DIY Vanity Trays

DIY Vanity TraysI track my femme roots these days back to my mother and grandmother who always worked within the confines of what they had – whatever shape and size of body, whatever financial means – to project confident, unwavering femininity. While make-up, jewelry, and perfumes do not, of course, make the femme, what I locate in them as femme-inine is the process and the pleasure, for my mother especially, that comes in adorning herself in heavy scents and lipsticks.

DIY Vanity TraysFor my grandmother, it’s the fun in assuming and identifying glamour in loud, fake jewelry (when she was younger) and the ability to stretch a dime without sacrificing her desired image. One of my favorite memories is of her showing me how to layer perfume on top of unscented lotion; the oils in the lotion hold on to fragrance longer, requiring one to use less, stretching the bottle further. We both still use that trick today.

DIY Vanity TraysIt’s no surprise then that as a little kid, the definition of fun was sitting at my mother’s vanity, or in front of my grandmother’s dresser, and admiring their things. Both kept neat, organized trays on top of their furniture where they lined up their favorite perfumes, lipsticks, and various pieces of jewelry. When I thought they weren’t looking, I would slide rings on to every finger, dig through earrings to find the shiniest clip-ons and spray myself up and down with various scents. You could smell me coming a mile away, but even if that hadn’t been the case, the jig was up when I broke out in a case of hives from too much Chanel no. 5.

DIY Vanity TraysMore or less a grown-up now myself, I also love a vanity tray and after changing some colors and patterns in my bedroom recently, wanted something bold, but pretty to keep my own everyday baubles arranged and accessible. When I saw these pastel hexagonal trays at Target in the dollar section, I knew I could use them in a variety of ways, but the vanity trays were first on my list.

With a little paint, scrapbook paper (which was also in the Target $1 bin!), and sealant, these trays are instantly upgraded to elegant, modern places to keep trinkets, keys, or even to hang on a wall as art. For me, they’re just the spot to keep my favorite perfumes, my current nail color, and my jewelry of the moment. Having a landing spot for these things helps keep mess contained and also from having tiny earrings roll away never to be seen again (…she says, having just lost a new earring last month in this exact fashion).

DIY Vanity TraysThese are a cute and creative DIY Mother’s Day gift, but also serve well as a small treat for just about anyone – who doesn’t need a spot to drop keys or spare change? For those of you heading into wedding season, what a cute little gift for a bestie or friend who is recently engaged or married as a new place to put their rings, as well. The ways to gift these are about as limitless in number as the ways to decorate them.

DIY Vanity Trays

Supplies:
Plastic hexagonal tray from Target’s Dollar Spot (or any other plastic tray or shallow vessel will do)
Scrapbook paper
Scissors
Pencil
Metallic gold acrylic paint
Mod Podge Gloss
2 Foam paint brushes

Directions:
Place the hexagonal tray on top of a piece of scrapbook paper and trace the outline of its base onto the backside of the paper. Carefully cut out the outline with scissors and set aside.

On a work surface, paint the tray with the metallic gold paint using one of the foam brushes. Apply one coat to all sides of the tray, as well as the interior. I did not paint the bottoms, but you certainly can if you’d like. Allow this first coat to dry and then assess if you will need a second and even, possibly, a third. After each coat, allow the paint to dry completely before applying another.

When the tray has received it’s last coat of paint and is completely dry, apply a thin coat of Mod Podge to the interior base of the tray and place your cut piece of scrapbook paper on top of it. Press down from the center and smooth out the paper working outwards. If bubbles develop under the paper, simply press them out to the edges and release them. Once the paper is in place and no bubbles remain, apply a thin coat of Mod Podge to the top surface of the paper, as well as to the sides you’ve painted. When it has dried, consider applying one final thin coat of Mod Podge to the paper if needed and allow to dry completely. When the Mod Podge has hardened to a glossy shine and is no longer tacky or wet to the touch, your trays are ready to use.

Two notes: Applying too thick of a layer of Mod Podge at any point will result in a tacky feel to the tray, so keep your layers thin to avoid this. If while pushing out air bubbles you accidentally cause a small tear in the paper, don’t despair! Cut a small piece of scrapbook paper to fit over the hole (just cut to the size of the tear, nothing much bigger), lightly brush the back with Mod Podge and adhere it to the spot. Once it has some time to dry, go over the patch with another thin coat of Mod Podge and it should blend in perfectly.

Dried Orange Slices for Tea

Dried Orange Slices for TeaSometimes life is kind enough to bring a friend into your life at just the right time, in just the right place, and you have it and hold it dear to you for all the rest of your days. For me, that’s my friend Emily. Em came into my life my first year of graduate school when I had just moved to Minnesota knowing only one person in the entire state, as I was about to start a seven year program as a cohort of one. The first year of my Ph.D. program was a humbling experience altogether, but those first weeks were brutal. I sat in my classes stunned into silence by my peers and by students three and four years in with so much more knowledge and poise than I thought would ever be possible for me to attain. The community in my department was welcoming, certainly, but not having anyone with whom to share the vulnerabilities and doubts of the first few weeks was scary and isolating.

