Turning Old CDs into Art

My husband, Tim, and I decided to work as a team on a rather ambitious project for this day’s “try something new” challenge: to refurbish a mirror unit using old CDs.

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The idea had come from a friend who had tagged me in a post on Facebook showing various projects and artwork made using CDs, which I thought looked pretty impressive.

First of all we painted the wood of the mirror unit, having removed the mirror and all the fixings.  Whilst that was drying we cut up a selection of old and unwanted CDs.  We found that the re-recordable CDs and DVDs we had burned at home worked a lot better than the thicker and sturdier official album CDs.

Cutting CDs is easy enough but then you have to separate the thin metal layer from the plastic, and discard the plastic.  This was a little tricky and really quite time consuming.

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Once the acrylic paint had dried on the wood it was time to start gluing on the pieces of CDs in a mosaic pattern.  We used super glue and tweezers to do this.

This project took four hours in total from start to finish and I was sick to death of it after the first two hours but once I start a project I like to see it through… Tim is a real perfectionist and the bits he was doing looked about a hundred times better than the bits I was doing so we decided to combine our efforts so he cut and placed the pieces of CD and I glued them down…

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The unit looks really pretty on the two sides Tim was in charge of (and a horrible mess on the side I was originally in charge of ha ha)… One of our friends fell in love with the finished piece and asked us to give it to her, so we did, and it has been lovingly displayed in her home ever since 🙂

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Natural Oven Cleaner: Baking Soda and Vinegar

For weeks a particular promoted Facebook post kept appearing in my newsfeed.  At first I ignored it, but once I had made my 2015 New Year’s resolution to try a new thing a day, I thought maybe I should click on it in case it was something I should add to my list.  As soon as I read it, I decided to give it a go right away.

The article I am referring to was:

You’ve Been Cleaning Your Oven The Wrong Way Your Entire Life. This Is So Brilliant!

I followed the instructions to the letter, using just baking soda and water mixed into a paste spread out over the inside of the oven, and left overnight, and then wiped off in the morning, and cleaned again with some vinegar.

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I have to say I was really pleased with the results!  Our oven had been desperately in need of a deep clean, and this method did a decent job. It did not remove all of the seriously scorched marks on the bottom, but it was very clean.

The only thing I was not happy about was the smell – I found the smell of the vinegar really offensive, and even with the doors and windows wide open, the acrid smell did not dissipate for hours, and I ended up with a raging headache.

It was only MUCH later on that I realised that I had used the wrong type of vinegar… I should have used 5% white spirit vinegar, but had in fact used malt vinegar!!!

This “something new” was particularly interesting because of the feedback it generated on my Facebook post about it – I received brilliant tips and advice from lots of my friends about other natural “recipes” to use in household cleaning… so I actually ended up with a heap more ideas of new things to try later in the year, many of which I have used ever since!

Two years on, I now almost exclusively perform my daily household cleaning routines using all natural products.  So when I look back on this experience, and how utterly clueless I was back then, it gives me a giggle!

Making a shallow dish out of clay

I have always been quite interested in the idea of trying my hand at pottery but thought it would be wise to start simple, so I bought some self-hardening clay to have a play with.

I always enjoyed browsing some of the many books which we had collected over the years all about arts and crafts, but had never actually attempted any of the suggested projects.  However, under the pressure of my New Year’s resolution to try out a new thing a day, I felt inspired to attempt a project using self-hardening clay to make a decorative shallow dish.

I rolled out the clay, cut it into the desired shape and laid it inside a shallow bowl to get the raised edges I wanted.  Once it had dried out overnight, I painted it with acrylics, dusted it all over with a generous sprinkling of glitter, used some epoxy glue to embellish the dish with some night stars blue sand sitara gemstone beads and then glazed it…

I HATED IT!

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The shape was all wrong, the colour was hideous and the glitter looked horrible.

I repainted it and I felt it looked a little better.  I had made it for a friend as one of her birthday gifts, so I wrapped it up and nervously handed it over, but thankfully she genuinely liked it, and for the past two years it has adorned her living room sideboard.  Phew!

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Whilst this project was not the roaring success I had hoped it would be, one day soon I shall make another attempt at using self-hardening clay… watch this space!

Brownies in a Jar – Edible Gifts!

