Saturday, November 15, 2008

How to Break Walnut Shells Cleanly in Half

I am posting this here, because, I promised it on my Children's Blog, but I don't really want children reading the instructions. It involves a sharp knife, so I am providing links between the two posts.
I have read that the way to do this is by slipping a steak knife into the stem end of the walnut shell and working/wiggling it around the natural split. This does work, too, one time out of 50! So my thinking was that if I roasted the walnuts first, it might give way a little easier. And that worked, too! But with a much higher success ratio! I had success in fully half of the walnuts that I tried, 13 out of 26! Not to mention that this method made the walnut hearts pictured! So here we go! Please use caution. Be very careful.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
Place whole shelled walnuts in a shallow oven proof pan, single layer.
Roast walnuts for 35 minutes. Odd time, I know, but it worked for me!
Cool walnuts till you are comfortable holding them.
Carefully slip the blade of a narrow bladed steak knife (non-serrated edge) into the stem end of the walnut.
Work the blade down through the meat.
Gently but firmly start to work the blade around the natural split, being very careful not to force the knife, because you don't want to cause it to slip, and, you know, cause you to shed blood.
Clear out the meats, and you have walnut halves suitable for a lot of fun crafting, for kids and adults.

Craft Suggestions:
Toy Boat - Melt paraffin into the hollow half, stick a toothpick mast in it, slip on a paper sail, and fill the bathroom sink with water for boat races!

Thumbelina Bassinet - Cut scrap fabric to size and glue in hollow half for bed linens. Glue teenie trim around the edges. Make a teensie quilt. If you are lucky, you can still find a teenie tiny plastic doll in the babyshower favor section at your florist supply, otherwise you may have to be creative and make a Thumbelina. Polly Pocket might do!

Prize Package/Ornament - Spray paint two matching halves metallic gold. Slip a teenie prize, gift, money or message inside. Use white glue (or similar craft adhesive)to affix the halves back together. You can add a ribbon or hemp loop before you seal it up if you would like to tie it on a package, or hang it from your Christmas tree branches. These can also fill a bowl for a fun party favor, think stocking stuffers... go crazy!

The delightful things you're making!~

Mrs. Garland said...
Thank you! I make golden walnuts with little chocolates inside for a St. Nicholas gift for my 1st grade students.  {I so LOVE this!  You must be a magical teacher!}
Susan said...
I've been trying to find a way to open these little boogers without pulverizing them, thank you SO much for the info. I need to make 24 ornaments and I want to do little pirate ships!  {Oh, how I wish I could have seen this finished product!}

louise said.... {sorry, no link} I'm going to line the halves with felt, slip in ties and a hinge, then include tiny clay animals. All I needed to figure out was your trick of roasting the nuts first-- it worked perfectly! And the bonus is the nutmeats smell and taste delicious. Thanks endlessly!!  {We want to see!  How precious would those little animals be!?}

Mama Roots....
While she didn't actually leave a comment, she did provide a link back to this post . . .she has an adorable idea that includes drilling tiny holes in the shells to tie them with string . . . in case you're inclined.  She also thinks roasting them for a slightly shorter amount of time might make them less brittle . . . hmmm . . . I'll have to consider that . . .  maybe it will result in a higher success ratio? 

I'm off to restock my walnut supply!  There are children needing magical delights in their stockings!

~ Much love! ~

Friday, November 14, 2008

How to Make a Pressed Leaf tray

After I made all of those pretty things with leaves, I had to do something with them, didn't I. ;)
Did you notice that my pretty tray ended up on the wall? I think I promised to tell you how to make that! Then, here, goes!

The little cloche is full of acorns and acorn tops. I placed this stem of dried oak leaves in the tall cloche, because I was lucky to find one on the ground with a acorns attached. That's a lichen covered twig standing in the old inkwell. Oh, oh, and I bought the pheasant feather quill at Jane Austen's House!

Now the directions, the steps are:

  • Press leaves and/or flowers
  • Cut glass, mat board, and backboard to size
  • Sand and paint frame, and backboard
  • Tea stain labels, write labels out
  • Drill holes for handles, place handles
  • Positioning leaves and labels, affix
  • Assembly, including backboard and feet, if desired

My tray is roughly 16 x 18 inches. Any size that you like will do. This was a fire engine red picture frame, with no glass when I found it stashed in that cupboard. So. . . assuming that you, too are using a 'found' frame, first remove the glass, and sand the living daylights out of the wood. This should ensure that the new paint makes a good bond. Spray paint the frame.

Find the center of the short sides of your frame, and measure from that point to drill holes for your handles. Unless you use flat head screws, you will need to counter sink the screw heads on the back side.

Cut (or have cut) a sheet of glass to fit the opening. This is usually very inexpensive at a regular, old fashioned, hardware store, if necessary.

