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03 September 2015

The Truth About Puerto Rico Beaches

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Glass Beach is known to locals as such thanks to the little bits of sea glass that wash up on its shores.  It is one of the few beaches in Palmas that I would even consider swimming in, as it is a small cove where the waves are broken by enormous breakwater structures jutting out from the harbor.  The sand is course and yellow and the far side of the beach turns into pretty, smooth yellow, brown and black pebbles.  We have found at least one piece of sea glass each time we have gone, and always come back with cool coral as well.  There are NOT loads and loads of sea glass available for the taking.  i.e. I wouldn't make the trip down to Humacao just for this beach, but if you live in Palmas, it is a fun little day activity.  Also note that when the seaweed is bad, some collects on this beach, but it is not as bad as other areas like the Beach Club and the beaches along the "crescent" (see below).

Palmas del Mar Beaches Sargasso
Palmas del Mar Beach behind Beach Village - note the seaweed :/
Palmas del Mar Beaches Sargasso
The seaweed and rip tides make these beaches unpleasant and sometimes dangerous to swim in -- they are lovely to walk along though!
Beyond the seaweed, one of the biggest issues about the beaches we have visited in Puerto Rico is the trash.  Luquillo was covered in trash, Mar ChiQuita in Manati had broken glass everywhere underfoot (though the cove itself is REALLY cool) and our little Glass Beach here in Palmas is often littered with beer cans, condoms and their wrappers and other trash.

BOO to love nests on beaches...
Getting to Glass beach is difficult if your home does not back up to it.  You have to make a little bit of a hike from the marina, and it is OK for older kids, but was NOT fun with our almost 2 year old.  If you turn down into Surfside, there are easier walking paths to get there (no golf carts or cars can get directly down to the beach.) Also, beware that this particular location must be a local hangout for um, love.  Beer cans, condoms and their wrappers and other stuff can often be found.  We just need to don some gloves and help clean it up sometime soon.

Here is the location:

Glass beach at Palmas del Mar, Humacao Puerto Rico

...and from closer in:

Glass beach at Palmas del Mar, Humacao Puerto Rico

A few notes on Glass Beach and Palmas del Mar beaches in general:

1. Low tide mid-summer is around noon most days and high tide at night.  Low tide is nice because you can access more of the sand/stones to walk on, but high tide always brings in better sea glass.

2. The beaches around Palmas are rocky and have a strong undertow.  These are not super safe beaches and I won't let even my oldest kid any deeper than his knees/waist.  The waves aren't super strong, but the tow back out to the ocean can really catch you off guard and drownings are not rare.  Be careful.

3. Another note on the rocks...if you are swimming, you need to get out far enough away rom the rocks so that you are not pushed back into them when a strong wave hits.  Also, the large rocks right around the shore have plenty of snails and greenery growing on them and are VERY slippery.  BE CAREFUL!

4. The seaweed comes and goes.  Sometimes there isn't too much and the beach is pleasant to walk along, but other times it can cover the entire sandy area.  The native seaweeds just look bad, but the Sargussum (reddish floating along the surface of the water) STINKS.  Sometimes it is gag-inducing and sometimes it just smells a little fishy/salty.

5. The views of the ocean are GORGEOUS from Palmas.  The waves crashing into those rocks and cliffs are stunning and the long expanse of flat ocean is truly awesome. You can see the white in the google map image above from the waves crashing onto the rocks.

Also...looking UP is stunning!

Palmas del Mar Beaches Sargasso

We have been collecting little bits and baubles or weeks now for our sensory tables/sandbox, my Makerskit projects (like this necklace, this perfume and this candle) and I have many, many ideas or more jewelry pieces!  Hope you come visit -- you will probably see us there!

Photos are all as of fall 2015 and the beaches have been like this since at least June. 
 To learn more about the Sargasso problem -- you can read HERE.


