Drown the Dirt Doldrums - Lick Limescale where it Lives

Dingy glassware, dull aluminum, scummy bathtubs... These things are homemaking nightmares that can depress even the most cheerful Suzy Sunshine. Banish their gloomy clouds of dirt and limescale with a simple solution made from common household ingredients!
I had a few things to clean up, so I put them all in plastic bin and filled it with a solution of hot tap water, half a bottle of white vinegar and a couple of tablespoons of cream of tarter. I let the bin sit until the water had cooled to room temperature, then pulled the items out and washed them with dish soap and a nylon scrubbie and all the offending detritus just rinsed away.
It's the perfect solution for aluminum, which can't be cleaned with ammonia because it pits. While it won't remove burnishing, it will eat through all that accumulated, dulling residue.
Crystal vases, when used regularly, can develop limescale and hard to remove bits of plant matter that cloud their clarity. This treatment will soak through all that unpleasantness and leave a crystal clear shine.

This method also works on bathtubs and other plumbing fixtures. Just fill the tub with hot water, pour in a bottle of white vinegar and some cream of tarter and let sit over night. The next morning all that hard to remove scunge will just wipe away! My friend Mike from California, who's more of a clean freak than I am suggested this to me. It's especially effective on fiberglass tubs which can't be scrubbed with abrasives. Give it a try!


Ready for Spring - You're Own Little Flower Box

Vintage craft magazines can be such great sources of inspiration! McCall's Needlework and Crafts magazine from 1967 is the source for this charming little project.
It's a trinket box, but what I like about it is the technique can be adapted to so many materials end uses. They suggest you use felt for the flowers and leaves, but you could also use different types and colors of paper, fabric, leather or even rolled fondant! Here's the template for the flowers:
Just right click, or command click on the image above and choose save to download them for your own use. You can resize them as needed in photo editing software.

I did a needlework project based in part on this idea. Instead of glue I used french knots to embroider the felt flowers to the surface. Here's the end result:

What would you do with this idea?


Blitzed for Blitzen - Holiday Cheer in the Form of Rum

'Tis the season to get snockered! When it's cold, and I'm in the market for a good snockering I like it to come with butter.

Here's a wonderful recipe for a hot buttered rum toddy from the Esquire Party Book from 1965. It's one of my go-to books for celebratory fare.

"For each drink you'll need:

3/4 Tbs. brown sugar
1 1/2 ounce rum
2 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon butter
4 oz boiling water
Ground cinnamon
Sugar cube

Into a six ounce mug put the sugar, rum and cloves. Spoon the butter into the mug and pour over it the 4 oz of boiling water. Stir the batter thoroughly with the cinnamon stick and dust with ground cinnamon. For a special touch, try a sugar cube dipped in 151 proof rum, lighted and dropped in at the height of burning with the incantation of Yo-ho-ho!"

Now if you'd like a stronger drink you can vary the ratio of water to rum slightly, but don't eliminate the water all together! 6 oz of rum can leave you wondering where you left your pants.

All my best wishes for a happy holiday!


Brini's Brownies - Peppermint Bark Edition

Ever since I was given the gift of a box of peppermint bark years ago I've been obsessed with it. So much so, that I devised a recipe for peppermint bark brownies that I make every holiday season.  
 They a delightfully decadent treat that always brings raves. Here's how to make them:
Just like my coconut brownies, this is one of those clever recipes that uses a mix as its base. I use the same mix - Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge. It's the perfect foil for the peppermint.

You'll need:

1 Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge brownie mix
1/3 cup of oil
1/3 cup of peppermint schnapps
1 egg
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
Buttercream icing
4 peppermint candy canes

Begin by greasing the bottom only of a brownie pan. Then put your candy canes in a plastic zip-lock bag and break them up until they're the size pictured below. The initial breaking can be done by whacking the bag against the counter. After that larger pieces can be broken up by hitting them with the back edge of a table knife.

Set them aside and place the brownie mix, oil, schnapps, egg and extract in a bowl and mix by hand until combined. Pour the mix in the pan and bake as directed on the box for your pan size. When they're done set them out to cool for a while, then frost them with the icing and sprinkle the peppermint chunks on top.

