Saturday, January 28, 2012

Upcycled Stella & Dot Box

I don't know about you but anytime I come home to find a package with my name on it excitement takes over as if I am a twelve-year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert. Even when I place an online order and know exactly what it is, I am still overjoyed.  Now if you have ever ordered from Stella & Dot you know that they make sure that excitement continues as you slowly unwrap your beautiful new jewelry.  They know how to do it right.

On my long list of hobbies, one of my favorites is being a Stella & Dot stylist.  This means that I have received MANY packages from them, most of them being jewelry I earned for free.  Anyways, that leaves me with a bunch of boxes that I cannot get myself to throw away because they look like this:
Adorable, right? So when I was reorganizing my closet, I realized that I had a lot of washcloths that I wanted to store neatly.  Being on budget I did not want to go buy more organizational containers so I started walking around my home in search of something to hold the washcloths.  Then I stumbled upon my Stella & Dot boxes and decided to finally put them to use.

First I sliced off the top flaps with a razor blade.
Then carefully pulled apart the flaps that were glued together and unfolded.
Then I re-assembled it but in reverse so the pretty pattern was on the outside.  I hot glued the flaps together so it would hold shape.  Then I added some ribbon (found at the dollar store that matched perfectly!) to the top to make clean, prettier edges.

One of the boxes experienced a tougher journey to my doorstep so I trimmed it down a bit to get rid of the damaged corners.  That is why there are two sizes pictured here.  Not too shabby for using less than one dollar's worth of ribbon.  Another reason to love Stella & Dot :)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

DIY Chalkboard Clips

During the holidays I was looking for the perfect hostess gift.  While shopping at a department store I saw these really cute mini chalkboard clips.  The idea is to clip them onto your servingware to identify the dish.  They sold in a package of 6 for $10 so I bought them.

Then once I got home I looked at them closely and realized... wait a second, I can make these for much cheaper!  So I did what every other Pintrest-addict does, or at least wants to do, and recreated the product myself.

In addition to the glue gun, here were the essentials:

I was really planning on using my chalkboard spray paint on mini wooden rectangles but was lucky enough to find mini-chalkboards at the craft store.  Anytime I can find a more efficient way to do a project, I'm on it!  Now since they were already chalkboards I used blue painting tape to cover the chalkboard as I painted the wooden parts gold.  Then I painted the wooden clips gold.  After two coats they were ready to be glued together.
Really I just removed the blue tape, hot glued the boards to the clip and they were done.  Ta-da!  I had created a really great hostess gift for the fraction of the cost.

What I liked even more about them as a gift is that I used them for the appetizer I brought to the party and then left them for the hostess to use at future dinner parties.  That way she was able to see how great they are in action and hopefully they don't sit packed away.  Of course the DIY Chalkboard Platter that I made doesn't hurt the look either :)

*Note: when using your own chalkboard paint, condition the surface by taking the side of the chalk (long side) and chalk up the whole thing.  Then just wipe it off.  This will make it easier to erase marks in the future.  Otherwise the initial marks may stay.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

DIY Cardigan

DISCLAIMER: I am still completely new to sewing so I do not know all of the technical names for sewing techniques.  Plus I did not follow any patterns or tutorials so this is truly my interpretation of a DIY cardigan.  I simply took one that I already owned, analyzed the stitching and attempted to recreate one similar.   Hopefully I can explain it enough for you to get the idea.

First you are going to trace one of your tank tops to cut out the back of your cardigan.  (You will see in the photo below that I used a sleeveless shirt but the shoulders are longer than I wanted and ended up being more of a cap sleeve.  That’s why I recommend a tank top.) 

To make things symmetrical I have found that it is best to fold the fabric and your stencil (today it’s the tank top) so that you are cutting both sides at once.  Now I wanted this cardigan to be longer than my tanks and tees so I added a few more inches to the bottom.  Cut around the tank and make sure you are always giving yourself at least a ¼ inch allowance.

Now cut out another piece the same size and shape.  Once you do that, slice the second piece (only) right down the middle starting at the middle of the neck.  This gives you the back and the front two panels.  Just think of a cardigan.