Emily was part of a cohort of first years in a neighboring department where we met in a class on gender, race, and class in American culture. They were all so nice and warm and I was lucky that they brought me into their fold as an honorary member as quickly and effortlessly as they did. I hate to think what the rest of that year would have looked like for me had they not taken me in. I got even luckier, though, when Emily and I discovered that we lived literally right on the other side of the block from one another – oh, kismet! Our friendship was sealed and we’ve shared many a memory and milestone together since.

Dried Orange Slices for TeaThough Em has long since moved back to San Francisco, I still miss her like she left yesterday. Which is why when I recently found myself with a brand-new mandolin slicer, my first thought of making a grilled zucchini lasagna was eclipsed by the idea of making some dried orange slices for tea and sending them her way. Emily is a tea connoisseur, you see. Prior to meeting her, I always just happily drank whatever bags I had gotten on sale last time I went to the grocery. I knew nothing beyond those sad, little pouches. Loose tea? Different brew times? Herbal vs. black? No clue.

What I learned through my friendship with Emily, though, and the inspiration I found as I tasted and learned about different teas through her and for myself, was that great teas are uncomplicated, sometimes not very fancy at all, and are best when left alone or, only slightly adulterated, by the tiniest squeeze of lemon or drop of cream. These very thinly sliced, dehydrated oranges and lemons – one snuck in to my slicing and drying! – are a wonderful addition to any old cup of tea. They add a subtle sweet taste of citrus to your brew and the aroma of them steeping in the hot water makes every sip feel really special.

Dried Orange Slices for TeaKept in a sealed container – I’m partial to a small jelly jar, but even a sealable plastic bag will do – they last forever. While they’re obviously great in hot tea, I’ve also enjoyed them in iced tea, cold water, and Em herself gave me the great idea to try one in a pint of wheat beer. So refreshing! These are a year-round staple, a great gift, and a sweet new way to enjoy a bunch of different beverages. I’m imagining them in a bevy of different summer cocktails as well!

Or, if you’re Bear, you can also dip them halfway in melted dark chocolate, let them set up on some waxed paper in the fridge, and then talk about how you’re a master chocolatier and have never tasted anything better in your life. Whatever your pick. You do you.

Dried Orange Slices
1 orange yields approximately 10 slices; recipe may also be used for lemons and limes

Ingredients
1 orange
1/2 teaspoon of sugar (optional)

Directions
Preheat oven to 200°F. Line a baking sheet with a silicon baking mat or parchment paper and set aside. Using a mandolin or a very sharp knife, carefully slice the orange – my mandolin was set on its thinnest setting, which is 1/16th of an inch. Arrange orange slices on the baking sheet in a single layer and sprinkle with sugar if desired – I skipped the sugar because my oranges were very, very sweet. Bake for 2 to 2-1/2 hours or until the slices are completely dry and the flesh is translucent. Remove carefully to a baking rack and allow to cool completely before storing.

DIY Sparrow Place Cards

DIY Sparrow Place CardsI mentioned in my recent Coconut Chocolate Dipped Peeps post that, for me, Easter is a celebration of friends, family, and spring rather than anything religious. So while I’ve made these place cards for my Easter table, they would be a welcome addition to any springtime, or even summer, event that calls for some table flair.

DIY Sparrow Place Cards, SuppliesLook, the reality is that I’m only having 6 people over for Easter dinner – finding a seat is not going to be a real Olympics of the mind situation. That being said, though, I think a beautiful table is as important as the food you put on it when making a memorable day. In this case, that means having adorable sparrow-shaped place cards adorning everyone’s spot. My goal any time I host a meal or a party for friends, whether it be a small brunch with a bestie or a larger gathering to welcome a friend in from out of town, is to create the feeling that this day is special and that the people attending are cared for.

DIY Sparrow Place CardsEspecially for the queer folks among us whose family situations may be tenuous at best, gathering around a table with others specifically on a holiday can bring up a lot of conflicting feelings – including sadness and even relief. Surely, it’s all a process, but if taking the time and effort to make the day beautiful and the atmosphere warm gives someone a sense of home in the meantime, creating that is important to me. How could anyone see this pretty little thing perched atop their plate and not feel welcomed?

DIY Sparrow Place Cards

What’s nice about these place cards is that while they’re festive and, in many ways, seemingly elaborate, they require little skill and once the parts that involve tracing and cutting are done, they come together quickly. My dear friend, Katie – my co-host for our Easter/Springtime Celebration of Friends – and I knocked these out in about an hour after everything was cut out and ready to go. Another fun fact: they cost only about $1.50 each to make!

