut out.

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The Project Process:

Providing you already own a SLR style camera, this project doesn’t require too much advanced planning.

Here’s What You’ll Need:

  • Camera with manual focus
  • Dark-coloured cardstock (pattern or colour won’t matter, as long as it’s dark enough to block out additional light)
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Shaped hole punch (or a talent for cutting free-hand shapes)
  • Rubber band
  • Tripod (or in my case, an elegantly stacked pile of books magazines and a granola box for good measure)

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To make the filter, trace your lense to create a circle that’s exacty the right size. Some tutorials suggest cutting the circle out and attaching it right to your lense. You can do this, although we’d like to keep the filters to re-use in the future (and we don’t want to cover our lense in tape!). If you’re like us, we recommend adding three wings on to you circle before cutting it out.

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Once your cut out your winged circle, it’s time to choose your shape! Since most of my fancy scrapbooking punches are in storage, I thought I would try a circle punch to start. The original poster really stressed the importance of the size of the shape, so whichever shape you choose, make sure it is smaller than a dime!

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Attach your filter to your camera lense by placing it front of the lense, and folding the wings back towards the body. Secure with an elastic band and you’re ready for the magic to happen! To start, change your lense to manual focus. Because I’m not used to shooting anything other than automatic on my camera (it’s horrible, I really should finally take a class on it) – setting it up was the scariest part for me. I would suggest not setting your camera up on your tripod right away, and instead spend some time playing around with the different options to find out which you like best.

This is where I started getting into trouble. 

I started in aperture mode, as suggested by the original poster, and lowered my f-stop to as low as it would go (zoomed in, the lowest it would go was 5.6). They say the more out of focus your viewfinder is, the bigger the shapes will be. Unfortunately, after the 100th time, I began to think this just wasn’t going to happen for me.

I played with aperture, learned how to adjust my f-stop and tried a whole bunch of different focusing techniques (if you want to call them that). Although this particular tutorial was a failure overall, I did manage to figure out how to make those neat squiggly light lines. Small victories, right?

Here is what the finished product is supposed to look like:

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Here are a few of my attempts:

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I heard that chuckle! It’s ok though, after all the stress and frustration I felt while trying to be be successful, I’m even laughing at myself while writing this. The truth is, even though it took me over an hour to admit defeat, it was probably the most educational hour I’ve ever spent with my camera. Granted, I did want to throw it up against the wall a few times, but what great relationship doesn’t have a few tense times along the road to greatness?!

Regardless, I think I’ll stick to www.pickmonkey.com for now :)

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Are you a photography buff that has successfully attempted this bokeh-inspired technique? I’d love your input on what my errors may have been! How many of our readers have a DSLR, but still shoot on automatic like me?




Greek Inspired Hummus!

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

30 Days of Pinterest – Day 22

The Pin!

Even though I absolutely adore hummus, I have to admit I’ve never actually made it! My love for this good-for-you dip started when I took a Chef Dez cooking class at Lepp Farm Market, and was actually surprised that I liked the taste of pureed chic peas. Who knew they could taste so good?! After the class, we were given the recipe  – but since I didn’t own a food processor, I never got around to making it.

Fast forward a few years and I finally have a food processor (and it has literally changed my life)! I’m not quite sure why it took me so long to get around to making my own hummus with it, but I figured this would be the best time to give it a try. Since Chef Dez’s Greek hummus recipe is unfortunately long gone, I headed onto Pinterest to find a suitable replacement.

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The Project Process:

For this super simple hummus recipe, you will need the following ingredients:

  • 1 cup canned chick peas (if you do any shopping in the states, they call these garbanzo beans!)
  • 1/3 cup tahini (this is sesame seed paste – I didn’t have any, so I omitted it and it still tasted great)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • dash of salt & pepper
  • dash of paprika

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If you have tahini, the original recipe indicates for you to combine the water and the tahini ahead of time, so it’s already mixed together for when you need it. Like I mentioned above, I didn’t have any tahini, but was willing to give it a try without it anyways. I have seen hummus recipes in the past that did not include it, so I knew it probably wouldn’t cause any major problems.

