Crochet Ice Skate Ornaments

As mentioned in my previous post, I gave Christmas gifts to my department this year, and these handmade ornaments were the easy part. My grandmother made a few for each of her children many years ago, and I snagged one from my parents house and did my best to duplicate what she did.

Tools:
2 jumbo paper clips
2 colors of contrasting yarn
F hook

Instructions:

Row 1: Starting with whatever color you’ve chosen as the main skate color, make 10 sc in the top of the paper clip (I found that 8 sc in the bigger section and 2 sc at the end worked best for me).
Row 2: Don’t make a chain here! Skip the first sc, sc in the next st, hdc in the following st, and then dc to the end of the row (you will have a total of 1 sc, 1 hdc, and 7 dc).
Row 3: Ch 2 (counts as first dc), dc to end.
Rows 4-6: Repeat row 3.
Fasten off, then repeat for the second skate.

For the yarn with which you will hang them, I cut 2 lengths of yarn a little more than  twice as long as I wanted them to hang. Take one, fold it in half, and thread the loop through a corner of the skate (either will do, as long as you do the same corner for both skates). Then, take the length and pull it through the loop you just made to attach it. Repeat for both skates, then tie the loose ends together.

With the contrasting color, weave the laces – I cut off 10-12 inches to do this (I learned my lesson quickly; tying knots with tiny bits of yarn is super difficult). It’s difficult to explain this process in words, so hopefully the photos below will help illustrate. (It isn’t unlike lacing a regular shoe…if you didn’t have lace holes, at least.)

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I’m pretty pleased with how they turned out! It’s a pretty easy and quick project, so it’s great for group gifts, like these.

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Cookie Mix In A Jar, Disaster In My Kitchen

In the last year since I’ve updated this blog (whoops), I got a new amazing job for an amazing company in an amazing department with amazing people. (Did I mention my work life is great?) I only started in January 2014, so this is my first Christmas season with everyone, and I didn’t even think about gifts for everyone in my department…of 9 other people. That’s a lot of thinking, and I can barely buy gifts for my husband who I’ve known for 10 years. So, I started looking for ideas online, and realized I could finally try something I’ve been wanting to try for a while but never had the occassion – the (in)famous cookie mix in a jar.

Image from The Creative Junkie

I’m sure you’ve seen these all over the internet, especially if you’re on Pinterest (I’m a recovering Pinterest addict myself). They look super cute and are great and inexpensive gift ideas, perfect if you work in a department with 9 other people. Plus, it’s literally dumping ingredients in a jar. How hard could it possibly be? (hahahahahahaha.)

I looked around and decided on following these instructions from AllRecipes. I got 9 1-qt mason jars from Michael’s for $2.49 each, and decided I would use a few sheets of Christmas craft paper I already had to cut into tags, and print out the instructions on pieces of paper and just glue them to the festive paper. (On an unrelated note, I also decided I would crochet small ornaments to go with these, which I will discuss further in another post.)

Since I purchased the jars on a Friday night, and wanted these prepared to bring to work the following Tuesday, Saturday morning seemed like a good time to have a test run, since I had absolutely no plans on Sunday. I knew we didn’t have enough of everything for 9 batches, so I went to the supermarket before 9am to grab extra of everything. (Did I mention this was all happening the weekend before Christmas? I have been a master procrastinator since I was 7 years old.) I got home and reviewed the instructions; in hindsight, I should have seen a red flag at “1 1/2 c of flour,” but whatever it’d be fine.

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Not so much.

This would be perfect if I didn’t still have to add a cup of chocolate chips! Guess who started baking cookies at 9:30 in the morning, with the organic butter I’d just paid a ridiculous amount for, since we had no regular sticks of butter.

I read through some of the comments on AllRecipes and was stunned that there was only one negative comment about actually fitting the ingredients. Everyone else claimed they packed and packed and packed with an ice cream scoop until it all fit nicely, but I didn’t have the time or patience for that. (Well, I had the time, but didn’t want to have an issue AGAIN, because now I definitely didn’t have enough butter for another batch.) So I figured I could just halve the recipe, and add 2 each of the cookies I’d just surprise-baked, since now I’d have room at the top of each jar. Except…

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Nice try.