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28 August 2015

Oatmeal Spice Painted Leaf Soap

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Does it feel like fall yet in your neck of the woods?  I am totally jealous.  We are still in Puerto Rico and fall sounds like a distant memory.  I am missing the crisp air, the toppling leaves finished with life and the wonderful marching band drums of football Fridays. We will be coming back to Pennsylvania later this fall and my excitement is almost tangible at this point. Until then, I am sharing a few autumn crafts with you that I previously published over at Crafts Unleashed last fall.  Join me as I pretend is is cooler than 80 degrees outside...

DIY Painted Oatmeal Leaf Soap for Autumn Fall Microwave Soap by Amy Renea

Today's homemade soap craft is a very simple one indeed!  You need a few simple supplies and very 
basic artistic skills to create these simple, charming oatmeal spiced soaps.  Let's start with the base!

Supplies needed to make your own homemade soap:

INSTRUCTIONS:

Cut your soap into cubes and melt slowly in a double boiler or very carefully in the microwave.  If using the microwave, heat in increments of 10-30 seconds until the soap reaches a liquid state.  Be very careful as the hot liquid can "pop" if you are not careful (just like a hot bowl of soup!).

DIY Painted Oatmeal Leaf Soap for Autumn Fall Microwave Soap by Amy Renea

Once the soap is uniformly liquid, but has not reached boiling, add your fragrance oil.  
For around 20 cubes of soap, I added 20-30 drops of fragrance.  If you like more, go for it!

DIY Painted Oatmeal Leaf Soap for Autumn Fall Microwave Soap by Amy Renea


Sometimes the soap develops a slight "skin" as it starts to cool.  
Just use a toothpick and swirl to incorporate your fragrance oil and remove the skin.

DIY Painted Oatmeal Leaf Soap for Autumn Fall Microwave Soap by Amy Renea

As soon as you finish, carefully pour the melted soap into your molds.  Note:  I used an old ashtray as my mixing container because it was nearby.  If this is your first time working with homemade soap, please use a container with a small "spout" so that pouring will be easier for you.  A glass mixing bowl is perfect.

DIY Painted Oatmeal Leaf Soap for Autumn Fall Microwave Soap by Amy Renea

Allow the soap to set until it is almost completely hardened.  The key word is *almost*.  
This step is the hardest part because you must wait until the soap is solid enough to lift out of the pan, yet flexible enough to add the leaf detail.

DIY Painted Oatmeal Leaf Soap for Autumn Fall Microwave Soap by Amy Renea

To add the leaf imprint, simply give the leaf a good push into the top layer of the homemade soap.  Again, be careful.  If the soap is not set enough, you can press down too hard and liquid soap can pop onto you. (I give warnings just in case, but working with soap is not difficult.  Just use caution!)

DIY Painted Oatmeal Leaf Soap for Autumn Fall Microwave Soap by Amy Renea

Once the homemade soap is fully cooled and hardened, you can add color.  
I use the food color gels because they are easier to apply than the liquids and give a nice, strong color. 
Mix oranges, reds and yellows for pretty fall combinations or stick to a solid brown or copper.

DIY Painted Oatmeal Leaf Soap for Autumn Fall Microwave Soap by Amy Renea

To remove any mistakes, place the metal leaf back into the homemade soap. 
Rub around the edges with a lightly wet finger to remove any stray bits of color.  

This works for small mistakes, but large amounts of color are much harder to remove if you goof.  Paint slowly!


DIY Painted Oatmeal Leaf Soap for Autumn Fall Microwave Soap by Amy Renea
Once your color is dry, the homemade soaps are ready to gift or use!

DIY Painted Oatmeal Leaf Soap for Autumn Fall Microwave Soap by Amy Renea

 Portions of this post previously published on Crafts Unleashed.

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23 August 2015

DIY Concrete Humpty Dumpty Stepping Stone

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I have always been a wee bit scared of working with concrete, cement and hypertufa. In my mind, it was messy, difficult and would ruin everything it touched, including my hands, my house, my kitchen, my tools.  You get the picture.  WELL.  'Tis not true, my friends!  Yes, it was slightly messier than my pom pom ceiling, but not any more messy than making clay plant tags or working with DIY playdoughs and such.  I have completely overcome my fear of cement and might just jump over into the camp of "I wanna make as many things as possible out of concrete".