Start by pouring the canned peas, garlic and cumin into the food processor. After the mixture begins to look like coarse meal, start adding small amounts of water to make it easier to blend. I would recommend using just under 1/4 cup (if that), as 1/4 cup seemed to be too much without the thickening power of the tahini. Of course, if you did have the tahini, this is where you would add it, along with the full 1/4 of water.

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Once everything is well blended, you can start adding the lemon juice and olive oil in small quantities, alternating between the two. This is where I started to feel like a fancy chef! I just love the feeling of making something from scratch, and having the yummy smells take over your kitchen.

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After you have all of the ingredients combined, continue to process for another 5 or so minutes. Scoop out of the food processor into a dish, and garnish with paprika. If you’re feeling extra fancy, you can add an olive or two and a dash of olive oil on top as well!

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A note about garlic: I love, love, love garlic and actually put 3 cloves in, instead of the recommended 2. I highly discourage this! As you might have guessed, it ended up being way too much garlic, and greatly reduced the chances of a goodnight kiss without prior teeth-brushing!

A note about chick peas: After making this recipe, I learned that while chick peas don’t have to be peeled, it’s worth the effort if you have the time. Apparently, peeled chick peas will make a much smoother hummus, and a less grainy texture. I’ll be giving it a try on round 2 of my hummus – I’ll keep you posted!




DIY Garden Markers

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

30 Days of Pinterest – Day 21

The Pin!

Okay, so, these didn’t exactly turn out as planned but I still love the idea and will be giving them another go.

I’m forever losing my popsicle stick markers in our veggie garden each year. Either they get lost in amongst all the greenery or the rain washes away the ink or some critter decides they would make a good addition to their nest.

So I found this project! I think these are great. They are inexpensive to make, relatively easy to make (says me who didn’t do a good job), customizable and add colour to your garden, which is always a lovely thing.

What you need:

wooden spoons
letter stickers
spray paint
clear coat
tape

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The process is fairly straightforward. First, use the alphabet stickers to spell out the names of the items in your garden. I’d recommend using the back of the spoons as they are a flatter surface.

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I liked the tip about putting tape around a couple of inches at the bottom so paint isn’t sitting in your vegetable garden. Because, really, the whole reason I’m growing my own food is so its healthier than what I can buy at the store! I think this would be a great way to get kids involved in veggie gardening – have them decide what they would like to plant and make these great markers together. Perhaps instead of spray paint you could use a brush to paint on any variety of children’s paints that you have on hand – finger paints, watercolours, you name it – it would all work, as you will be sealing with a clear coat.

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So after you paint, let them sit until dry. I put mine upright in one of my planters so the paint could dry evenly. When the paint is dry, carefully peel off your letter stickers and apply a coat of clear coat so they become water/weather proof. Again let them sit to dry.

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Here’s the finished product. Not best, I’m so unhappy with all the paint bleeds. I still love this idea, though, and will give them another try before I plant my garden next month.

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What went wrong? I believe two things were against me. First, the stickers I got were cheap and not very sticky. They didn’t stick properly so the paint got under the sticker bit. I’d use stickier letters, maybe better quality ones meant for scrapbooking. Or you could use wooden spoons that are already clear coated. Some of the letters on my project are blurry because the paint ran/seeped on the raw wood. Or better yet, you could still buy the cheap spoons and give them a quick clear coat of your own before the paint. I’ll experiment and update this post in the coming weeks.

 




Pink Chalk Fabrics

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

30 Days of Pinterest – Day 20

The Pin!

While there is no shortage of amazing craft ideas floating around Pinterest, I think we can all agree that there is a shortage of cute crafting materials. I know I can’t be the only one heading out to the local craft or home improvement store in search of the perfect spray paint colour, fabric design or scrapbook paper, only to be disappointed by the lack of selection. While we’ve always supported shopping local, sometimes it takes a little bit of  online browsing know-how to bring those Pinterest ideas of yours to life.