We chose sheets of scrapbook paper that coordinated with our color scheme in a variety of patterns – floral, polka dots, and plaid – so that regardless of gender or personal taste, everyone will have a place setting that appeals to them along those lines. Not that I expect the gents among us to really hold on to their tiny bird place cards afterward, but you know, thoughtfulness is next to godliness or something.

DIY Sparrow Place CardsWe really saved here in creating our own nests out of tiny vine wreaths that were about 50 cents at our local craft store, as opposed to pre-made nests of similar materials which were upwards of $3 each. For added realness, we added Spanish moss and tiny eggs to our DIY bird nests, which we would have used to decorate the $3 nests too, so we really did save quite a bit without sacrificing the look we were after or a bunch of extra time.

DIY Sparrow Place CardsWith several days left before Easter and many more days of spring and summer ahead of us, there’s plenty of time to add these sparrow place cards to your dining decor. Whether you’re a table of two, 12, or even 100, these are the perfect way to welcome guests and, simultaneously, tell them where to park it. Two birds, one stone.

DIY Sparrow Place Cards
Yields one place setting

Supplies
1 sparrow template, re-sized, printed, & cut out; I used this.
1-2 sheets of sturdy scrapbook paper; 1 sheet if you don’t mind the back having the same pattern as the front, 2 sheets if you want to combine patterns
Glue gun & glue sticks
Craft glue or Elmer’s glue
Small vine wreath
Spanish moss
One sheet of plain, white printer paper
Sharpie or other thin marker, color of your choice (you can also use the printer for writing names if you’re not great with handwriting; more on that below)
Scissors
Small, plastic bird eggs
Pencil

Directions

Step 1: Plug in your glue gun and allow it to heat up on the high setting.

Step 2: Using a pencil, trace the outline of your sparrow template onto your scrapbook paper so that you have a front and back with the pattern(s) facing outwards. The two cut-outs should be facing the same direction so that when glued together, they match up giving the bird weight and stability to stay upright in the nest.

Step 3: When you have both pieces cut out, use the Elmer’s or craft glue to adhere the front and the back together, but leave the beaks unglued for adding the name banner later. Set aside to dry.

Step 4: Free a small handful of Spanish moss from the bag. With the wreath on a flat surface, apply a ring of hot glue to its top edge and, working quickly, gently apply the Spanish moss to edge of the wreath concentrating the bulk of the handful into the center, creating a bit of a well. Be careful not to burn yourself. Once the glue is more warm than cool, press the moss more firmly into the setting glue along the top edge of the wreath. Allow to dry.

Step 5: Place a small bead or two of hot glue into the middle of the well of Spanish moss and place the feet of your sparrow into it, holding the bird part upright until it has dried and can support itself standing.

Step 6: Add some hot glue into the well in front of the bird, as well as behind and fill any holes or spaces with small bunches of the Spanish moss. You’ll want to partially obscure the feet so that it seems they’re nestled in the nest. Trim stray Spanish moss pieces with a scissor, as needed.

Step 7: Use a bead or two of hot glue to secure two eggs onto the rim of the wreath within the Spanish moss and allow to dry.

Step 8: Lastly, create and adhere the name banner. You can do this one of two ways. Initially, I cut out small banners made of white printer paper and hand-wrote the names, but later chose a font and color I preferred more, printed each of the names out on one sheet of paper, and cut out the banners from there. It’s up to you which option you choose. When envisioning your banners be sure to consider that about 1/4″ of one end will be between the the two sides of the beak, so make sure you cut the banners long enough. With the banners printed, apply a small dot of Elmer’s or craft glue between the two sides of the beak and insert the beginning of the banner. Press the two sides of the scrapbook paper together to adhere them together, setting the banner between the beaks. Allow to dry.

Step 9: Trim any stray pieces of Spanish moss or strings from the glue gun and store until ready to use.

Upcycled Bathroom Jars

Upcycled Bathroom JarsI don’t know how other bloggers do it where they push out exciting, creative content several days a week, sometimes, more than once a day. Even with some patched together work schedule that doesn’t fully resemble “full-time” yet, I still require a few days to get one project and post together. Part of the reason belongs to the great Minnesota winter that provides only a small amount of daylight, and even less time shining through my kitchen and living room windows. Which means that if there are beautiful pictures to take, it has to happen between 11am and 2pm or it’s a total disservice to the efforts of the recipe or the project. Indoor light is not a photograph’s friend.

Needless to say, this is a tight window to work within and a really strict schedule to try and keep. I’m saving up for a digital fluorescent lamp that will allow me to shoot photos even as the outside light grows dim, but until then, I’m working with what I’ve got: big clean windows, shade from an overgrown oak tree in my neighbor’s yard, sunshine peeking through from the Northwest, and foot-upon-foot of bright white snow that acts as a natural reflector of what sunlight there is. I’ll get by.