With right sides together, sew along the shoulder tops and the sides.  Be sure to keep an opening where the arms will go and where the neck will be.  I wanted it more flowing in front so I left a little on top dangling off.  Now you have something that looks like long vest.

To add more of that flowing look that I wanted, I cut two pieces 6” wide and the length of the cardigan measured from the middle of the neck.  Fold the pieces so that they are 3” wide and stitch the ends of the two pieces together on one side.  Now it creates one long piece that is only 3” wide.

With the right sides together, place the middle of the long piece (where the two pieces were stitched together) and pin it to the open edges of the “vest.”  Then just stitch along that edge, giving yourself a ¼ inch allowance.

Once you turned it inside out, it should look like this.
Fold fabric long enough for your arm.  Make sure you add a few inches for “just in case” or if you are like me, you will want to fold the sleeves back.  Measure the armhole you have in your “vest” and use that to figure out how wide you want to stitch that end of the sleeve.  Mark it on the sleeve fabric.  Then determine how wide you will need your sleeve opening at the end where your hand will come out and mark it.

With right sides together, stitch up along the markers you made and trim the extra fabric.  To keep the sleeves the same size, just place the finished one on top of the other fabric and mark the same spots.  Again, with right sides together, stitch up along the markers you made and trim the extra fabric.
Take the wider side of the sleeve and pin it to the arm opening. ( I’d like to say “OBVIOUSLY with right sides together” but it apparently wasn’t that obvious to me as I first sewed my sleeve inside out.   I’m still learning alongside you folks and will let you know when I make mistakes.)  So…  just make sure that the seams are hidden when the cardigan is on.

To finish off the bottom, measure the distance you want from the bottom of the armpit down the side seam, fold the fabric up and mark with a pin.  For my cardigan, I marked it 19” down.  Once I folder the fabric at each seam I used a ruler to line the two sides up to fold the middle and gave myself a few more pins.

I wanted the flowing part to be longer in front but after I took the photos I realized that I wanted to trim them a bit but still keep them long.  Regardless, it is your choice if you want the front to be straight across or if you want longer fronts.  This is YOUR sewing project so make it how you want it. 

Just top stitch the bottom fold all around to make a nice finish and trim the excess fabric.  I am still contemplating if I will finish off the ends of my sleeve, but I left them long and just folded them over.  The fabric I used is a stretchy, soft fabric so I like burrowing my hands in them to keep warm.
I really love my new cardigan and will definitely make a few others.  While my tutorial may not have been the easiest to follow (and I apologize for that) BUT I just hope it inspires you to try a piece of clothing.  I’ve heard from many of you with sewing machines that you only do pillows or hem pants because clothing seems intimidating.  Really just go to your closest and take out one of your shirts, turn it inside out and check out the stitches.  You will realize there is not much to it and if you used that shirt as your “pattern” you already have the measurements to make it the perfect size for you.  If you are inspired to try a new sewing project, come back to this post and let me know!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Mexican Stuffed Peppers

I wanted to make stuffed peppers and there are a trillion recipes out there.  Some are Italian inspired, some of them have ground beef in the recipe, and the majority of them are written to make all at once.  Well what I was looking for was the exact opposite of all of those... a Mexican flavor, vegetarian, slow cooker meal.  That being said I created my own recipes.

  • 6 green peppers
  • 1 can enhildada sauce
  • 2 cups shredded cheese
  • Filling ingredients (see below)

  • Package of mircowaveable brown rice
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes (Mexican kind)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 2 tbsps cumin
  • 1 fresh jalapeno diced 

Mix all of the filling ingredients in a bowl so that every spoonful has a bite of everything.
Take the enchilada sauce and pour half in the filling mix and the other half in the slow cooker.  Then slice off the tops of the peppers and spoon in the mixture. 
Now squeeze them all into the slow cooker and top with your favorite Mexican cheese.  I used pepper jack only because that is what I had in my fridge.  (Next time I would probably just mix the cheese in the mixture instead of on top.  While it looks pretty here... it kind of dries up for the finished product.)
Set the slow cooker on low for 5 hours.  Then you end up with 6 servings of a great meal.  The cool thing is that each one fits perfectly in the 2 cup twist-and-seal plastic containers so that I can freeze them for my pilot hubby.  With him living on the road I try to fill my freezer with different meals so he can eat well while he is away from home.