Today’s pin is a website we stumbled upon while searching for amazing aqua colour fabrics, and it was too great to keep to ourselves!

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The Website:

Pink Chalk Fabrics is a website based out of the US that has an incredible selection of all those great fabrics you see on d.i.y. Pinterest projects! With affordable shipping to Sumas & Canada (and free shipping on sewing patterns), this site has been my new go-to place for vibrant and modern fabric designs. I knew there were more options that what was available at my local fabric store!

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You can shop for fabrics by style (such as florals, birds & animals, novelty and geometric), designer (like Amy Butler, Cosmo Cricket and Lizzy House), colour or fabric. I actually didn’t realize that many scrapbooking companies (like Basic Grey and Echo Park Paper Co.) produce patterned fabrics as well as paper. This could be dangerous territory for me!

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Although the designs themselves could be very overwhelming, it was neat to view the fabrics by designer and see how the whole collection is meant to look together.  Since I’m an only an occasional fabric crafter, I was surprised by my sudden urge to take up quilting after browsing all these ultra modern and vintage designs. Some of the collections would look absolutely stunning woven together in a quilt – and where else could you find a quilt focused around vintage kitchen themed fabrics?!

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I was very happy with their selection of teal geometric inspired fabrics, and am already dreaming of someday completing a d.i.y. bench something like this:

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Although it’s a little over my head for this month’s Pinterest challenge, you can bet that I will share my project process along with you when I tackle this one in the future!

What would you do with your dream fabric? Do furniture projects intimidate you, or get the creative juices flowing?




Lemon Seedlings

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

30 Days of Pinterest – Day 19

The Pin!

I’m a huge garden fan, but living in a one bedroom apartment can sometimes be a little limiting in this area. I have little pots of mint and basil sitting on various window sills, but I love the idea of trying something new. Before reading this pin, I wasn’t even aware that you could plant lemon seeds! Well, I figured you could plant them, I just didn’t realize they would grow into aesthetically pleasing sprouts.

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The Project Process:

This was one of the cheapest pins I have completed this month. Since I already had all of the required items, all I had to do was gather them up from around my house and display them nicely for a picture!

Here’s What You’ll Need:

  • Seeds from one lemon
  • Mug (for planting)
  • Few handfuls of soil
  • Saran wrap

Like the original poster mentioned, doing too much research on certain projects can just end up being extremely confusing. So for this one, I decided to keep it as simple as possible.

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Here are the steps I took:

  • Using a knife, pop the seeds out of the lemon and collect them in a bowl (this got the seeds out, without totally destroying the lemon). Note: use fresh seeds only. Don’t collect seeds for weeks and then try to plant them. It probably won’t work.
  • Rinse the lemon seeds with water. I allowed mine to soak for a little bit in the water as well.

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  • Fill a mug (or other suitable container) 3/4 full with soil.
  • Arrange lemon seeds in dirt

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  • Cover with a bit more dirt – just enough to cover the seeds.
  • Add a little bit of water.
  • Cover with saran wrap, to help create a cozy greenhouse for your seedlings. This will keep the moisture in, and allow the seeds to germinate within the soil.
  • Set the container on something that is relatively warm. While the original poster effectively used her Apple Time Machine, I opted to use my wireless router. Although I don’t think it generates quite as much warmth, I figured it would work better than flat on a table or a ledge.

It’s been there for about 3 days now, and I’ve probably been checking it much more often than I need to be. However, it’s my first time growing something right from seed form and I’m anxious to see how they turn out!

I’ve also heard that leafy lemon plants can also add a slight fragrance to the air, so I’m looking forward to making a few more of these little pots if everything goes as planned! Stay tuned for an update in a week or so!

Have you ever planted anything from seed form? Did you realize you could plant lemon seeds for household plants? Oh the things you can learn on Pinterest!