Upcycled Bathroom JarsSometimes, I’ll start a project, like these simple, upcycled jars for my bathroom, and before I know it, dinner is being prepped, or planning for tomorrow’s lecture gets underway, and before I can snap a photo and fill you all in on what I’ve made, they get put into use – worked into the day-to-day life that’s happening here. I put these jars together in October or so, fresh off the renovation madness, to fill the new shelving in my bathroom and find a home for small items like cotton swabs, bobby pins, and hair elastics.

Upcycled Bathroom JarsI tend to hoard uniquely shaped glass jars for when I make a vinaigrette or want to send a visitor home with a special treat, so these cute ones were already tucked into my cupboard awaiting a facelift and, in no time, flat they were oh-so-simply transformed into colorful, functional bathroom storage! In some ways, it feels like putting a tutorial together for these is insulting, as all they required was a little paint and a little glue, but for the easily daunted among us, I’ll post one below. I think of these jars as less a formal craft and more of a quick attempt of making something beautiful, functional, and inexpensive out of nothing. Even something as ordinary and uninspired as a pickle jar! More things in life should be this satisfying and quaint.

Upcycled Bathroom Jars
Upcycled Bathroom
Jars
Note: While these jars have knobs on them, their purpose is more decorative than functional, i.e. I glued mine on. I open the jars with a regular twist on the rim of the lid. If you want to use the knobs as intended, a drill & a screwdriver will get you there nearly as quickly.

Supplies:
Various glass jars with the matching lids
Small drawer knobs (I used these cheapies from Ikea)
Acrylic paint of your choice
Paint brush
Hot glue or another strong, bonding glue
Dish soap
Water
Fork, as needed
Sponge with a rough, scrubby side

Directions:
Fill your sink with hot soapy water and submerge jars and lids. If jars have a label, use a fork to carefully pierce the label in several spots before adding the jar to the water. Jars that have held strong-smelling foods, such as pickles, roasted red peppers, etc., may need an extra bit of soap swished around inside them, as well as rubbed into the inside of the lids, or just a second soak altogether. Allow the jars to soak for about an hour, peeling off any labels that will budge after a half hour, and using a sponge to remove all glue residue after the 60 minutes has passed. If the glue is giving you a hard time, you can soak the jar problem-side down in a few inches of hot water, dish soap, and a few tablespoons of white vinegar. Another option is to try rubbing any kind of regular kitchen oil onto the glue and then buffing it off with a rag. If you use the latter technique, be certain you re-wash your jars and allow them to dry again before proceeding.

After your jars are clean and dry, apply a layer of acrylic paint to your jar lids and allow to dry. Repeat for 3 coats or until desired color is achieved. Allow the lids to dry completely, then apply a small bead of hot glue to the middle of the jar and press and hold your drawer knob on to the lid until it is secured. Allow to dry and cool. Fill jars with your desired contents and affix the associated lids. For added charm, apply a strip of washi tape across the center of the lid, or on the front of the jar, to serve as an easy, breezy label. This works best for jars not intended for the humid environment of the bathroom.

‘Hibernate With Me’ Pillowcases

Hibernate With Me Pillow TutorialValentine’s Day is upon us once again, which means many of us are searching for a creative way to make someone we love feel special on February 14th and, really, all days of the year. While I can’t imagine anyone turning their nose up to any kind of candy or flower, a homemade project is a safe bet in getting your point across that you’ve got ALL.THE.FEELS. for your loved one. More than making something adorable or pretty that I know my sweetheart or dearest friend will appreciate, I’m all about also making sure that item is useful. No one needs an extra something – no matter how whimsical – to sit on a desk collecting dust, am I right?

Last year, I jumped on the ever-popular bandwagon of making long distance love mugs with Sharpies for two of my beloved friends on opposite coasts. They were a huge hit and inspired copious selfies drinking coffee out of our coordinated drinkware sent to each other via text. This year, I wanted to make something that was more romantically inspired; something you could gift to your boo(s), or the sweet thing you’re out to woo. Being that Bear is the apple of my eye, I started brainstorming ideas from there and eventually got to here with these ‘Hibernate With Me!’ pillowcases. These might look tricky to the less tech-savvy among us, but fear not! I’ve taken all of the work out of this for you and hooked you up with each and every one of the images you will need to re-create these beauties. All you need to do is download them, hit “print” on your printer and do some light ironing. Full deets to follow below!

First things first, it’s a miracle I even came up with a concept so adorable – “Hibernate With Me?” Come on! That’s so cute! I am *the worst* at coming up with slogans or catch phrases for things. If you knew how many ideas I went through before I named this blog, you’d pat me on the head a few times in second-hand embarrassment. I must have had the right amount of orange juice the morning I remembered that bears, in fact, hibernate – not to mention that ‘hibernating’ with a sweet someone is something most people want out of their Valentine’s Day! – in order to come to this, but when I did, I knew it had staying power.