Next time I would top them with fresh green onions, cilantro and maybe FF sour cream to make it taste fresher.  If you are not counting calories, this would be awesome to eat with tortilla chips too.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Free Museum Admission

The pilot is home this week so I took a day off work to spend some quality time with him and visit the Museum of Science and Industry Chicago.  It has been on our to-do list for awhile now since our last trip there together was over 10 years ago. 

The top two reasons why we have not visited in over 10 years:
  1. Whenever we think about going we then realize that all of the schools are off on that day.  That means that there will be hordes of parents trekking along their children for a fun (extremely crowded) day at the museum.  I'll take a rain check.
  2. The exhibits we want to see the most are too much money in addition to the overly priced $30 regular admission.  Do you know how much clearance fabric I can buy for that?
Well you can imagine the overwhelming excitement I felt when the pilot shared the news that the day we wanted to go was an "Illinois Free Day" and a weekday when school is in session!!!!  Yes and yes!

Did you know that all of the Chicago museums have days when the admission is free?!  Luckily they publish the dates in advance so started planning your year now.

Here are links to find out the 2012 free / discount dates for some of my favorite Chicago museums:
Of course we had to check out their airplane exhibit!

Monday, January 16, 2012


Right before the hustle and bustle of the holiday season I received an invitation to Friendsgiving hosted by my fabulous best friend Sarah.  She wanted to make sure we devoted an evening to celebrate the joyful season, not with family we are born into but with the family we choose... our friends.
The hostess-with-the-mostess Sarah and my two other besties MariKate and Lauren

Sarah did a beautiful job setting up her city apartment for this gourmet feast.  She rearranged her living room so that hosted one long elegant table furnished with 20 lovely place settings.  Seriously she busted out her Martha Stewart skills to create a scene we will always remember as our first Friendsgiving.

Now to help feed the masses we were each responsible for bringing a dish.  In addition to Sarah's chicken tetrazzini, we devoured a gorgeous salad, "crack potatoes", broccoli casserole, pieorgis, Polish sausage and sauerkraut plus some apps and desserts.  Oh, and my Italian Roasted Veggies.

As promised to my soon-to-be-new-followers (right Erica?), here is the recipe for my Italian Roasted Veggies.

Italian Roasted Veggies
  • Dressing
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
    • 1/2 tbsp dried oregano
    • 1/2 tbsp dried parsley
    • 1/2 tbsp dried basil
    • 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
    • 1/2 tbsp salt
    • 1/2 tbsp black pepper
    • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • Veggies you want 
    • I included zucchini, cherry tomatoes, red onions, sweet peppers (green, red, orange and yellow), summer squash and some carrot
  • Chop up all of the veggies and place in a bowl.  In a separate bowl mix up the ingredients for the dressing.  Once mixed, pour the dressing into the veggies and stir.  Cover a baking sheet with foil and pour the veggies on top.  Bake for 15 minutes at 450 degrees.  (Hint: you can keep the veggies marinating in the fridge until you are ready to bake.)
Truly, it was an awesome night!  We even went around the table and announced to the group what we were thankful for and it really shed some light on how lucky we are to have such great friends. 

Looking forward to many more Friendsgivings to come!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

DIY Yarn & Felt Flower Wreath

One of my best friends, Lauren, has always been crafty.  Even in high school she would give us homemade cards for our birthdays.  So after we discussing our recent projects she had the idea to start a crafting group.  We'd choose 1 - 2 nights a month to get together and work on a new project.  While we thought this was a super fun idea, our other friends teased us so our crafting group ended up as a crafting duo :)
One of Lauren's specialties is wreath making.  Each season she embellishes her city apartment with new wreaths and also gives them out as gifts to her family.  And since I am the only female living in my condo building BUT also the only door without a wreath I asked Lauren if we could have that be our first project.

I decided to attempt a yarn & felt flower wreath while she opted for the fabric flower wreath.  This post will just focus on my wreath first and save hers for another post.

