Wednesday, December 7, 2011

#6 - How to Drill a Hole in a Jar

For years I've seen the wine bottles filled with Christmas lights.  I always thought they were beautiful except for one thing - the cord was almost always hanging out of the top of the bottle.  I finally came across a Pin that solved that problem.

Gabrielle of posted a blog on how you can drill a hole into a glass jar specifically for projects such as this.  I couldn't wait to make a trip to Lowe's so I could get the necessary drill bit.

The first thing I knew I'd need was a wine bottle (she used an old-fashioned apple cider bottle, which I hope to do in the near future because it looks great).  I soaked it in hot soapy water to clean out the inside as well as loosen up the labels on the outside.  Once those were scraped off, I went around the outside of the bottle with a paper towel dipped in acetone-based nail polish remover.  It helps remove any of the sticky residue that's leftover from the labels (Goo Be Gone works great too).

Our next step is to start drilling.  I picked up a glass and tile bit that she recommended for about $11.00 at Lowe's.  The bits come in various sizes - Gabrielle had used a 3/8" bit and said it was a tight squeeze trying to get the lights through the hole.  I went up one size to the 1/4".  It may not seem like much, but it made getting the lights through much easier.

A couple of things you need to know about using this bit.  First, you need to keep the drill at a low speed.  Going too fast will cause the glass to shatter.  Slow and steady is key with this project.  It will take you at least 20-30 minutes under the best conditions (a fully-charged drill) to get the hole done.  Second, keep a small cup of water handy.  The bit's packaging recommended keeping the area we're drilling moist.

The first couple of minutes is the trickiest.  The bit will try to move around on the bottle until it forms a groove to grasp on to. Keep an old blanket or towel underneath the bottle for extra support and to catch the shavings as the hole forms.

If you look carefully, you can see where the drill got away from me and scratched the glass a little. 

 As you go, you'll want to clean the area with a towel and add more water.  You will see a lot of powder appear as you get further into the glass.  You may also see what appears to be smoke... it's okay.  The bottle isn't going to catch fire.

The moment when you can actually see a workable size hole is so relieving.  There's something about that fear of the bottle breaking that can make this craft very stressful.  :)

Once done, the hole should be big enough for you to slip the mini lights through one bulb at a time.  Be careful - the bit does not smooth the edges so it would't be difficult to cut yourself.

Now, this is actually the second bottle I've made.  I had a "Duh!" moment with the first one when I went to stick the lights in and realized that buying a 2-ended strand of lights was foolish.  For a wine bottle, a 35-count strand with only 1-end (the plug) is my recommendation.  I went ahead and used the 2-ended with the first bottle, leaving just the ends hanging out.  It was tight trying to get the lights through (it was also a 50-strand and very cramped inside the bottle).

Now, it's as simple as feeding the bulbs through the hole one at a time.  This may seem like tedious work, but it actually goes fairly quickly.

Here's a tip, if you have a crochet hook handy, use it to go through the top of the bottle to help pull some of the lights toward the neck.  It makes the lights look more spread out and glow throughout rather than just in the body of the bottle.

When you're done, you'll have a beautiful lamp for an end table, the top of a bookshelf, or wherever else you want to put it.  You can decorate the outside of the bottle with a beautiful ribbon or whatever else you please, or just leave it plain.

I think I'm going to do the apple cider jar and paint the outside with a pretty Christmas-themed design.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

#5 - A Simple and Easy Hair Bow

My 7-year old daughter has been begging me to try making her some hair bows.  I've made bows for wreaths, for gift wrapping, and for crafts, but never have I attempted to make a hair bow.  Needless to say, I was thrilled to come across a Pin from Notes from the Patch.  Suzanne has her own quilt store in Bakersfield, CA and this is the blog she runs for the store.  The specific post I found here shows a super simple way to make basic hair bows.

Since we live in Alabama, we are all about College Football this time of year.  And when in Alabama, you must choose a side - Roll Tide (University of Alabama) or War Eagle (Auburn)!  I grew up a Florida State fan, which I still am to this day, but in the 3 years we've been here, I've become a huge fan and supporter of the University of Alabama Roll Tide!!  The recent win over Auburn inspired me to make Daisha a hair bow in red, gray, and white in support of her favorite college football team (black would have been included as well, but I decided since this was my first attempt, 3 different ribbons was plenty).

Suzanne recommended 1.5"-wide gross grain ribbon, but since I was using multiple colors, I went with 7/8" for the crimson and gray, and 1/4" for the white.  Following her instructions, I cut 1 yard of each and laid them out side-by-side.  Start by cutting 5" off of one end and set this extra ribbon to the side - you'll use it later.