Hibernate With Me Pillow Tutorial
I decided to use this idea on pillowcases for a few reasons, but mainly the first two that come to mind: 1) they suggest bedroom time with your sweetheart and 2) they’re an inexpensive option as opposed to creating a set of throw pillows. Maybe that last point is gauche when it comes to creating a gift, but I’m a thrifty girl who likes to keep an eye on her spending and DIY pillowcases make for an adorable, affordable choice. After considering a few options, like painting the lettering or using those fuzzy sew-on letters, I decided to look into the option of iron-on transfers and found that Avery makes some pretty highly regarded transfers that you can run right through your printer.

We live in the future.

Once I knew how I was going to execute this project, I focused on finding an image to accompany it. I wound up free-handing this one based on some examples I saw online and then, wanting to keep with a bright, cheery look, chose a simple red polka dot pattern to fill the bears with. My last decision was selecting a font in a trifecta of valentine-themed colors to really make things pop. After flipping the images horizontally in Photoshop (you have to print their mirror images so that when you iron on the transfer it reads correctly from left to right), it was an easy print on my standard inkjet, and then just a matter of cutting out the pieces and aligning them accordingly onto the pillow cases before hitting them with the iron.

A little bit of patience is needed for these. You’ll want to use a ruler and be deliberate in checking that you have the images centered and equal on each case so that when they’re side-by-side they read as a set. The arrangement and the measuring is, in all honesty, the most time-consuming part of the whole process and that’s pretty much 10 minutes if you’re being extra careful. Follow the instructions that come along with the transfers for the best results; I had only one spot where one of my letters didn’t fully adhere and I just gave it some more heat and pressure before it set perfectly.

Hibernate With Me Pillow TutorialCan’t you just imagine throwing open the bedroom door for your valentine to these propped up on your bed? It’s ok if you have to fan yourself thinking of the reaction it might cause. These pillowcases are sure to make anyone see hearts…just ask our meow, Ollie. He’s totally ready to hibernate. Like, anytime, all the time.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

‘Hibernate With Me’ Pillowcases
Supplies:
2 standard white pillowcases (100% cotton is best for the transfers)
1 package of Avery Light Fabric Transfers for Inkjet Printers (#03271)
Inkjet Printer with black & colored ink cartridges
Scissors
Iron
Ruler
Hibernating bear & text images, downloaded

Directions:
Read the instructions that come with the fabric transfers very carefully. Set iron to highest cotton setting and turn off steam feature. Allow to warm up for at least 5 minutes. After downloading the bear & text images, do a print preview of the images to make sure they’re scaled to the page and then print them according to the directions from Avery and set aside. You should print two bears that face left, two that face right, and one copy of each text image. You will notice that two text images are written backwards. This is correct. You need to print the text as a mirror image in order to have it read correctly when transferred.

Iron pillowcases lightly to rid of wrinkles and allow to cool. Cut out the bears and text images. Because of the size of the printer paper (8-1/2″ x 11″), you will need to cut the “Hibernate” out in two halves – hiber & nate – and align and affix together on the pillowcase. You will need to do the same with aligning the “With Me!” I chose to cut out the entire words and not each individual letter so that I didn’t have to worry about aligning all of the letters individually.

Work on one pillowcase at a time. Find the center of your pillowcase and arrange the bears as you see fit. Again, following the instructions from Avery, apply the heat and pressure of the iron to affix the bear transfers. Allow to cool as you measure and align the “Hibernate” above. It may help to keep a note to yourself with how many inches in from the edges the bears are, how many inches are between the top of the bear and the bottom of the word, etc., so that you can easily apply these same measurements to the other case. Once your “Hibernate” is aligned, apply the heat and pressure of the iron and then allow to cool. Replicate this process with the second pillow case. Allow both cases to cool before use. Wash inside out and on delicate or by hand for longevity.

A Femme Fraîche Original: Free Mother’s Day Printable Image!

If you haven’t yet figured out that sentimental something to give your mom this Mother’s Day – Pssst! It’s this Sunday, May 12th! – I’ve got you covered! Download and print the lovely, little above image that I handmade in honor of the day and gift it however you choose. I’m giving this to my own mom as a framed piece; I printed it on some 5-inch by 7-inch matte photo paper, put it in a pretty little cherry wood frame, and sent it straight to New Jersey with my DIY garden markers for the occasion. But you could also turn this into a card or even your mom’s desktop wallpaper!

For me, the message of “Home is where your mom is,” is resoundingly true. I may have my own home, the one I’ve made for myself, the one I share with Bear, but my sense of “home” – what that feels like to me, what it is – has been cultivated almost single-handedly by my mom (also known as the gorgeous lady in the above photo holding onto a miniature me). So much so, in fact, that the concept of “home” and “mom” feel inextricably linked for me, even when my physical home doesn’t still include her. This message seemed the perfect way to articulate that the truest sense I have of what “home” is, always includes her influence and her presence. If I can’t be with her to celebrate the day, at least I can remind her of these things from afar.

