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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Toaster Oven "Hard-Boiled" Eggs

Today, I made the greatest discovery in history:  You can make "hard-boiled" eggs in a toaster oven!  For those of you who don't know me personally, I have been known to have eggs explode in the kitchen from trying to hard-boil them in the past, when I decided it was undercooked and I put it in the microwave to finish it (by the way, NEVER do that).  To make the perfect hard-boiled egg, all you need is an oven (or, in my case, a toaster oven).  My toaster oven cooks much more evenly than my standard oven, so I use it for small items.

Turn on your toaster oven to 325 degrees.  Put 3-5 eggs directly on the toaster oven rack.  Place them parallel to the rack, so they don't roll around.  Bake for approximately 30 minutes.

Take the eggs out of the oven and immediately immerse them in ice water.  Leave them to soak for approximately 15 minutes, or until they are cold.

These things are so easy to peel!  However, you can see that this one was a bit scorched on the inside.  It didn't affect the taste whatsoever.

These are the oven rack marks:

I was a bit worried from the scorching, but you can see that, once I sliced it, it is perfectly cooked on the inside.  Now I can make hard-boiled eggs without having to worry about explosions in my kitchen, and so can you!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

DIY Aftershave Treatment for Razor Bumps

I have very sensitive skin.  Because of this (and much to my husband's disappointment) , I rarely shave my legs.  It's just easier than dealing with the inevitable ingrown hair, and then trying to get rid of it before it gets to the point at which I need antibiotics (which has happened multiple times).  I am allergic to many antibiotics, so I can't take them very often anyway, for fear that I will become immune to the ones that I can take.

There is one product, which will remain nameless, that I have used with much success.  You can probably figure out what I'm talking about, but I am not posting the name because I'm basically giving away their recipe.  I got a free sample of it with some makeup I ordered from Sephora.  It's a wonderful product, and it allows me to shave my legs without getting ingrown hairs.  However, the price tag is pretty shocking:  For an 8-ounce bottle, it's $35.00!  Someday, when I have a better-paying job and thus disposable income, I will totally buy this stuff.  However, until then, I found a recipe to make my own version.  It's not exactly the same, but the active ingredients are the same. Mainly, that's aspirin.  I found a recipe on an online forum, the website it linked to was long gone, but luckily she put the full recipe in the post.  I modified it slightly, just to make it easier to make.  Here's how I made it:

Ingredients:  5.5 ounces rubbing alcohol, 2.5 ounces witch hazel (I eyeballed the measurements), 8 uncoated aspirin tablets (available at the dollar store), crushed in a mortar and pestle.  You will also need an old bottle to put the product in, at least 8 ounces in size.  I used an old 12-ounce astringent bottle that I washed out with hot water.  It has a nice spout in the lid that will work well for this application.

First, I poured the alcohol and witch hazel into the bottle.

Next, I put 8 uncoated aspirin in my mortar and pestle.  I crushed up the aspirin as finely as possible, as shown below:

I made a funnel out of a piece of paper and dumped the crushed aspirin into the bottle.  Most of the aspirin dissolved immediately, and only a little bit was left in the bottom of the bottle.  I shook it up to mix the ingredients. That's it:  8 ounces of after-shave skin treatment for less than three bucks.  Just shake the bottle well before each use.  Apply liberally to any freshly-shaven area with a cotton ball, and enjoy never having ingrown hairs again!

DIY Watering Can

I was browsing Pinterest the other day, and I saw that someone made a watering can out of a milk jug.  "How cool!" I thought, and I set out to make my own.  Well, I don't know that the heck I did wrong, but it did not work out.  The water would not pour out of the spout, and when I made air holes, that didn't help.  Anyway, I was not willing to give up so easily.  I had killed the milk jug, and I thought I was going to have to wait a week until I used another gallon of milk.  Until I remembered this was sitting empty next to the trash can in my laundry room:

Perfect:  It's sturdier than a milk carton, so it should last a long time.  First, I washed it out very thoroughly.  I put 1/4 cup of baking soda in it and filled it with hot water, and let it sit overnight to try to make sure it gets completely cleaned out.  I would hate to kill all my plants from a touch of Downy in the water I put on them!

Next, I took a hammer and a thick nail and put some holes in the lid.  

See that hole in the handle?  that's important for air, otherwise your water will not come out of the can.  Feel free to put two or three air holes in the top of the handle, approximately at the part where the inside of the handle attaches to the bottle. 

Now to test it out!

It's not perfect, but it's a watering can for free.  I think it's a lot better than paying ten bucks for a glorified bucket.  My neighbors probably think I'm crazy and pouring chemicals on my plants....

Monday, May 14, 2012

DIY Translucent Mineral Powder for Pennies!