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These things spread to be HUGE. I will take some of the blame for this, because the recipe called for softened butter, and I stopped paying attention and half of my butter was melted. But really? There is no way I’m fitting these things in the mason jars.

Now, it’s not even 11am and I’m drinking white wine because this whole experience has me strung out. Plus now I have to wash all the dishes from my surprise baking session. At this point, I’ve already rinsed out the Fail Jar, so I refilled it but with half of all the ingredients.

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A definite improvement, since now everything actually fits, but there is so much OBVIOUS empty space at the top, now I have to think of something else to fill it with. (Oh, and of course, this new job is for one of the biggest candy companies in the world, so putting some candy in a plastic bag and placing it on top would be pointless.) I toyed with the idea of literally dumping packets of hot chocolate into plastic bags, but then decided I would just cut the cookies up until they fit. (Cookie bites are a thing, right?)

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The cookies were a huge hit, and everyone was appreciative. And maybe if I hadn’t done this less than a week before Christmas, it wouldn’t have seemed quite as tragic. But I’ve learned my lesson – if I ever want to attempt the cookie mix in a jar gift again, I’ll just make the cookies.

Santa Hat Pattern

My sister-in-law asked me if I could create a Santa inspired hat (initially for New York SantaCon). She texted me a photo for inspiration, and I came up with this:

Sorry everyone, I’m not single.

I even remembered to write down the pattern!

Hat

Create a magic ring.
Round 1: Chain 3 (counts as first dc here and throughout; the first dc in each round should be a ch3!), 9 dc (10 dc)
Round 2: 2 dc in each dc (20 dc)
Round 3: *2dc in first dc, 1 dc in next dc* repeat from * to * until end (30 dc)
Round 4: *2 dc in first dc, 1 dc each in next 2 dc* repeat from * to * until end (40 dc)
Round 5: *2 dc in first dc, 1 dc each in next 3 dc* repeat from * to * until end (50 dc)
Rounds 6-12: 1 dc in each dc (50 dc)

Do not bind off after round 12!

Earflaps

Row 1: Turn, ch3 (does not count as first dc, here and throughout earflap), dc 7, turn
Row 2: ch3, dc 7, turn
Row 3: ch3, dc2tog, dc3, dc2tog, turn
Row 4: ch3, dc2tog, dc1, dc2tog, turn
Row 5: 
ch3, dc3, bind off

Count 20. join at 21st and repeat earflap pattern. (I would do row 1 of the second earflap, and then make sure it lines up to your own ears. This is what worked for me!)

Belt

**For this, I just worked the first row of sc in the 10th row of the hat. Since you’re working sc over dc (worked in the round, no less, so I had to mess around with stitch placement to get them to line up), I wouldn’t suggest this method. I mean, it looks fine, but it’ll be much easier to sc a black strip, and just whipstitch or sew it to attach. So, I will give the instructions for a black band.

Chain 51, turn
Row 1: sc in 2nd ch from hook, sc to end, ch1, turn (50sc)
Row 2: sc in each sc, ch1, turn (50sc)
Repeat row 2 three more times. Attach around hat (mine wound up spanning rows 8-10 of the hat)

Buckle

All you have to do here is surface slip stitch in a vaguely squareish/rectangular shape. Just make sure the top and bottom parts of the buckle are on the red part of the hat, and that the buckle is centered in the front of your head. My buckle was 5 stitches on the top and bottom, and 6 stitches on each side.

Here is a video on how to surface slip stitch: slip stitch surface: http://youtu.be/EJ8FI5PJfvk

Edging

With a fur yarn (I don’t know of any other than Lion Brand Fun Fur), sc all round the hat.

Pom Pom

I used the wrap method, and used width of DVD case and wrapped ~60-70 times. This turned out WAY TOO BIG and lead to 45 minutes of trimming and 15 minutes of vacuuming all the bits. I attached it  just by tying a knot on inside of hat.

This project on Ravelry

Decorating for Valentine’s Day

I’m not a huge fan of Valentine’s Day; I’m one of those people who just never really saw the point. As it turns out, my dating anniversary with my husband was a few days after Valentine’s Day, so we never bothered celebrating; now that we’re married we’re probably going to ignore it almost completely. (Winter anniversaries ARE THE WORST, so glad our wedding anniversary is in the spring.)