On an end note, I also want to just say that Mother’s Day can be hard. I know that not everyone has a good relationship with their mom, or one at all, and that not everyone has a mom to begin with, or a mother who is living, or, frankly, feels better off without theirs. That’s real stuff and I get it; Father’s Day for me is intense for some of these same reasons. Holidays that focus on family, that reinstate specific gender roles, traditions, sets of “values,” and that favor heteronormative unions and familial structures make days like this Sunday sad and complicated for a lot of people. So, whether you’re celebrating this weekend or not, or if you’re a mom or not, I hope that, either way, your weekend is lovely and spent surrounded by sunshine, the people that make you feel best, and the beauty of spring having sprung.

DIY Garden Markers

Let’s pretend it’s for real spring. Like, the kind of spring that blows in with warm days and cool nights, that lasts a few weeks before the temperatures really rise and the humidity of summer is upon us. Let’s pretend the 70-degree days of just this past weekend hung around, that it didn’t drop 40 degrees overnight, and that I didn’t, prematurely, put away the down comforter. Let’s pretend that I was able to spend part of the day outside today turning over my small gardening plot in the side yard, laying down new ground cover, and bringing home my plants from the store. Let’s pretend that it didn’t, instead, flurry this afternoon, forcing me to drag my slippers back out and abandon my pitcher of iced tea in the fridge for the hotter, steamier variety.

Sigh. Let’s just pretend.

You see, I wanted to take photos of these adorable DIY garden markers among the beautiful, green, thriving plants of a garden, but Midwestern weather and I are having a bit of a tiff right now, so that’s not yet possible. For some of you, it may have already happened, while for others of us it feels like a distant dream, but whenever your vegetable garden is planted, consider brightening it up a bit with this simple craft, no? Most of the items needed are available from your local dollar store and the rest, which can be found at a craft store, or even Amazon, will only run you a few dollars more.

The best part about these, aside from being really cute and totally unique, is that a few thick coats of Mod Podge make them washable and able to stand the test of time by not peeling or chipping. They’ll last for years to come, fairly safe from the elements (I can’t yet promise that they won’t fade), which also makes them a really wonderful gift! Did someone say, Mother’s Day?

I just labeled my set with a marker and some cute handwriting, but I can see using a fancy paper cutter, like a Silhouette or a Cricut (oh, how I yearn for one or the other!) to create more elegant lettering, should you have access to one. Depending on fonts, colors, and pattern of paper, the sky is really the limit in how you customize these for your own. Charlotte made the green ones below to match her manicure. How femme is that?!

Since it seems I still have a few weeks to go in prepping my summer garden, I’ll be sending this batch to my mother and grandmother in hopes my good deeds will have me rewarded with some sunshine and warmth. Hopefully, they’re up for the task of growing more than tomatoes and basil this year! What’s on your list to grow this summer?

DIY Garden Markers
Supplies:
Wooden spoons
Acrylic craft paints
Foam brushes
Paper plates for your paint palette
1 piece of scrap paper for the label’s pattern
Craft glue
Mod Podge, original
Scrapbook paper
Scissors
Sharpie marker

Use the outline of a wet spoon on scrap paper to create a pattern for your labels.

Directions:
To create your DIY Garden Markers, first paint your wooden spoons with two coats of acrylic craft paint. As you finish the last coat of your final spoon, place the spoon on it’s back onto the piece of scrap paper to make a mark, as seen in the image on the right. This mark will serve as your pattern for spoons’ labels. Finish painting the final spoon and allow to dry. Cut out the pattern for the label and then use it to carefully cut shapes out of the scrapbook paper for each spoon. When all of your labels have been cut out, use the marker to write the name of each vegetable. Adhere a label to the back of each spoon with craft glue, smoothing out any wrinkles as you go. After each spoon has had it’s label affixed, paint the entire spoon from top to bottom with a fairly thick coat of Mod Podge. Continue applying first coat of Mod Podge to all spoons. When finished, begin again with the first spoon and apply a second coat. You will want to apply a total of 3-4 coats per spoon. When finished, allow the spoons to dry completely. I suggest waiting at least 12 hours before using.

 

DIY Cat Toys, or Superfluous Photos of My Cats

Moving in together is an exciting point in any relationship, but when Bear and I U-hauled it, one of the greatest perks was getting to double our number of meows, forming our tiny family of 4. Since we’re not the kid-having kind, Lula and Ollie are, of course, our less messy, way furrier, substitutes and we’re fairly obsessed with them. I mean, sometimes we make up songs about them. They also each have a (totally fabricated) dramatic backstory of their lives before us and about 14 aliases a piece. Don’t judge. The first step is acknowledging you have a problem, right?