Following on from discovering the benefits of making salads in a jar, I decided that (in the name of balanced eating lol) I should try making some brownies in a jar…

These were also inspired by The Domestic Geek – I am definitely a big fan!

I decided to attempt slight variations on the original recipes, and prepared three different brownie mixes (one plain, one with chocolate chunks and pecans, and one with walnuts), and it took just a few minutes to prepare each one.

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The idea is that when you want to bake your brownies, just tip the contents of the jar into a mixing bowl with some oil, vanilla extract and eggs, and pop into the oven.  So simple!

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The jars looked and smelled amazing, but of course the real test was how tasty the brownies would be once baked.  We were not sure how long the jars of brownie mix could be stored for so we baked one batch two days later, the second batch twelve days later (for ourselves) and the third batch nearly three weeks later (in another “something new” challenge).  Each batch was DELICIOUS!!!

These brownies in a jar are brilliant, and would make an ideal gift for a loved one with a sweet tooth!

BROWNIES WITH CHOCOLATE CHUNKS AND PECANS

Ingredients:

  • 1¼ cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • ½ cup dark cooking chocolate broken into pieces
  • ½ cup chopped pecans

Method:

Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F or Gas Mark 4) and lightly oil a 9×9 inch baking dish.

Pour contents of jar into a large mixing bowl and stir to combine.

Add the following:

  • ½ cup of melted butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 Tsps of vanilla extract.

Mix well.

Bake for 20 – 25 minutes.

Serve hot… ideally with vanilla ice cream!

Salads in a Jar – Meal Prep

I love food – pretty much all food – and I am very keen on salads.

Back in January 2015 I was exceptionally busy and had very little free time, let alone any real time to spend cooking.  I started looking into the concept of meal prepping, i.e. preparing meals at the weekend in advance of the week ahead.  I especially loved the idea of salads in a jar, which I came across on YouTube on a channel called The Domestic Geek.

The idea is simple: you prepare a salad and store it in a jar in the fridge for up to three days.  Salad dressing goes in the bottom of the jar, then your sturdier veggies (so they won’t wilt), and then more delicate leaves etc on top.  When you’re in a hurry and want to eat your salad, you just give the jar a good shake and then empty the salad onto a plate – et voila!

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04 January 2015 was a Sunday and I had a busy week ahead, so for my New Thing A Day challenge, I made three jars, each with a different salad, and popped them in the fridge.

Throughout the week I had a salad ready and waiting for me when I got home from work.  They were quick, simple and fun to make, looked so pretty, definitely time-saving, and oh so delicious!  My favourite one was the Greek salad – yum yum!

These salads in a jar were such a great idea that I have continued to make them on a regular basis ever since 🙂

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Honey, Apple and Carrot Dog Treats

Do you have a pet that is a super fussy eater?  We sure do!  In fact, we have TWO… Lila and Rumo are our beautiful Alaskan Malamute twins… and they can be ridiculously picky about what they will eat, especially when it comes to dog treats.

One of our dogs’ favourite New Thing A Day challenges I did back in 2015 was learning how to make them some homebaked dog biscuits.  I have tried a number of different recipes since then but this one remains their absolute favourite.

We had received a very thoughtful Christmas gift from our family: an adorable set of dog biscuit recipes together with the cutest cookie cutters.

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So, on Day 3 of keeping my 2015 New Year’s resolution to try a new thing a day, I was keen to try my hand at baking some dog biscuits for the very first time. I selected an apple and honey biscuit recipe because our dogs definitely like sweet treats, plus we already had all of the necessary ingredients.  I decided to add carrots to the ingredients because our dogs are especially fond of carrots.

From the moment I started grating the apples and carrots, the pupsters knew I was up to something interesting and shadowed my every move as I mixed and rolled out the dough, cut out the shapes and placed them onto baking sheets.

Once the biscuits had been baked to perfection, I took out the freshly baked biscuits from the oven, and even to me they smelled gooooood!  Lila and Rumo frantically went through a whole repertoire of tricks in an attempt to persuade us they deserved a cookie: offering paws, high fives, sitting, lying down, wooing…you name it!

When the treats had sufficiently cooled down, and Lila and Rumo had calmly sat down and waited politely, they were each rewarded with a biscuit.

THEY LOVED THEM!!! 