D.I.Y. Dishwasher Cubes

Friday, April 19th, 2013

30 Days of Pinterest – Day 18

The Pin!

If this Pinterest challenge is any indication of how much I use my kitchen, I’m sure you can imagine how many dishes I’ve managed to dirty in the process! I’ve been really intrigued by the homemade dishwasher cube pin for a while, and I’m excited to be finally giving it a try.

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The Project Process:

Prior to tackling 30 Days of Pinterest, I was quite hesitant towards attempting many of the ‘do-it-yourself’ projects I came across.  While I am a self-proclaimed crafty gal who loves any d.i.y. project that involves paint, paper or glue, I’ve always steered clear of make-it-yourself home or body products. Something about them intimidated me. That, and I’ve always felt like I would totally bomb them and would regret wasting the time and money spent to try and make them myself.

Since the whole point of this challenge was for me to expand my horizons and finally try those Pinterest ideas I secretly love, I knew it was only a matter of time before I dove into something like dish cubes. I do have to admit though, after constructing bath bombs, concocting shower pucks, and even doing a little vinegar and baking soda scrubbing; I did feel slightly more confident in the dish cube department than I would have 20 days ago.

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 Cup Vinegar
  • 2 Cups Baking Soda
  • 2 Cups Borax
  • 1/2 Cup Salt
  • Lemon Essential Oil (few drops)

Since I’ve done a few different things with vinegar and baking soda this month, I already had plenty in my cupboards. The only thing I had to purchase for this task was Borax, but man that stuff was hard to find! I’m not sure if it is generally a hard item to locate, or if everyone else was just making loads of dishwasher cubes too, but I finally did locate it at our local Wal-Mart. If your Wal-Mart is anything like ours, it can be found in the laundry aisle, near the middle, at the very bottom of the shelves, laying down. The whole laying down part of the product placement probably added to the difficulty of locating it, and now I’m wondering if the other stores I checked did have it, I just missed it.

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Anyways, back to the constructing of dishwasher cubes! Mix everything together in a medium or large bowl, making sure everything is mixed thoroughly. The vinegar may cause the mixture to fizz slightly, but this is normal. Once mixture is completely mixed together, scoop out of the bowl and press into 2 ice cube trays.

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You want to make sure you pack the cubes as tightly as you can, as this will create more solid, and more effective, dishwasher cubes. If you know your dishwasher has a smaller cube compartment, feel free to fill the trays only half full, and fit in 3 trays instead of the original 2. Wait approximately 24 hours to let the cubes dry thoroughly, and then place in a glass container or ziploc bag for storage.

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When you have a full load of dishes that you are wanting to clean, place a cube in the regular dish cube spot of your dishwasher.

The original poster recommends using 2-3 drops of dawn dish soap on top of the dish cube (for added grease cutting action), but make sure not to use any more than this! Dish soap can cause your dishwasher to overflow, so be very mindful of how much product you use in this step!

Do you use natural products such as these in  your dishwasher? How do they work for you – and do you find it to be cheaper than purchasing them from the store?




Vanilla Chia Pudding or Drink

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

30 Days of Pinterest – Day  17

The Pin!

Since watching a few popular health documentaries recently, I’ve become a lot more aware of the types of foods (or food-like products) that I’ve been putting in my body. Instead of depriving my body of foods that might be bad for me, I’ve been focusing more on filling it up with foods that are great for me. Throughout this journey, I’ve been doing a lot of juicing, cutting out processed products, and increasing nuts, seeds and booster foods.

I hadn’t actually heard of chia seeds until I watched Hungry for Change, and even then they weirded me out. Sure they are great for digestion – but what do you actually do with them? I ended up buying a few handfuls when I came across them in the bulk section of the grocery store (since they were cheap, I thought it couldn’t hurt), and figured I would look them up on Pinterest when I was ready to use them.

Fast forward a few weeks, and I’m adding them to almost anything I can! Although I’ve used them in many recipes since that day at the grocery store, this is by far my favourite way to enjoy them.