Anyway, while putting the final touches on my Lazy Kitten Sleep Mask two weeks ago, I was swarmed by the fuzzy gray and white duo who had suddenly developed an interest in crafting; or at least in things like spools of thread and the crinkly sound of Velcro. Plying them with treats, nor gentle scolding, really made much difference, so I put my sleep mask on hold to accommodate my two feline assistants and stitched up a quick cat toy for them of excess fabric to bat around the house.

I had no stuffing around to fill the toy with, but being fairly resourceful, I dug out some cotton balls from the bathroom to use in its place. This is just a small toy, so just a few cotton balls did the trick. Before filling the little heart shape I had cut out and hand-stitched together, I rolled the cotton balls in some dried catnip to give the toy a little something extra.

Breaking out the catnip and filling the toy only invited more investigation, so I acted quickly to sew up the remaining open space on the side and tossed it into the living room. There, it was promptly smothered with love before becoming the prize in a mutual game of keep away. Needless to say, they thought it was the cat’s pajamas and that made me feel pretty darn satisfied. Bringing joy in even the simplest ways is truly the heart’s best medicine, no?

Quick Heart-Shaped Cat Toy
Supplies:
Enough scrap fabric to cut out two hearts about 3.5-inches in width and 2-inches in height
Coordinating thread of your choice
Sewing needle
Scissors
Pins
Approximately 5-8 cotton balls
1 teaspoon of dried catnip

Directions:
Step 1: Cut one heart out of the fabric either by freehand or by making a simple paper pattern. Use the first fabric heart as a guide and pattern to cut out a duplicate. Step 2: Put the two hearts together with the frontside of the fabric facing inward and pin together. Step 3: Thread your needle and stitch the heart together leaving a 1-inch opening remaining. Tie off the thread, snip excess, remove pins, and turn the heart right side out. Step 4: On a plate, or in a bowl, place the cotton balls and sprinkle catnip on them until they are fully covered. Fill the heart with as many cotton balls as needed and stitch the remaining hole closed.

Decorate Your Easter Eggs with Sharpies

I feel like I should start this post off by stating, for the record, that I don’t have a pre-existing relationship with the company that makes Sharpies. It’s merely coincidence that two of my craft tutorials so far on here involve them. What can I say? I’ve never met an office supply store or a back-to-school sale I didn’t like. One of my favorite places to lose time on campus at my Big 10 graduate school was in the three aisles of the bookstore that were dedicated to writing implements. Pens in every shade of ink, mechanical pencils, highlighters, and so many varieties of Sharpies. A girl could lose herself and her meager graduate student earnings in there!

My love affair with brightly colored gel pens and markers has not, it seems, gone unnoticed by my family, either. One of my Christmas presents this year was a pack of 80s-glam-inspired Sharpies. But even for an enthusiast like myself, I didn’t know what, when, or how I’d use 24 of them. Turns out, that problem is easy to solve, as they’ve already decorated fancy cards & envelopes, coffee mugs for some besties, and even upgraded my mani by standing in for those awful nail art pens — thanks for the tip, Beauty Department!

Spying them in my craft bin again last week, I wondered what kind of seasonal project I could use them in and the colorful, intricate designs of pysanka, or Ukrainian Easter eggs, came to mind. Have you ever made pysanka? They are not for the weary! They take hours; drawing in the lines and shapes with melted beeswax, dyeing them layer after layer, and then finally melting and rubbing off the final coating of wax. It can take up a whole day just making one! So, needless to say, trying to re-create the detail of these ornate beauties wound up being more labor-intensive than I had planned, even without the wax and the dye! Thus, my Sharpie Easter eggs (or springtime eggs if you’re more inclined) eventually went in a different direction to capture the whimsy of the coming season.

The cold, bleary Midwest has me dreaming of the firsts of spring – robins, flower buds, and that glorious day of the year when the ground is finally released from the grip of winter and the sweet, soddy smell of dirt and vegetation fill the air. Just the thought of it has me feeling positively poetic! Plus, I’ve had this adorable fake robin (of which Bear is all “OMG, I’m in love with a girl who hoards fake, stuffed birds and saves them for a rainy day?!”) in my possession for far too long without it seeing the light of day. Of course I had to heed the advice of Portlandia and put a bird on it! Also, what better way to market yourself? Who needs business cards or search engine optimization? I’ve got self-designed, hand-drawn eggs, y’all!

I used hard-boiled eggs for this project and the ink never reaches the flesh of the egg itself, keeping them perfectly edible. You could, of course, always empty them first and then decorate them if you continue to have concerns or just don’t like eggs in their hard-boiled form. I might make some more for my Easter table with the requisite bunnies, chicks, and resurrection – kidding on the last one! – but am also wanting to do a small set mimicking different cross-stitch patterns. Basically, I see a lot of egg salad in my future.