I'm somewhat of a makeup snob.  I like the better quality brands; Not so much for the brand name or anything like that, but mostly because there is only one eyeliner I've found that doesn't end up migrating into a big racoon-y mess after an hour, and it happens to cost twelve dollars.  Something about the shape of my lower eyelids makes everything want to smear, otherwise. Twelve dollars is really not a whole lot for makeup, but for someone who is frugal like me, I consider it an investment.  If I'm going to wear eyeliner, it's going to be right.  I'm definitely not above using drugstore makeup, I just try to find a balance between quality and price.

Because of this, I was pretty upset when a friend posted something on Facebook about the ingredients in mineral powder.  I had purchased some translucent mineral powder for 7 dollars, thinking I  had gotten a great deal.  Most of you will probably agree, until you keep reading:

See those ingredients?!  That means that the translucent powder we spend all this money on is literally this:

with a little bit of this added:

Yup, cornstarch and diaper rash cream.  That's what we have spent our money on, and I, for one, am pissed.  So, I tried something.  I figured, "hey, that zinc oxide probably isn't too important here," and I tried putting cornstarch on my face with a makeup brush.  It worked and looked exactly the same.  I did a little experiment to show you how awesome translucent powder is:  I took off all my makeup (yes, all of it), and I  used just translucent powder (aka cornstarch) on one side of my face, and nothing on the other side.  As you can see, it covered my lighter freckles and it also reduced my dark circles.  I usually wear concealer, eyeshadow, eyeliner, bronzer or blush, and mascara along with this stuff, but I wanted to showcase this alone, to show the dramatic effect of cornstarch!  All those makeup commercials you see always show the model in a full face of makeup, so you don't really see the effects of just the product being advertised.  Therefore, I give you cornstarch:

Forgive me, I was quite tired when I took this photo.  I just washed off all my makeup, put cornstarch on half my face, and took some pics before I washed it off again, put on lotion (you should do that too, face lotion is a very important part of your daily regimen), then went to bed.  If you cover one half of the photo with your hand, you can further see the dramatic difference this simple little ingredient makes!

Now, those of you who are looking for a little bit of color from your powder will not be able to get that same effect from just cornstarch, because there are other ingredients that add color.  However, this translucent powder (cornstarch) will work for any skin tone, because it disappears into your skin.  I wanted to clarify that, since I am very pale, and the powder is white.  I didn't want you to think you had to be as pale as me for this to work, because it's darn near impossible to become as pale as me without a lifetime of  diligent sunblock and staying in the shade.

For those of you who do want a little color from your finishing powder, why not purchase some of your favorite tinted powder, then do as the drug dealers do:  mix half of the expensive stuff with cornstarch to make it last longer!  You will still get the color, and your product will last twice as long.

Let's break down the cost.  First, I came up with an average for some of the most popular translucent mineral powders.

Southern Magnolia Cosmetics Translucent Mineral Powder:  $14.95 for .3 ounces (about 8 grams)

Bare Minerals Translucent Mineral Veil:  $20.00 for .3 ounces

Maybelline Translucent Mineral Power Finishing Veil:  11.10 for .28 ounces (I'm rounding up to .3 ounces for easier calculations)

So, average cost of 1/3 of an ounce of store-bought translucent mineral powder (a.k.a. cornstarch) is $15.35.


16 ounces of corn starch is $1.39 at the grocery store.  For .3 ounces of corn starch, it costs less than 3 cents.

Keep in mind, a lot of makeup companies do add ingredients like aloe or shimmer, and cornstarch will not mimic those effects.  However, it will still work as a great basic finishing powder, and you won't beat the price!.

I'm simply going to save the jar my finishing powder came in, and I'll refill it with cornstarch when it runs out.
Share this blog post with your friends or on Facebook, save everyone some money!

If you really want to get into the DIY makeup scene, you can buy zinc oxide powder and other common mineral ingredients on websites such as or specialty online stores.  For me, cornstarch is enough.  I've gotta save my money to pay for my fancy eyeliner!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

DIY Concrete Bird Bath for Under Ten Bucks

Today, I discovered my new favorite material:  Concrete!  I love it!  I couldn't stop making things today.  I made stepping stones and a bird bath out of Quikrete, and I am going to show you how to make a bird bath for less than ten dollars.  Here's how:

Materials required to make a bird bath out of concrete are as follows:

The minimum required materials are:
2 bags of Quikrete
Large container for mixing cement
Measuring cup
Cement Trowel
Molds for bird bath
Lubricant for molds
Burlap scraps

2 60-lb bags of Quikrete.  Make sure you don't buy the one that says "fast-setting," as that will set up before you have a chance to fill your molds!

This is the kind you should buy, it's in the yellow bag for $2.65
at Home Depot.

