Thursday, May 7, 2009

How to Make a Personalized Mother's Necklace

I made this oxidized sterling necklace for my Mom stamped with the initials of each of her grandchildren. You can use the same principles to personalize jewelry using names or words as well. This project does require some basic jewelry-making experience, but with the right tools and supplies, I think anyone could create something like this.

Materials needed:

3/8" round sterling silver disks
1 1/2" 24 gauge sterling headpins
18 gauge sterling wire
18" sterling snake chain
Sterling jump rings
Small freshwater pearl beads
Jeweler's tool (like rounded needle-nose pliers)
Wire snips
Metal stamping kit
Heavy claw-tooth hammer
Chasing hammer
Metal block
Dremmel drill fitted with a very tiny bit
1 egg
Ziplock bag
Double-sided tape

1. Stamp the disks
I bought the little silver disks precut, since I don't have the tools to cut them myself. I then had my father-in-law, who is a dentist, bore small holes in each one. I am pretty sure this could be done with a Dremmel drill fitted with a very tiny bit, however. You can also buy metal pendants precut with a hole.

Use the metal stamping kit, hammer and metal block to stamp an initial on each disk. Center the stamp, hold it straight, and give one or two nice hard whacks with a heavy claw-tooth hammer. I like to use double sided tape on my block to hold the disks still while stamping, since they are so small. I made nine, since my mom currently has nine grandchildren.

2. Wire the pearls

I used small freshwater pearl beads and 1-1/2" 24 ga. sterling headpins. Thread the pearl onto the pin. Grasp the wire with the jewler's tool about 1/8" above the top of the pearl. Bend it away from yourself at a 90 deg. angle.

Grasp the wire about 1/4" from the bend and twist it back toward yourself, creating a round loop. Continue to wrap the wire back around itself to finish. I made nine of these, one for each grandchild.

3. Prepare a decorative loop.

Using the 18 ga. wire, make a large circle, about an inch in diameter. Loop the ends of the circle around, wrapping and cutting one end with the wire snips. Use the other end to form a smaller loop like the one at the top of each pearl. This will be where the pendant hangs from the chain, so make sure this loop is big enough for one end of the necklace to go through. Use the chasing hammer and metal block to flatten out the edges of the loop. This also hardens the piece.

Add other decorative touches as desired: I wrapped one piece of wire around itself in a circle, so that looked like a cable, or a piece of two-ply rope. I made a loop at the top, and hammered it flat as well. I attached this decorative element to the large loop using a jump ring.

4. Put the pieces all together.

The jump rings I bought were made like very small key rings. This is more secure than an open jump ring for hanging the disk pieces. I threaded one jump ring into the hole on a disk, threaded a pearl on behind it, and then threaded the whole thing onto my large pendant circle. I repeated this process 8 more times, making sure the initials showed on the front. Hang the pendant from the necklace.

5. Oxidize the silver.

If you want to leave the metal shiny, then you're done. Woo hoo!!

I like to oxidize my pieces to get the shiny finish off. Hard boil an egg. While it's still hot, put it in a ziplock bag, and mash it up (shell and all). Place the necklace inside, and leave it for about 30-40 minutes. Make sure the necklace is completely covered by the egg. Turn it from time to time to get an even coat. When the metal is the color you like, take it out and rinse it.

There are other ways to oxidize sterling silver, but this is by far the least messy and least expensive. You will have better results if you use a freshly-cooked egg. I have tried it with a hard-boiled egg reheated in the microwave, and the results are just not the same.

Some other ideas:

Sterling silver disks: etsy
Sterling wire, chains & freshwater pearls: eBay
Jewelery tools, sterling headpins, jump rings: Hobby Lobby
Remaining tools (hammer, stamping set): my garage

How to do it...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

How to Make All-Natural Baby Food

I thought I would be such a healthy mom: all natural and organic foods, no sugar, make all my own baby food, and breastfeed exclusively for at least six months. I haven't exactly lived up to those high ideals, but I have learned some quick tips for preparing easy, healthy, natural baby foods.

1. Organic Oatmeal Cereal

Use a blender to grind about a cup of organic oats at a time until you get an even, sandy consistency. Store in an air-tight container. To prepare the cereal, add to warm milk, soy milk, applesauce, juice, vegetable and fruit purees... anything you want to thicken a bit. Add a little less cereal than you think you will need, because it thickens up as it sits.

2. Organic Fruit and Vegetable Purees

If you’re eating or preparing cooked organic vegetables or fruit for the rest of the family, the easiest thing to do is to use a baby food mill. As long as the veggies or fruit are pretty well cooked, you can grind a serving at a time, and baby’s food will be ready in less than 2 minutes.

If you want to prepare a larger amount of baby food, puree the cooked veggies or fruit in a blender with just a little water. The baby food can be frozen in ice cube trays for nice little serving-sized portions. After the cubes are frozen, pop them into freezer bags, and thaw one serving at a time. You can get creative with combinations of fruits and vegetables as well: prunes and bananas, strawberries and mango, peas and carrots, corn and squash.

3. Finger Foods
Once your baby is old enough to pick up finger foods, you can serve little bits of soft cheese, soft fruits like banana and mango cut into small pieces, little pieces of whole grain breads, and if you don’t mind the mess, scrambled egg. Be sure to supervise little ones feeding themselves.

4. Happy Combinations

My son likes to eat cottage cheese and fruit, ricotta cheese and applesauce, oatmeal and applesauce, scrambled eggs with shredded cheese, applesauce and shredded cheese, and just about any combination involving yogurt.

5. Shortcuts for Really Busy Moms
These are some of our favorite shortcuts to healthy eating: Earth’s Best Foods makes yummy organic baby food products. My son’s favorite is the whole grain graham crackers. Yo Baby yogurts are organic, made with whole milk, and include DHA for brain development. Some other staples we like to have around are prepared organic applesauce, cottage cheese, and boxed cereals like Cascadian Farm Purely O’s.

How to do it...