Anyway, I was surprised when I found myself wanting to decorate the house, even if it was only slightly, for Valentine’s Day. I couldn’t figure out where the urge was coming from. I think it’s the color schemes I’m attracted too – coming off the sparkly-brightness(TM) of Christmas into dreary grey January is welcome at first, but it gets dull rather quickly and the bright reds/pinks/purples/whites offset the seasonal depression that starts to set in.

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This door decoration is a combination of a few door decorations I’ve seen around the internet. The base letters are made with 12″ silver cake platters that I had lying around from a wreath I had never gotten to make. I’m lucky that X and O are pretty basic letters, but if you want to do something like this with anything other than these letters (or even if you are doing an X and O) I highly suggest getting some ready-made letters. These were EXTREMELY annoying to cut, they shed cardboard dust everywhere, and more than once my crafting knife blade almost came out of the holder.

I used felt to make these petal looking things:

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First, I cut the felt sheet into quartered strips.

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Then, I cut each of the strips into squares (or something vaguely square-ish). The shape doesn’t have to be perfect because you won’t notice later.

Then I folded each square in half to make a triangle…
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And then in half again…
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And then I snipped off the bottom.
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Then I just covered the bottom with hot glue and pressed it on my base!
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In addition to the door, I made a last-minute-I-don’t-feel-like-buying-anything centerpiece with some items I already had.

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With my immaculately set table.

With my immaculately set table.

The white branches and crystal…things were part of a centerpiece I took from someone’s wedding reception in the beginning of January. The glass beads I had lying around, and this is the replacement vase for the one I broke in the process of putting this simple centerpiece together…

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Apparently mixing glass beads in a glass vase is a terrible idea that results in tragedy. WHO KNEW.

Wedding Unity Candle

I never really thought of having a unity candle at a wedding, but when the template our officiants gave us had the unity candle in it, I figured why not. (I’m kind of lazy and didn’t want to make changes to the ceremony, because it would probably require research or something.) So after doing some shopping around, I decided I was staunchly against unity candle kits. They were overpriced, and when would I ever use a pillar candle holder with two tapered candle holders next to it? Also they were all a little too cheesy for me…too many hearts and whatnot.

In the end, I got a reversible pillar candle dish, the pillar candle and tapered candles from the Christmas Tree Shops, and reversible tapered candle holders (when you flip them over they’re votive holders) at Walmart. (I also picked up fake forsynthia at AC Moore, and a charm at Michaels that was on clearance.) In total, all these products were about $20. Of course, I had to dress them up somehow, and I’m lucky to be gaining a super crafty sister-in-law, so she came over armed with a glue gun and bits of ribbon, lace, & fabric.

I’m pretty pleased with what we came up with. And by that I mean what she came up with, because I mostly watched and helped glue stuff. I don’t know why, when it comes to simply dressing things up with crafts, I tend to be at a total loss. It’s pretty self explanatory from the above photo – it’s just ribbons glued onto the candles. The blue satin is leftover from the completely awesome sash she made for my niece’s flower girl dress, and the ribbons are from ribbon stash from both of us. Nice and non-cheesy!

Butterscotch Liqueur

I was inspired to try making this when I unknowingly created an inside joke with a friend’s girlfriend about Harry Potter themed liquor. (Okay, it’s because the story came up where my fiance sent me a photo of Smirnoff Fluffed and Smirnoff Whipped, and in the bad lighting I thought he was sending me a photo of Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff bottles.) We began talking about butterbeer (cream soda and butterscotch liqueur) and I knew I’d found a good Christmas gift! Within a few days of this conversation, I found a pin on Pinterest for homemade butterscotch liqueur, and I realized that making the liqueur would mean I wouldn’t feel obligated to buy a gift as well! I’m a big fan of homemade anyway, and my mother is a homemade limoncello master, so I like to think it’s keeping in family tradition. Or something.

The recipe I used can be found here. It seemed simple – few ingredients, relatively short preparation time (not counting the month of letting it sit in the refrigerator). So after putting the idea off for almost two weeks, I finally got all my ingredients together and started cooking.

Vodka, brandy, sugar, butterscotch flavoring, and vodka & cranberry for me, because why make alcohol and not drink it?


Also, a cat for moral support. Or to get under your feet in the kitchen. Whichever, really.