Instead of paying upwards of $85.00 for a bird bath mold, I used my husband's office garbage can and two large bowls from my kitchen.  It's not like I cook very often, so I figured I could sacrifice them. 

(This is not the exact garbage can I am using, but I forgot to take a photo of it before I filled it with cement.  Mine is actually the same size on all 4 sides.  When flipped upside-down, it makes for a nice tapered base, and the top (bottom) is also slightly concave, which is perfect for holding something like a big cement bowl full of water.  Since you obviously don't have the same items on hand as me, I recommend going around your house or a store and just flipping some containers upside down and see what you like.  Before I came up with the trash can idea, I was also considering taping together some cardboard oatmeal canisters to make a large pillar.   However, I think I will prefer the larger base that comes from the trash can.

 Instead of spending seven dollars on a large mixing tub, I used the tub from my bathroom closet I used for toilet paper storage, since the size was right and it didn't function too well for toilet paper storage anyway.  I bought a new basket for the closet at Dollar tree for a buck to replace the one I was inevitably destroying with cement. 

Hmm, it's a big tub with a large lip around the edges, and it's fairly thick plastic.  Medium is $6.29, Large is $12.65, both at Home Depot. Here is the tub that was in my closet with toilet paper in it, which you may remember from my prior post about closet organization:

You can find something similar to this (but smaller) in the basket section at Dollar Tree.  Because of the size, I recommend you mix half-batches of cement at a time. The only thing to do is make sure you use the same amount of water/mix  in each batch.  On that note, make sure you have a measuring cup for this project as well.  Here's what I was able to find at Dollar Tree that could be used for mixing cement:
This bucket has a 12-qt capacity.

These large wastebaskets were about 18" high and about 14" across.  I would go with the bucket, but some Dollar Tree stores don't stock them, so I'm trying to provide everything available that could work.

I had vinyl gloves on hand.  You should always have a box of gloves in your home, I use them all the time!  Plus, it's very important to wear gloves when working with concrete, because it contains acid at will burn your skin.  If you don't have gloves on hand, you can get these at Dollar Tree:
10-pack latex gloves for $1.00 at Dollar Tree

 Instead of spending  bucks on a concrete trowel, I bought garden tools from Dollar tree.  They worked great. 
$10.97 at Home Depot for a concrete trowel

$1.00 each for metal garden trowels at Dollar Tree

To start, I emptied the concrete mix into my tub and added the minimum amount of water at first, then a little extra.  This tub is clearly too small, but I didn't want to spend money for a little convenience sake.

Cut a slit down the middle of the bag (across the short side) and then flip the bag over gently.  This will ensure the least amount gets spilled onto your work space.  I probably should have used a drop cloth here.

It took the full batch of concrete to fill the trash can (base of bird bath).  I used the measuring cup to scoop the concrete into the trash can, spreading it out with my hand as I went along.  Once it was full, I kicked the side of the trash can several times to reduce air bubbles, then used my hands to smooth it out. Be sure to grease your molds using WD-40 or any type of grease you have on hand.  I used olive oil and a washcloth to spread it around.  It worked wonderfully.

here's the remnants, I didn't get any photos of the mixed concrete, because my hands were covered in it, and I didn't want to get my camera dirty.  The mixed concrete should look like lumpy cake batter, almost like wet clay.  it will appear a bit dry and lumpy, but if you squeeze it in your hand, it will easily mold into a solid piece.  If you add more water, it is okay, but the cement will not be nearly as strong.  For every extra pint of water you add to a full bag of cement mix, it loses 40% of it's final strength, according to the Quikrete website.  

I then mixed a half-batch (which I should have done in the first place!) in a drier mix and used my hands to press it into the bowl to shape the actual bird bath.  After I built it up quite a bit, I put the smaller bowl inside of it and pressed down.  I discovered that, after several minutes, the weight of the concrete was pushing that small bowl up and the concrete was pooling in the bottom.  To remedy this, I used a few rocks from the garden to hold it in place for an hour while it set up.  I also put some beads in the edges for decoration:

I put the last of my concrete into a plastic mold to make a stepping stone, along with a single bead for decoration.  I made a second one, but I gave it to my next door neighbor so her kids could decorate it.

After about 2 hours, I removed (with great difficulty due to suction) the top bowl from the bird bath mold.  Seeing that the concrete was set, I smoothed out a few inconsistencies with my gloved hand, then moved onto the next step, which was to prepare the concrete for curing.

I also took this chance to personalize our stepping stone.  A pen was too thick for this job, so I used a skinny knitting needle.  It took me about five times to get this to look halfway decent!  I wanted to write it in cursive, but my cursive R's are funny, so it makes my last name look like "Butt" instead of Britt sometimes, and I would rather not have a Butt stone in my garden.