Materials were simple:
  • 12" styrofoam wreath circle ($4.99)
  • Yarn ($2.99)
  • 5 sheets of felt ($0.39 each)

To create the felt flowers, I cut out different size squares from the felt.  This was my first time using my rotary blade and cutting mat and I am in love.  This is going to save me so much time!  Obviously the bigger the square, the bigger the flower so be sure to cut out different sizes.
Once I cut out the square I cut a circle within.  Then I started a spiral cut beginning with a thin slice and gradually increasing the width.  Check out Beth's video tutorial at Home Stories A 2 Z to see how to do it.
Start with the thin side and then spiral around and hot glue the end.  Again, watch the video for much better directions.  Here are the flowers I created.

The yarn part was simple... hot glue the beginning piece and wrap around until it was covered.  Then I just hot glued the flowers on in the order I wanted.  To add a little more texture I hot glued mini flowers in the middle of some of them.  See the finished product below.
Check out Lauren's blog post about her fabric flower wreath.  Here's a sneak peak...
Stay tuned for other crafting duo projects.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

DIY Placemats

I really love my dining room table and the pilot loves it even more.  The problem with our table is that we live in a condo so that gorgeous dining room table is more like other people's kitchen table, a.k.a. the holding spot for all your crap and the only table we eat at.  To make sure we keep this table for a long time we have always used placemats.  Since I am like a 5 year old when I eat and can be quite messy, we use the ugly plastic ones.  As soon as I got my sewing machine, the DIY placemats (inspired by Jen at My Own Road) were the first project I thought of to enhance the look of the table.  

I've learned that sewing can be an expensive habit so I have made a promise to myself that I will only buy fabric on clearance.  This means I probably won't find the perfect fabric on my first trip so after a few visits to two different fabric stores I finally found an outdoor fabric on clearance in colors that match my home!  Plus the felt fabric for underneath was on clearance.  Now I was specifically seeking out outdoor fabric for on top so it would be easy to clean and the felt on bottom to protect our table.

First I used a disappearing ink marker to measure the fabric I needed to sew each placemat.  I gave myself some extra inches on each side, just in case.

Now that I had my pieces cut I needed to create the lines to sew on to make an appropriate size placement.  I used an extra large calendar we had (it has cool photos of airplanes that I plan to frame... one day) as the tracing tool because it was a great size (17" tall and 20" wide) for my table. 
After I drew the lines I pinned it with right sides (the good one you want people to see) together.  I sewed along the lines leaving 3 inches at one corner.  The opening is to turn the placemat inside out.

 Once I finished sewing I trimmed off the excess fabric.
 Then I turned it inside-out through that small opening.  To help get the corners you may need to stick something inside to poke it out.  I had a sewing needle right by so I just used that.  You can see that it was bubbled up which is not surprising because this is how you would make a pillow.

I pinned the open corner so that I could get it ready to stitch up.

Then ironed the placements flat.  This will help make sure you have straight, even lines.

Instead of drawing lines on the nice side of the fabric I just made sure that it was at the same mark on the sewing machine and I feed the fabric through.  After I did all four sides I was done!  Now being a beginner I had a few issues adjusting the thread tension so it bunched up under the fabric a few times so I made sure to keep the pattern on the top side. 

Here one of the corners is folded over so you can see the felt fabric on the bottom sides.  I'm so happy with the result because not only do I have much nicer placemats but it was super cheap too!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Cracked Make-up Fix

How many of you have found your make-up looking like this?
Isn't that the worst when you open up your make-up bag just to have all of your favorite cosmetics covered in broken make-up?  Or when you accidentally drop one? Ugh - it is so frustrating just thinking about!

Well luckily there is a solution for us ladies and it come in a bottle of rubbing alcohol, which I bought at for $1 at the dollar store. 
Simply pour a few drops into the make-up...
 And rub with your finger until smooth, or at least smooth enough :)
Let it dry and now your make-up is back to good!  Isn't this a great way to save money?  In the past I would have gone to the store and bought a new one.  Now I can delay that trip a little bit more.

What are your favorite household tricks?
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