Marking the ribbons with the dotted lines was the easy part (you should use a marker that will bleed through to the other side).  Your first mark will be at 3.5" in from one end, then every 6" until you reach the other end.

There should be a total of 5 marks when you're finished.  The next step is where it got tricky for me... stay with me and you'll see what I mean.  You want to take a needle and double thread it, making a large knot at the end.  After that, you simply weave the needle in and out in small stitches using the first dotted line as your guide.

I opted to lay the thinner white ribbon on top of the red and then slightly overlapped the gray.  I held them together the best I could while doing my stitches.  Next, using the fan-fold method, bring the first line over to meet the next line and continue stitching.

You'll use this method all the way to the end.  This is how it should look when you're done stitching through all of the dotted lines:

Now the fun part... gently pull on the thread as you push the ribbons together.  You will want to shape them as you go - I didn't think about this when I did it, so I wasn't totally thrilled with the end result.  Once you have the bow the way you want it (you should have 2 loops and a tail on each side for each piece of ribbon you're using), wrap the thread around the middle snuggly and tie it off.  You may want to stitch through the middle a couple of times to give it some extra security.

This is where you will want to pull back out the 5" you cut off in the beginning.  Depending on the width of the ribbon you used, fold it lengthwise into half, thirds, or whatever you need to have a decent width.  Then you will make a loose knot in the middle of the ribbon:

* A note here:  Since I was using more than one piece of ribbon, I actually cut a couple of extra inches for this piece of ribbon to ensure it would fit around my bow properly.  After making the bow with just the red, I knotted a piece of the white around for added effect.

Apply a small amount of hot glue to the backside of your knot and attach it to the middle of your bow.  Wrap the edges around and hot glue each flap, adding your clip in along the way.  I glued one flap, glued the clip, then glued the other flap.

Trim the excess ribbon and you're finished!

There are lots of ways to decorate the middle of this bow.  I am still searching for an elephant we can put in the middle to represent the Alabama mascot, but for now, Daisha was completely happy with how it looks:

I chose to use a clip with a flat base so that she can clip them to her headbands or into her hair.  There are so many different types of clips you can buy - I had no clue.  I can't wait to try some other variations of this bow and start building up her collection!

#4 - Eggs Baked in Ham Cups

I was in the mood to try out a new breakfast recipe.  My family loves breakfast foods, no matter what time of day it is, but we all get bored with the same old dishes.  Because of that, I'm always on the lookout for ways to bring the classics into a new light.  I recently saw a Pin my friend Angela did for Ham Cups filled with eggs and knew it was a must-try.

The recipe came from and is absolutely delicious.  I got out my deli sliced ham, eggs, cheese, and seasoning to get started.  

The recipe actually calls for just one slice of ham per cup, but since my hubby bought the deli-sliced style, it took a couple of slices for each cup.  Oh, and I used the oversized cupcake pan rather than a standard and started by spraying each cupcake with non-stick cooking spray so the ham didn't stick.

The next step was to simply crack an egg into each cup on top of the ham.

I chose to leave the eggs this way, but I supposed you could scramble them up if you wanted.  After that, I simply topped with cheese slices I'd chopped up, some fresh basil, salt, and pepper.

I put the pan into the oven at 375 degrees for 15 minutes.  This is how they looked when I pulled the pan out:

I was really worried about trying to get each Ham Cup out of the pan in one piece and without making a huge mess.  Now I know why I used the non-stick spray - they came out easily and held together beautifully.  We served them up with some buttered toast and indulged!

This is one recipe that will definitely get made again.  My kids love their eggs done but with the yolk still runny, which is just how they turned out.  The cheese and ham add some additional nutrients to help kickstart their day and kept me from having to stand over the stovetop all morning.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

#3 - Portraits with Christmas Lights

As an amateur photographer, I'm always on the look out for inspiration for photos, especially this time of year.  I came across beautiful photos.  One was taken by Amy Tripple Photography, and the other was by Caroline Tran Photography.  I was inspired to get a strand of unused Christmas lights out and start snapping.  It took some time to get the settings just right, but I finally got a couple of test shots with my neighbor's granddaughter that turned out great:

Addison was a great model, but I wanted to keep playing.  Later in the day my daughter agreed to be a guinea pig so I could get a few more test shots.  Here are the photos I got of her with the Christmas lights:

I have a couple of holiday photo shoots scheduled and I can't wait to try this technique out even more to see what I come up with.  Thanks to both Amy and Caroline for the inspiration!