At this point, I cleaned up my mess and I wet some burlap.  I soaked it and rung it out so it was saturated, but not dripping.  I draped it over all exposed areas of concrete.  If this is not done,  the concrete will not cure correctly and it will crack.   There are three ways to cure concrete.  The first is the burlap method, which requires the least money and maintenance.  The second is to spray it with water every few hours, but I figured I would forget it, and I was concerned it would dry too much over night.  The final method is to use a curing compound, but they are very expensive.  I had a bunch of burlap table runners leftover from my wedding that I was using to wrap plants when we had freeze warnings at night, so I cut up some of those for this project.

For the bowl, I also bunched up some wet burlap and draped it inside the bowl part.  I then covered the outer ring with a larger piece of burlap I draped over the whole thing.  It's important to have burlap-to-cement contact to hold in the moisture.

I then set these in my mud room to sit overnight.  I'll check on them and take more photos in the morning to see how the cement has cured.  Hopefully it won't take much longer, I cleared out all the tiger lilies in my garden area to make more room, and I'm anxious to celebrate the tiger lily carnage by further crushing their remnants with a cement bird bath on top of that fresh mulch.

Since I am not using a curing agent (which usually contains a cement sealant built-in as well), I need to seal my cement once the project is finished.  This won't be for a couple of days, once the cement is fully cured.  I have some Thompson's all-purpose Waterseal on hand, since I was going to seal the deck later this month.  If you buy it new, it costs about $12.50.

 If you're looking for something more economical, then Thompson's multi-surface Waterseal is available in a 12 oz. spray can for $4.98 at Home Depot:

After allowing 2 days for the concrete to cure, I put a coat of Thompson's Waterseal on it and allowed it to dry for 24 hours.  Okay, I lied.  I let it dry to the touch and stuck it out in the garden.  I put a coat on the bottom of the bird bath and let it dry overnight, then I coated the rest of it.  I figured that it's not going to rain tonight, so I can put it out a little early so I can get a photo.  I've never been patient...  Anyway, here it is!  You see the bottom of the base isn't quite dry yet, but it's getting there:

First, the stepping stone.  Nothing special, but I like the personal touch.

Here, you can see what I mean about the bottom of the bird bath.  It probably should have cured another day, but that's what I get for being impatient.  I'm sure it will be fine, it's not like the birds will be causing a lot of stress to it.

Here's the close-up!  I'm pretty happy with it, especially for the price.  If anyone else makes their own bird bath using my instructions, be sure to link to it in the comments to show off your hard work!

Now for the grand total I spent on this project:

Tub, gloves, burlap, sealant, lubricant (olive oil), molds, sealant, etc:  on hand=  $0.00

2 bags of Quikrete @ $2.65 each, before tax= $5.30
1 garden trowel from Dollar Tree before tax= $1.00

Grand Total:  $6.30 plus tax

Friday, May 4, 2012

Adventures in Amateur Gardening

The other day, I found out I have to have jaw surgery.  I'm not sure what that entails as of yet, but it definitely involves some time off work.  For those of you who don't know me, I've been battling TMJ for some time now, and I've missed work as a result.  I work in a call center, so I basically have the worst profession possible for this type of medical problem!  Anyway,  since I've had time off, I've been working on things around the house (obviously, for as cheap as possible due to medical expenses).  What sparked the gardening interest was the fact that my neighbors threw away this arbor:

I fixed it with a little bit of tape, and it kind of took off from there.  So far, so good.  About a month ago, I spent two bucks on a seed starter kit and another two bucks on some seeds; sunflowers and moonflowers.  No reason for the types, I just bought moonflowers because I successfully grew them in the past. Plus, they will hopefully grow to climb that arbor and cover up the taped spot, thus making my garden a little less....."trash-picker-esque."  I chose the sunflowers because I wanted to grow something that would turn out taller than me.  I like results!  Today, I decided it was finally time to transplant my little seedlings, because the ten-day forecast shows that we finally won't have night temperatures drop below freezing.

I planted my moonflowers below the arbor on each side.  I also planted the sunflowers around it.  I used spare garden fencing and yarn to create a critter-proof barrier, and hopefully the things won't get eaten.

Did you know that mismatched knitting needles are perfect to use as garden stakes?  I knew I was saving those for something useful.

I know they're supposed to be planted at least a foot apart, but I know myself, and I am assuming that half the plants will die anyway.  Plus, I ran out of places to plant them!

Here's the garden post-transplant.  Hopefully they will all make it!

I plan to plant more moonflowers, but this time I will be putting them straight in the ground.  This requires that I soak the seeds 24 hours prior to planting, and that's why I have a shot glass full of seeds on my window sill.  That alligator you see is a toy we found on the ground the day my husband and I moved into our first place together five years ago.  He's been with us ever since.