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So much so, that in fact, a little later on, when we had left the kitchen, Lila snuck back in and decided to do a little countersurfing, helping herself from the cooling rack – very, very naughty behaviour indeed!  But from a fluffy princess who turns up her nose at almost every dog treat in existence, it just goes to show what a big hit these were!

The recipe states that these treats will keep for 3 weeks in an airtight container but I cannot say for certain because our dogs make sure they never last that long 🙂

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HONEY, APPLE AND CARROT DOG TREATS RECIPE

Ingredients:

  • 1 (Sweet) apple – grated
  • 1 Large carrot – grated
  • 250g Seed and grain wholemeal flour
  • 1 Tbsp Honey
  • 2 Tsp Sunflower oil
  • 1 Egg

Method:

Line baking sheets with greaseproof paper and preheat oven to 180 C (350 F / Gas Mark 4).

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and mix until it becomes a smooth dough.

Place dough onto a well floured surface and roll out to 5mm thickness.  Cut into shapes using cookie cutters and place on baking sheets.

Bake for 30 – 40 minutes until lightly golden brown on top.  (30 minutes for a softer, chewier biscuit or 40 minutes for a crunchier texture)

Allow to cool completely on cooling rack before transferring to airtight container.

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You can follow our dogs’ adventures on Instagram 🙂

Learning to Paint with Watercolour Pencils

As one of the very first of my New Thing A Day challenges in 2015, I decided to try out a set of 24 of the Faber-Castell Albrecht Dürer artists’ watercolour pencils which I had bought on a whim from Amazon. As a schoolgirl I had always preferred drawing and sketching to painting, so the idea of using pencils to paint really appealed to me, but I didn’t know how to use them or what to expect.

When I was younger, I had loved art: I was the Art Coordinator for my school house, I did Art & Design A Level, and by the age of sixteen I was lucky enough to secure an unconditional offer to study Fine Art at Art School.  But here’s the thing: once I finished school at eighteen, I chose to pursue an academic degree over Art School and I never again so much as picked up a pencil or paintbrush.

By 2015 it had been many, many years since I had done any painting or drawing.  I was nervous.

I sketched out a very simple drawing inspired by a photo I found on Google, lightly shading with a few different colours, and then went over it all with a clean wet paintbrush… all in all I think I only spent about five minutes on it but I was already hooked – these watercolour pencils were lots of fun to play with!

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So while this painting was drying I decided to do a quick sketch from a photo I had recently taken of Lila, one of our gorgeous Alaskan Malamutes… and watched my little sketch come to life as the colours spread and blended, becoming increasingly vibrant, as I went over the pencil strokes with a wet brush…

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At the time, I had no idea of the significance of this little personal challenge of mine.  I had not sketched or painted for so long, but when I picked up those watercolour pencils and finally put pencil to paper, that creativity that I had forgotten existed somewhere deep inside me was suddenly reignited, and my long dormant passion for arts and crafts reawakened.

That was 02 January 2015.  Two years later, my love and desire to express my creativity has not wavered or diminished since that day.  Watercolour pencils remain one of my favourite mediums to work in, and now I have upgraded to the full set of 120 shades.

So back to the day in question – I snapped photos on my phone of my two watercolour pencil paintings and posted them to my Facebook page right after I had done them.  The number of likes and comments I received from my friends and family was totally unexpected, but so encouraging…

Within hours I was approached by a dog charity I was involved with at the time, asking to use my painting of Lila as a design on products they were selling to raise funds to help dogs.  They asked if I could do more paintings for them.  Later, I was approached by a local card shop asking if I could produce a series of cards for them to sell.  Friends started messaging me, requesting paintings of their dogs!

At first I didn’t take any of it seriously, and then I got nervous and scared, and I wanted to say no to everything; but my husband told me to stop being so silly and to say yes – after all, wasn’t my New Year’s resolution to try out new things?  So I did.  I said yes to everything.  And it was amazing.

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More recently, I have been lucky enough to have the support and encouragement of some wonderful people on Instagram who have allowed me to paint their dogs to use as card designs. In the not too distant future, I would love to put together some designs for print on demand sites and perhaps even an Etsy store.

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This particular “something new” challenge actually helped me rediscover something I didn’t even realise I had lost…