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The Project Process:

One of the really neat things about chia seeds, is that they puff up after a few hours of refrigeration, giving them almost a tapioca type texture. Who would have thought?! Because of the texture, this recipe can end up being a pudding or a drink, depending on how many tablespoons of chia seeds you use. More chia seeds = more pudding texture, more liquid = more drink texture.

Personally, I prefer it as a drink because it makes me think of a very healthy bubble tea type beverage, but the pudding is tasty too!

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Measurements For the Drink:

  • 2 Cups Milk (I use vanilla almond milk)
  • 2 Tablespoons Chia Seeds
  • 2 tsps Cinnamon
  • Sprig of Lemon Rind

Measurements For the Pudding

  • 2 Cups Almond Milk
  • 2/3 Cup Chia Seeds
  • approx 3 tsps Cinnamon
  • Sprig of Lemon Rind

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Mix all ingredients together in a large glass container. Shake or stir 2-3 times every few minutes after combining. This keeps the chia seeds from clumping together as they start to swell up and absorb the almond milk. At first, it won’t look like much (just a big ol’ glass of almond milk) but after a few hours in the fridge, they’ll plump right up!

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After a few hours in the fridge, it’s ready to enjoy! I always make this treat in a mason jar, because it allows me to shake up the whole batch, pour a glass, and pop it back in the fridge. I also always have a straw close by, because plump chia seeds always taste better to me when sipped from a straw!

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Have you seen any good food documentaries lately? What about chia seeds – have you experimented with them yet?




Using the Oven for Hardboiled Eggs

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

30 Days of Pinterest – Day 16

The Pin!

If you’ve been on Pinterest for any length of time, you’ve surely seen this pin floating around! The concept? Making hardboiled eggs… in the oven! Since we happen to eat a lot of hardboiled eggs in our house, I knew I had to give this one a try. Although I realize many others may not see the point in doing it this way (vs. the old fashioned boiling method), I’ll be the first to admit that I despise actually making hardboiled eggs.

For some reason, I’ve never been able to get it exactly right. Will you overcook the eggs if you put them in the pot first, and then add tap water and then bring to a boil? Do you risk cracking the eggs by adding them to already boiling water? Do you move the eggs off the hot element once the water breaks a boil? It’s just one of those things that I do differently every time I make them. So, I absolutely loved this set-it-and-forget-it method!

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The Project Process:

This was one of the most simple and straight forward processes I think I’ve done all month!

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  1. Set the oven to 325 degrees
  2. Put eggs in muffin tin (fill any empty cups with water to prevent damage to your tin).
  3. When oven is preheated, slide in the muffin tin
  4. Set the timer for 25 minutes
  5. When timer dings, rinse off eggs in cool water to stop the cooking
  6. Enjoy your delicious eggs for breakfast or a healthy snack!

Once you pull them out of the oven, you may notice a few small brown dots on the shells of your eggs. This is due to the muffin tin/baking method, and don’t worry, it does not affect the taste or quality of your eggs at all.

Although I didn’t find them any easier to peel that traditional hard boiled eggs, I did find them to be tastier. I found after 25 minutes they were thoroughly cooked through, with no risk of dark rings around the yolk of egg.

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Overall, I’m happy to report that this method (and the resulting eggs) were a hit. I definitely recommend using this method if you are planning to ‘boil’ lots of eggs ahead of time for the week, or if you are making devilled eggs or potato salad. It’s a quick and easy way of cooking a large number of eggs without have to worry about them bumping into each other and cracking in the pot!

Do you eat a lot of hard boiled eggs in your household? What do you think about the baking method vs. the boiling method?




What Should I Read Next?

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

30 Days of Pinterest – Day 15

The Pin!

I tend to go through reading spurts, going months on end without even picking up a single book. Although I love reading, I just get so busy with life that it falls to the wayside. It usually isn’t until I’m prepping to go away on vacation that I start thinking about which books to read. Since I’m currently prepping for a little vacation coming up in June (and at a loss of what I want to read while I’m away), I was so excited to learn about What Should I Read Next on Pinterest!