I like to put them in the refrigerator for a while before cutting them. The icing gets a little stiffer and is easier to cut without smearing.

These make a great impression at any holiday party. Be careful stacking them, however, they tend to lift the peppermint off the ones below them. I always put wax paper between the layers when I put them in a tin as a gift.

Happy Holidays!


To Sleep, Perchance to Dream Part 3 - Resting on a Cloud

With three previous posts on my sofa bed you might think I'm a trifle obsessed with it - and you'd be right. Here is number 4! The reason for my obsession is that when you live in a studio apartment, it's a very important piece of furniture. It must perform three functions, and they must be performed flawlessly. It's taken some work, but I've now gotten two of the three perfected - comfortable seating and comfortable sleeping. The latter is what I'll address today with a great product that has turned what is normally an unpleasant, lumpy sleep experience into a dream - an Air Dream, in fact.
When I was deciding what sort of sleeping situation I wanted in my new apartment I considered a day bed, but was worried about the room looking like a bedroom all the time and a murphy bed, but that would have required some major demolition and construction with the current layout of my place. A sofa bed seemed like the best option to make the place work for entertaining and still provide me a real bed. If Mary could do it, so could I.

My one concern with the whole sofa bed oeuvre was the notoriously uncomfortable sleeping experience. I set out to see if there had been any advances in sofa bed sleep technology and was pleasantly surprised to find the Air Dream mattress. Its air over coil technology easily eliminates the bar across your back that is the hallmark of a sofa bed mechanism. Simply inflate the mattress with the included air pump...
...and it becomes an 11" thick mattress that feels like a regular bed. Here it is dressed out in some of my vintage sheets.
The next morning just flip up the cap on the air chamber and it deflates quickly.
After making sure all the air is out of the ends and corners it folds up like a normal sofa bed mattress.
I had a few concerns before ordering, so I called the company to ask some questions. I spoke with Sean and he was very helpful. I was worried about what to do if there was a power failure. I couldn't inflate the mattress without power. Sean said that I could sleep on the mattress without inflating it, just like sleeping on a regular sofa bed mattress because under the air bladder is a standard flexible coil mattress. My sleep experience wouldn't be as comfortable as with the bladder inflated, but it would do in a pinch. My second question had to do with longevity. This mattress is really designed to be a guest room replacement. I wanted to know how well it would hold up to daily use. Sean told me that as long as I took care of it (making sure the air had all been expelled before folding it up, not letting the bladder get pinched in the mechanism, etc.) it would be just fine - plus, there is a three year warranty on the mattress, air chamber and valve. So I was sold, I ordered it and haven't looked back. It's been a wonderful solution for me.

You can find them on their website. They're a great solution for guests and daily use alike. Just so you know this isn't a biased review, I did pay full price for my mattress, and I do feel that it was worth it.

No more sofa bed posts. I promise! At least not until I address the third important aspect - how it looks, and get it reupholstered...


Alcohol - It's Not Just for Cocktails Anymore

As most of you know, I can be a bit obsessive. I like things nice and neat. While moving, I removed some beautiful lucite shelves from my old bedroom and found that they had taken some of the paint off the wall with them.
I tried carefully chipping it away with my nail, but it didn't do the trick. If the pieces had been anything other than plastic, I might have used acetone - my go to solvent for removing gunky build up, sticker residue and paint from most surfaces. But acetone dissolves plastic, so I would have had a frosted, marred mess on my hands. I chose rubbing alcohol. It's every bit as good as acetone, and doesn't mar the finish of Lucite, acrylic and other plastics.
It takes a bit of elbow grease, but a touch of rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball will remove all sorts of detritus. I had to use several cotton balls, and it was a messy process.
But the results are stunning. Just look how clean and clear that corner is now! If you'd like to try it yourself, here are a few tips: Be sure and test the alcohol on a small, hidden corner to be sure it doesn't mar the finish. Depending on how much paint or build-up you're trying to remove, it may take some time, and patience. Never smoke while doing this - alcohol is flamable. It's so satisfying to see things all nice and clean again!
I've just listed these shelves on eBay. Have a look!

I'll have some holiday posts up soon - I promise!