Cement VS Concrete -- Let's get something straight right away.  Concrete and cement are not the same thing. Concrete is made out of cement mixed with small rocks, etc.  Craft projects are typically made of cement, though concrete might be used for larger items like planting troughs.  Concrete is more often seen as a driveway or parking lot covering.    However, the words are often used interchangeably.  Let's get started, shall we?

SUPPLIES:  There are several different cement "kits" that Consumer Crafts has, but there are also a bunch of tools and accessories that would be fun to work with in cement or concrete.  I am going to show you a few options and give you some idea for a few more.  Here are the two kits I used:



I would also try:




I also want to test out:


or


or


or


As you can see, the options are pretty much limitless once you get going, but you basically need your cement, a mold and something to make it FUN!   The plastic molds in the kit work perfectly (we made the flower), but I also used a metal pan and cardboard box as molds with success.  I sprayed all of them with cooking spray to be on the safe side before pouring the cement.  Today, I want to share my "broken" Easter egg stepping stones inspired by Mr. Humpty Dumpty himself.  I used the large cement bag from the BASIC kit, a large oval metal pan and the letters from the flower kit for this project.

DIY Concrete Humpty Dumpty Stepping Stone

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Start with a large oval pan, sprayed with cooking spray.  Fold a piece of cardboard for the "broken" part of the egg and spray with cooking spray.  Place in pan/mold.

Humpty Dumpty Broken Stepping Stone for Crafts Unleashed by Amy Renea DIY Mold

2. Mix your cement in a throwaway box or pan with water.  Follow the instructions on your kit for the amount of water, but basically, it should look like brownie dough.  BE CAREFUL when opening the bag, pouring and mixing as the dust should not be breathed in.  This is a great project for outdoors due to this, but we were able to do it indoors fine.  We just had to work slowly.

Humpty Dumpty Broken Stepping Stone for Crafts Unleashed by Amy Renea Mixing

3. Pour cement into both sides of the pan, making sure it fits snugly against the cardboard piece to make nice, clean "broken" egg divisions.

Humpty Dumpty Broken Stepping Stone for Crafts Unleashed by Amy Renea Wet Concrete

4.  Smooth cement with fingers, using the back of the hand to get "wavy" lines.

Humpty Dumpty Broken Stepping Stone for Crafts Unleashed by Amy Renea Stamping Letters

5. When the cement is the consistency of gritty, chunky playdough (it should have give, but also be slightly firm), press your letters in to make whatever saying or text you choose.  You will know the cement is too "wet" if your letters just disappear after pressing.  Wait awhile and try again.

TIP - CUT the letters apart instead of trying to twist them apart.  They cut easily, but are a pain in the rear to twist apart.

Humpty Dumpty Broken Stepping Stone for Crafts Unleashed by Amy Renea Cutting Letters

TIP #2 -  The nice thing about concrete is that it is forgiving.  Make a mistake?

Humpty Dumpty Broken Stepping Stone for Crafts Unleashed by Amy Renea oops
Just "erase" it with your finger and start again.
Humpty Dumpty Broken Stepping Stone for Crafts Unleashed by Amy Renea Stamping Wet Concrete

6. Once the lettering is complete, you simply have to be patient.  Let the cement dry completely (24 hours at the very least, 36 to be safe) and then gently unmold the stepping stone.  Note: The cement will whiten and become completely solid to the touch once fully dry.

Humpty Dumpty Broken Stepping Stone for Crafts Unleashed by Amy Renea Drying

I gently turned the pan over inside a large cardboard box and the pieces came out easily with no breakage.

Humpty Dumpty Broken Stepping Stone for Crafts Unleashed by Amy Renea Mold Break

7. You can coat your stone with a sealer for longevity or leave it as is, but give it a spot of honor outdoors and enjoy!

Humpty Dumpty Broken Stepping Stone for Crafts Unleashed by Amy Renea
Now if only I could rid myself of the fear of knitting...

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