The website takes books that you like, or authors that you prefer, and uses them to provide you with a list of recommended books just for you! It’s a great way to discover new gems that you may not have known about otherwise!

 

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The Project Process:

How does it work? Easy as 1-2-3!

  1. Visit whatshouldireadnext.com
  2. Type in a book title or author that you love. Since I fell in love with the Hunger Games during my last vacation, I thought I would use this title to help me find another equally easy & enjoyable read.Screen shot 2013-04-15 at 10.37.58 PM
  3. Select the book/author from the selected list that shows up
  4. Review the list of recommendations selected just for you!

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The picture above shows only about 1/4 of all the book titles on the recommended list, and I must say, most of them look fairly promising! I have read The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest and although I found it to be more of a mature read, I still enjoyed it very much.

I’ve requested The Maze Runner by James Dashner from our local library, as I haven’t heard of this one before and it ranked fairly high on the recommendation list. I suppose it will be a true test of how accurate this app really is!

If purchasing from Amazon is more your thing (rather than borrowing from the library), the info/buy buttons will take you directly to the Amazon listing. Even if you don’t plan on purchasing it, it’s a great way to learn more about what the book is about, and see what other readers are saying about it!

Do you ever have trouble choosing a book to read? Do you have a favourite book that you recommend to everyone you meet? We’d love to hear what your favourites are!

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Making Your Stainless Shine

Monday, April 15th, 2013

30 Days of Pinterest – Day 14

The Pin!

Although I always thoroughly wipe down my kitchen at the end of the day, I rarely spend time on my kitchen sink. For me, the sink has always been one of those household things that gets dirty way too soon after scrubbing it! Since we were having company over this weekend, I thought that now would be a great time to use a pin that I had seen, on how to get your stainless steel sink to sparkle and shine.

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The Project Process:

Since I’ve been trying to use more natural cleaning products around the house, I loved that this technique only required a few household ingredients that I already had.

Items Needed:

  • Vinegar
  • Spray Bottle
  • Baking Soda
  • Boiling Water
  • Scrubber
  • Paper Towels
  • Olive Oil

To give you a bit of an indication, this is our sink before I got down to work:

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First off, I poured the vinegar into the spray bottle, and sprayed the entire sink with an even coating. Then, I poured a bit of baking soda into my hand, and sprinkled it all over the sink. I found that using my hand made it easier to direct where the baking soda was going, rather than dumping it from the box and risking a large amount of wasted soda.

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Since cleaning with vinegar and baking soda is a new thing for me, I was pleasantly surprised with the bubbling action that kicked off right away! While letting this fizzy concoction sit in my sink for about 10 minutes, I boiled water using my kettle to have it ready for the next step.

Once the 10 minutes was up, I poured the boiling hot water over the the sink to rinse and dissolve any left over baking soda residue. Then, I gave the sink another once-over with vinegar and scrubbed the whole sink with my scrubby. Since I have a lot of ridges around the drain of our sink, I whipped out an old toothbrush that I had laying around, and did my best to clear the grime out (with a little extra vinegar for the tough spots).

Once I had wiped down the whole sink, I wiped it down again using a dry paper towel. This grabs any of the remaining vinegar, and various particles that may be still hanging around.

One of the neatest steps of this tutorial was the olive oil buffing finish! I’d never heard of doing this before, but I’m so glad I found this trick! Using a dry piece of paper towel, apply a small amount of olive oil to a section of your sink. Buff your sink in circular motions, moving from one section of the sink to the next. Not only will you notice your sink starting to shine, but you’ll also notice even more icky sink residue coming off onto your paper towel. I was amazed that even with all my scrubbing, there was still residue to be found! It’s also be said that the olive oil helps to create a barrier on your sink, and helps to make it easier to clean on a daily basis when you’re cleaning up after dinner.

I think I’m going to make this a weekly routine in my household, because a sink this shiny is a beautiful thing!

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