Do you like my bottle of butterscotch flavoring? I feel like a giant. It’s worth noting that neither Shop Rite or Wegman’s carries butterscotch flavoring, and I wound up going to the local candy store for it. You can order it online as well, which works out if you actually plan ahead, which I did not do. But I highly suggest it.

First, I brought the water and sugar to a boil (well, until the sugar had dissolved – it didn’t quite get to boiling). This took two tries, because I put the pot on the oven, turned on the burner, put in the sugar, and then the water. Turns out, the pot was hot enough that a lot of the sugar was stuck to the bottom, so I dumped it in the sink, washed the pot, and then put the water and sugar in BEFORE putting it back on the oven.

It only took about five minutes for the sugar to completely dissolve. Maybe less, because it took me a bit before I figured out the sugar at the bottom was not sugar, but was in fact bubbles. Ah well, live and learn.

Then I put the sugar water in a mason jar, thinking getting it out of the hot pot would help it cool to room temperature faster. When I started to loose patience waiting, I filled the pot with cool water and let the jar sit in there for a few minutes – magically, it was at room temperature within a few minutes of doing this.

The color of the water is, in fact, yellow-ish brown.

Next I added the vodka, brandy, and butterscotch – I know the recipe calls for 100 proof vodka and Smirnoff is only 80 proof, but I’ve spent so much money on gifts in the past week that I wasn’t about to buy more vodka for something minor like that. The brandy was whatever my fiance had laying around. Also, I was a bit heavy on the butterscotch flavoring…I probably wound up 3/4 tsp instead of the called for 1/2 tsp. But really, what else am I going to do with that little amount of butterscotch? (I do still have some left over.)

Looks like super delicious apple cider vinegar!

Next part is the waiting 30 days part, remembering to shake the jar daily. I set an alarm in my phone for the same time every day to remind me to do it. I let the jar sit on the cement floor of the basement, just so it stays sort-of cool.

Guarded by the ever-vigilant Jack Sparrow

FINALLY a month passed and I cracked that baby open. It smelled pretty strong, and not nearly as butterscotch-y as I expected it would. I mixed it with cream soda and it was delicious!

We also drank a lot of Starbucks peppermint mocha shots to bottle the butterbeer.

I think this is something I would definitely do again. I mean, what else am I going to do with that tiny bottle of butterscotch anyway?

Mod Podge Coasters & Wine Charms

A good friend of mine loves traveling; in fact, there was a time about two years ago where she was out of the country (in various other countries too, not just one) more than she was in it. She also has a November birthday, and since I am the worst her birthday gifts always inevitably become birthday/Christmas gifts, and this year was no exception. I decided to document her many travels using Mod Podge, a roll of cork, and some photos, and make coasters for her.

First I decided what I’d want to put on the coasters – I chose a few of her own photos, as well as a map of each of the places. I had everything printed at Target (including the maps…I just saved images and had them printed as a 4 x 6″ photo – no use in spending money on a map that is ultimately going to get destroyed). I think a 4 x 6″ photo is something like $.27, and I got a few printed for other purposes, so let’s say it was about $2. Then, I was GOING to get Mod Podge, but Pinterest inspired me to just combine equal parts of water and craft glue in a jar, shake it, and VOILA, Mod Podge that cost the price of craft glue and a mason jar…let’s say $5 total for those. I forget how much the cork was, so I’ll say $7 for argument’s sake. I got it at Michael’s, and the roll had WAY more than I needed for these coasters, so now I have cork for…something else.

First, I found something that was the size and shape I wanted the coasters to be (for me, a little dessert bowl), traced them on the cork, and cut them out with regular scissors. I learned after the few two I cut out to make lots of smaller cuts because thin cork rips very easily – I had to go back and clean up some edges. So, I wound up with nine circles…nine CURLY circles

Well, that just won’t do, so I did what anyone would do – I asked my mom how to fix it. Her suggestion of wetting the cork and pressing them under something heavy worked well with my copy of The Original Illustrated Sherlock Holmes, so I wet the rest and pressed them between a VCR (yes, a real VCR) and and XBOX.

The Xbox sounds like a jet plane. I've used it more as a cork press in this process than as a video game console.

After waiting a day, they were totally flat! (I was going to take a photo of the flat cork, but I forgot…I’m going to assume you can imagine what flat cork looks like.)