Sharpie-Designed Easter/Springtime Eggs
Supplies:
Eggs – quantity determined by you
Cold water
Heavy-bottomed pot w/lid that will accomodate your eggs in a single layer and hold enough water to cover them by at least an inch
Permanent markers – I used these
Ingredients for this, optional

Directions:
Place your eggs in the bottom of a heavy-bottomed pot in a single layer. Fill with cold water, stopping when the eggs are covered by an inch or two. With the lid off, heat the eggs to a full boil, then cover the pot and remove it from the heat. Allow the eggs to sit undisturbed for 17 minutes. Next, drain the eggs and plunge them into a bowl of cold water. Allow the eggs to cool completely. At this point, you can dry them off and prepare them for decorating or refrigerate them until you’re ready for them. Either way, before decorating with the markers, the eggs must be allowed to warm up just enough to take the cold from the fridge off the outer shell, otherwise they will develop condensation from the heat of your hands making the markers run and skip. When decorating, keep some paper towels nearby just in case, dabbing off the moisture as needed. As you go along, it will become clear how the marker’s flow allows you to draw precise lines, follow the curve of the egg, and apply the ink gently, blending it with your finger, to create shading. When finished, immediately return your eggs to the refrigerator. Eat within one week.

Lazy Kitten Sleep Mask Tutorial

Poor Bear. I’m terrible to sleep with. For all the ease and loveliness I bring in daytime, I run hella short on both when trying to sleep. You could call me fussy, if you were into understatements. Blankets can’t be too heavy, nor too light. Nothing can touch my feet. If it’s not cool in the room, I’m a beast. And light? Forget about light. Any pin prick of illumination that occurs where curtain meets blind makes me stompy. The soft glow from a cell phone lit just to check the time is met with whining. My sleepy self is cantankerous at best, other worldly at worst.

I’ve long wanted a sleep mask, but something flashy and cute that offers something redeeming to onlookers when my evil sleep twin is about. Maybe with a little work, I can convince my subconscious that while feisty, my sleepy self can be more vampy than angry. Harness a little cat woman, or something. Thus, a sleep mask for lazy kittens. Purrr!

This project is quick, makes a great handmade gift, and is low-sew, meaning the sewing is minimal and can be done with just a needle and thread.

Materials:

  • 2 pieces of coordinating fabric, each 12-inches by 12-inches
  • Scissors
  • Pins
  • Needle & coordinating thread
  • Velcro – Fabric Fusion
  • An iron
  • 3/8-inch black elastic

Directions:
1.
To start, you need to select material for the front and back of your eye mask. You’ll want the back side, at least, to be black. I used simple, inexpensive craft felt for the back of mine and this bold (and totally theme appropriate, meow!) leopard print from the clearance table at Joann Fabric’s. 2. Next, print out the sleep mask pattern I made and follow the instructions for cutting it out and affixing it to your fabric with pins.

3. Fold your fabric in half as noted on the pattern instructions, and align the edge of the pattern with the folds. Pin the pattern in place and don’t worry if you have a few dents or bubbles; just try to keep it as flat as possible when you begin cutting. 4. Cut out each piece, reusing the pattern for the back and front. When you’re finished, you should have two full pieces as illustrated below. Aren’t they so cute already? You can line the two pieces of fabric up here and just double-check your work making sure they’re as close to perfect a match as possible. Trim slightly, if needed.

5. Here’s where the sewing comes in, but no fear. This is going to be painless. You need black thread, a sewing needle that you feel comfortable with, and 3/8-inch black elastic. Measure your head with the elastic from temple to temple. Make sure the elastic is fitted and snug to your head, but comfortably so. You don’t want the band to be tight when you’re trying to sleep, but you want it to be secure enough that it’s not sliding down constantly. For me, this was about 15-inches – I might have a big head – and then you’ll want to add 2-inches to the total and cut your elastic.

6. On what will be the inner side of the back of your sleep mask, pin 1-inch of the elastic into place as seen above. Using your needle and thread, sew the elastic in place. If you’re new to sewing, a little x-shaped stitch – as you would use when sewing a button – is easy to do and will adhere the elastic securely. 7. Next, cut off 1/2-inch pieces of Velcro – Fabric Fusion and follow the package instructions for setting them with your iron, both on the inner back part of the mask, as shown above, and on the inner front side as show below. Velcro has two sides – a softer side and a harder, more plastic like side – which is how they grip to one another. I chose to put the softer side on the inner back portion of the mask and, truly, it can’t be felt against the face and eyes.

Note: If you enjoy sewing or aren’t looking for a low-sew project, you could just stitch the mask together at this point after adhering the other end of the elastic. I like the Velcro option not only because it involves minimal sewing, but because I can pull the halves apart and put in little sprigs of fresh lavender for aromatherapy if I’m feeling fancy. It’s up to you how you customize this to fit your needs.

8. With the Velcro fastened in place and distributed on both inner halves, pin and stitch the other end of the elastic to the inner back side of the mask. 9. When finished, remove pin, affix the front side of the mask to the back and it’s complete! Leave as is or decorate the mask to your liking. I added a tiny bow made from felt remnants. 10. Get your sleep on, kitten!