Cut a black sheet of paper/mat board/foam core the size of the opening. I used mat board, but I have a stash.

Cut a piece of Masonite, or other 1/8 inch thick board to fit the back of the frame, approximately 1/2 inch smaller than frame. For instance, 16 x 18 frame = 15 1/2 x 17 1/2 backboard. This will need to be nailed onto the frame, so you will want to drill pilot holes, and use the shortest tack that will do the job. You don't want them to poke through the front of the frame. The pilot holes need only be drilled through the Masonite. You are drilling pilot holes because you don't want to be whacking on the back of the assembled frame with a hammer any more than is absolutely necessary. For my frame, I drilled corner holes, and three others per side.

I am assuming, that you have already pressed your leaves, but if you haven't, scroll down a few posts, and you will find the directions for the method that I used. Artistically position your dried, pressed leaves onto the black (or color of your choice) board, leaving a generous margin and keeping in mind that you will need space for the labels. Glue them in place. I used glue dots, but I'm not certain they were the best idea, maybe spray-adhesive, white glue or 3M quick dry craft glue, definitely not hot glue, because it leaves thick blobs. The glue dots had a tendency to break the fragile leaves.

Labels: If you are lucky enough to get your hands on vintage labels, by all means use them, or color copy them, and use that! I tea stained regular old unlined index cards, then ironed dry and to flatten them.

Tea staining cards: Make a cup/bowl of really strong tea and while it is hot soak the cards in it. Soak as long as it takes to get the color saturation that you are looking for. Five to ten minutes is probably a good estimate. I like to have a little tea standing on the cards when I iron them, it gives them a nice, irregular, somewhat blotchy coloration. You will definitely want to press them on a tea towel. :)

Write out the names, and then cut the card to size. I used a sepia colored marker, but black would work equally well. If you do calligraphy, lucky you! You could print the names on tan card stock, and then trim to size. I just used my best 'scientific' penmanship, because I was hoping for an antique-like, handmade appearance.

Wow! This is a wordy description!

Using a straight-edge, carefully draw a border, or two around each label. This takes a little planning, but if you make a mistake, at least the supplies are inexpensive.

I filled my board with a lot of leaves, so I was a little short on room. Because of that I used only the familiar names of the trees, instead of both the common and botanical, as I had planned, but you can find the proper botanical names easily enough online, after all, you found me! I'm just teasing! I'll help! I liked Backyard Gardener.

Check the spacing for labels on your board by writing out the names on scraps of paper, cutting them to the approximate size, and laying them in place. I was really happy that I went to this effort, it really helped with the space planning.

Glue the labels in place, the pretty ones, not the samples, silly. I used the 3M quick drying craft glue, but glue sticks would probably suffice. Again, I don't recommend hot glue.

Now, you get to assemble it!

  • Place the frame face down across an ironing board. Assuming the size works, this is so that the handles hang off of the edges, use any surface appropriately sized for your frame.
  • Carefully lay in clean glass, and finished mat board. I added a spot of hot glue in each corner, yes, now hot glue, to hold everything snugly in place.
  • Position backboard, being careful that the pilot holes line up with solid wood, and tack in place. If desired, add silicone or felt pads to the corners.


Send me a picture, or post it on your blog and send me a link! Debbi

Note: If you choose a frame, like I did, that isn't flat, (can you tell that mine is made from a curved moulding?) it can cause a problem with the handle placement. In mine, the screw that held the handle on wasn't fully obscured. As I see it, you have three options. I chose the easy one, number 3. 1. Carve out space in the frame for the handle to sit squarely. 2. Choose a flat frame. 3. Hide the exposed screw by filling the space with a crafter's clay that is baked to harden. I used black Fimo, and smoothed it out carefully, then baked it for the time recommended on the Fimo package.

To clarify. . . I baked only the frame with handles attached, no glass. I checked with my personal firefighter who assured me that I was baking way below combustion temperature. (which is 400F degrees for wood, I think. . . but he is away at another forest fire, so I can't just ring him up to double check. Wish I could.

One more interesting note: I pretty well battered my poor frame, and needed to repaint it after I had hardened the clay. I did not want to try to mask the handles, but I didn't want to get paint on them either. I coated them with a thin-ish coat of Vaseline (petroleum jelly), spray painted, waited for the paint to dry, and then wiped it off of the handles with a paper towel! Worked like a charm!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Love in a Nutshell

Would you just look at what I found while cracking walnuts today? Know what? Today's our anniversary. Perfect. Just perfect!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

After the rain

It rained last night, our first cleansing Autumn rain. The air is just so . . . well, the damp, cool, freshly scrubbed air just makes the world feel beautiful. Elizabeth, Christian and I, took the opportunity to take a lovely hike through the river park where the salmon were beginning to arrive, and the trees were raining still. Lovely. Just lovely.