For the first group of coasters, I cut out the photo to match the shape/size of the cork and then glued it on. Inevitably they weren’t EXACTLY the same, so for the second group I glued on the full size photos and cut out the shapes after they were dry. This just worked out easier for me – I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way. But regardless of when I cut it, I brushed a coat of my ghetto mod podge (GMP) on the cork, and pressed the photo on. I left it for about a day to make sure it was fully dry, then brushed another coat on top of the photo and on the sides (but depending on how to make them, this would be the time to cut the photos to the shape of the cork base) (cork bits were falling off everywhere, so I thought it might help that). I left it for another day or two to dry completely.

After the first coat of GMP, I highly suggest using a fine sandpaper and sand the top slightly (I used 150). I noticed the glue had picked up a lot of dust and other particles from sitting around, so I wanted to make it smooth for the second coat. I sanded it until it was satisfactorily smooth, wiped of any sandpaper-related dust with my shirt (because I’m a professional) and applied the second coat, and left it to dry for another day or so. When that layer was dry, I sanded them again and called it done. I kept them pressed under the Xbox again until I saw said friend, who at least claims to like them which is good enough for me.

If I had to redo anything about this, I wouldn’t have used the cork on a roll. You can get thicker cork, or some other material that won’t be so prone to being curly. They still had a bit of a curl to them when I gave them to the recipient, but we justified them by saying that there was going to be glasses on them anyway so it didn’t really matter. Also this was my first time decoupaging; the next time I use it I think I’ll look up some sort of tutorial to make sure I’m doing it the right way, not the me-way.

 
To go along with this kind-of drinking related gift, I also made wine charms for said friend – it was so easy! I ordered these 25mm hoop earrings and these antiqued wine-related charms from Fire Mountain Gems (because I couldn’t find anything comparable at my craft store). But I DID find silver filler beads (Bead Landing Spacer Beads) and multicolored glass beads (Jewelry Essentials Glass Seed Beads) at Michaels, so I purchased those in person. Then I just strung on a silver bead, a color, a charm, a matching color, and another silver bead, and WHAM instant wine charms. And I still have over 40 more hoop earrings…there are a lot of wine charms in my future.

Wonder Woman Earwarmers

My sister, for some inexplicable reason, loves Wonder Woman. I think she even tried to defend that awful television show for a few days. So during my Crafty Christmas 2011 Brainstorming Session, I thought earwarmers that resembled Wonder Woman’s headpiece.

This project required quite a bit of brainstorming on it’s own – I approached the design from every angle. Work it lengthwise or widthwise? Should I try to put that point thing at the top? What about the star? In the end, I worked back and forth for the width of headband (it made decreasing the width behind the head much easier). I didn’t include the pointed part of Wonder Woman’s headpiece, because the earwarmers are so wide on their own it just would have looked silly. I used alternating double crochets and single crochets; it’s a different texture, and I think it’s a bit denser than one stitch or the other on its own, and the whole point of this thing is to keep ones ears warm!

Instead of chaining 15 and then making 14sc, I used the “no foundation chain” tutorial (found here). I love using this method because it eliminates the tension on the foundation row, and it can easily be adapted for any stitch for the first row of any project. Of course, you can always ch15 and make 14sc if you prefer that.

Row 1: 14sc (or any even amount)
Rows 2-45: ch2, *dc in next st, sc in next st* repeat from * to * until the end of the row (7dc, 7sc)
Row 46: dc2tog, *sc in next st, dc in next st* repeat from * to * until the last 2 stitches, sc2tog
Row 47: work even, like in rows 2-45
Row 48: work row 46 – 10st
Row 49: work even
Row 50: work row 46 – 8st
Rows 51-61: work even
Row 62: dc and sc in first st, *dc in next st, sc in next st* repeat * to * until last stitch, dc and sc in last st (10 st)
Row 63: work even
Row 64: dc and sc in first st, *dc in next st, sc in next st* repeat * to * until last stitch, dc and sc in last st (12 st)
Row 65: work even
Row 66: dc and sc in first st, *dc in next st, sc in next st* repeat * to * until last stitch, dc and sc in last st (14 st)
Row 67: work even
Fasten off, leaving a long tail. Use this tail to sew your last row to the first row.

Star:
Round 1: Make a ring, ch 3 (acts as first dc), 14 dc in ring, join.
Round 2: *Ch6, sc in 2nd ch from hook, hdc in next 2 ch, dc in next 2 ch. Sl st in next 3 dc of round 1* repeat from * to * until the end, join.
Round 3: *hdc in st before chain from round 2, sl st in 3rd ch from round 2, ch4, sl st in middle sl st from round 2* work from * to * until the end, join. Fasten off, leaving a long tail with which to attach to the earwarmers.

I know full well this might be one of the most ridiculous patterns for a star ever, but it worked for me and the yarn I was using (which was rather bulky, if that helps).

This project on Ravelry
Ravel it!

Housewarming Towel Cake

A friend of mine and her fiance recently purchased a house (by recently I mean in June). Her housewarming party was at the end of September, but I felt kind of silly getting her a fancy gift as I had already been there quite a few times (not to mention I have odds and ends of my own wedding to pay for, as well as purchasing my own home) and she didn’t need a lot of the essentials since they had been there for a few months at this point (and he came from an apartment that he’d been in for a number of years), so I opted to go the DIY route. I came across this tutorial on Pinterest (my new favorite thing ever) for a towel cake, and figured why not give it a go!.

I got a pack of four dishcloths from Bed Bath & Beyond, and a pack of three rubber spatulas. We had a lot of cardboard that needed to go out to be recycled, so that wasn’t difficult to come by. But somehow, there was no glue in the house. So rather than do what was probably a much better idea and go buy glue, I just duct taped the entire structure together. I used pins to secure the towels in place and tied some leftover ribbon I found in the craft box around the bottom tier – it had the dual purpose of looking pretty and getting rid of the end of the roll of ribbon.

 

 

 

I don’t think it turned out too bad. If I had to change anything, I would make both rectangular pieces of cardboard longer – with the measurements given in the tutorial, I had to kind of stuff the towels into the circle I had formed (with my duct tape!) followed by jamming my spatulas in. Though I’m not sure how far in my future I’ll have another housewarming gift to give!

DIY Extras – ACV Facial Toner

As a follower of many YouTube beauty gurus, I am rather well versed in the language of beauty products; especially anything that is related to skin clearing.

Having clear skin was something I battled with for years. I recently came to the realization that in my case, while I do have oilier-than-average skin, most of my issues came from outside factors. (I was smoking for a few years; right after I quit I moved into an apartment so awful I was constantly stressed; when I moved out of the awful apartment I went back to school full-time while keeping my full-time job.) Now that I’ve graduated and don’t have a huge amount of stress, I’ve noticed an overall improvement. (So for those of you who feel like you can’t obtain clear skin – RELAX.)

But as I previously stated, I do have oily skin, so I’m still susceptible to breakouts. I’ve been using Dermalogica’s special cleansing gel for years and love it, and I’m a huge fan of many of the items from The Body Shop’s tea tree line. But, I am also open to trying new things, so when I ran out of my tea tree toner, I decided to try out the homemade apple cider vinegar toner I’d heard about over the past few months/years.

Apple cider vinegar is popular for loads of things; I use it as a rinse for my hair regularly to make sure all the gunky build-up stays out. (I think it’s also popular for some nasty cleanse, but I wouldn’t know because I am of the belief that most cleanses are AWFUL, TERRIBLE ideas. That’s why we come with kidneys and livers and such – to filter out bad stuff. Also, I don’t want those gross side effects, kthx. ) You can pick it up at any grocery store; I believe mine came from Pathmark, and it was about $5.
Some information and other uses for apple cider vinegar.

ACV has a very strong scent, and it’s not a very pleasant one. I mean, it’s vinegar and fermented apple. I use a 1:6 ratio of water and ACV in my hair rinse, and my hair is smelly until it’s completely dry. But I don’t find it overwhelming, and I’m not sensitive to it, so I have no problem using it. The toner I made uses equal parts water, ACV, and green tea (the latter is used to diffuse the vinegar scent, as well as to take advantage of green tea’s anti-oxidant properties).

I’ve been using this recipe for about a year at this point, and actually recently made my second batch. I noticed no difference in my skin between what I made at home and the tea tree toner that costs $11. I don’t have sensitive skin so the ACV didn’t have a harsh effect on me at any point, but this could be a problem for some people. If that is the case, I’d recommend using a batch with more water/green tea than ACV, and keep trying different ratios until you find something that works for you.