Framed chalkboard signs: A tutorial


Chalkboard frame signs


I’ll admit it right now; this post has wedding decor tendencies.



But please don’t hold that against it. It’s also a project with potential. Like a blank slate. Or at least a chalkboard surface you can wipe clean with the swipe of a moistened rag.





So back into the time machine we go. When it was this past September and I was about to be married in what felt like five minutes.  I visited the showroom of the party rental company, (who shall not be named since I’m about to tell you how to make something yourself instead of renting it from them). And spotted these…..






Mr Mrs wood chair signs




They rented for $30-something. I’m not sure if that price was for each or the pair; either way it read like robbery.  So I decided to make my own new fangled version that could be repurposed–post wedding.




And you can, too!




Here’s how: Begin with a frame with a glass insert (i.e., not an empty frame, the glass here is key). Open the back of the frame and remove the glass.






99 cents store frameFrames sourced at the 99 Cents Only store.





The glass will become your chalkboard surface once you spray it with this..






Kryon chalkboard paint





Follow the manufacturer’s instructions which boil down to shake for 2 minutes and spray with even strokes 10″ to 14″ away from your surface. I sprayed two coats allowing fifteen minutes of drying time in between coats.





Spray paint glassSee all that dirt? This is your reminder to spare your lungs and spray outside.  Spare your ground cover by placing an old paper bag or piece of cardboard down first and resting the glass, to be sprayed, on top.





When your sprayed glass inserts have dried, they will look like this….






Chalkboard paint on glass





And they’re ready to be inserted back into the frames, like this….






Chalboard frames





Use chalk to write what you wish. In this case, creating signs that read “Mr.” and “Mrs.” was the goal.







Mr. Mrs. Chalkboard signs





To hang the signs on our chairs, I looped a piece of satin ribbon through the picture hanger on the back of the frame. To cover the mechanics, I cut a piece of black craft paper to be the same size as the frame. I taped the paper to the back of the frame using double-sided tape, looped the ribbon through the chair back, and tied the the loose ends into a knotted bow.





Hang chalkboard frame





I set up a little scene to do a test run and decided they looked nice.





Mr Mrs Chalkboard Sign Test




And for the day of wedding, I thought they were perfect.






Mr Mrs chair signs





Wedding appetizers 2



At 99 cents a frame, it was too tempting not to make multiple signs. We used them at the wedding to distinguish the cucumber water from the lemon water–as though the suspended fruit didn’t say it all, but, hey, I had a surplus of signs to display! Another, nestled between the appetizers, (see above), read “Love”.





Other uses: To display a menu at your next dinner party; used to identify the vegetarian platter or other mystery dish that requires some explaining. Or, for the upcoming holiday season, they could simply read “Peace,” “Noel,” or be used to alert Santa which cookies are his.



To see more inspiring ideas other bloggers have shared at the Link Party Palooza, click here.

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DIY Velvet Pumpkins: Everybody’s doing it!

Velvet Pumpkin Portrait



I wasn’t going to write this post. Nope, not at all.




Velvet pumpkins are so two holiday seasons ago, right?





Then I spotted them, this weekend, at Lassen’s with prices like $21.99–for the smallest of the harvest!





Velvet store pumpkins




Now I’m considering it my civic design duty to remind everyone how easy it is to make your own. Once you get going, each takes fewer than ten minutes–promise!





And here’s how to make your own–(without spending $21.99!).*

*I have to interject for a moment. Velvet isn’t cheap. In fact, the good stuff is rather expensive. I happened to have a remnant, but if you don’t, you could check the thrift stores for velvet clothing (jackets spring to mind) and even velour zipper-pull jackets or sweats. If that proves to be a wild goose chase, I apologize, and recommend checking your local fabric store for a remnant.





To begin, cut a perfect circle by tracing around a bowl.






Cut velvet pumpkin





Yes you’ll read the word “velvet” umpteen times here, but you could also substitute an interesting patterned fabric such as a paisley, houndstooth, tartan, herringbone–the list goes on.






Velvet circleVelvet circle measuring 10.5″ in diameter.




Don’t worry too much about the color of your thread as it will never show. What you do need to worry about is keeping your thread doubled for strength, and keeping it threaded on the needle until we reach the end.




Sew up and down. I believe this is called “a running stitch”. If it’s not, someone please tell me now and put an end to my sewing illiteracy.





Sewing the velvet pumpkin





You are essentially creating a little sack. Once you have sewn around the entire edge of the circle, pull your thread to gather the fabric and it should look something like this….





Remember: do not cut the needle off your thread just yet.




Empty velvet pumpkin A green velvet shower cap?





Stuff your pumpkin with batting. To give it some substance and pumpkin gravitas, I added a few tablespoons of dried pinto beans. Note: If you add the beans first, they’ll fall to the bottom where they’ll be visible through the fabric. Instead, make a depression in the center of the batting and place the beans there.




Stuff velvet pumpkin





Once the sack is stuffed and ready, I found it helpful to squeeze it between my knees as I pulled the thread taut.





Sewing velvet pumpkin tight





Continue to tighten at the top until you have this….





Almost velvet pumpkin



See how the needle is still attached to the thread? (You may have to squint to see it, but the needle is sticking into the pumpkin like it’s a pin cushion…now that would be a cute idea!) To keep the pumpkin sewn closed, use your needle to thread through one side of the opening, then thread your needle to the opposite side. Continue going back and forth until the opening is sewn tightly shut;  knot your thread and snip away the excess–releasing the needle. (Some people like to make one final stitch down through the bottom of the pumpkin, and back up to the top, to slightly flatten the pumpkin. If slightly flattened pumpkins are your thing, you might want to try this.)




Pumpkin stems




The real stem is what pulls these pumpkins together with that dash of authenticity:  “Is it real or is it velvet?” Okay, maybe it’s doubtful that anyone will go so far as that, but it does make them look cool. So where do you get them? Salvage stems from acorn squash and/or pumpkins before you use them in a recipe.



To dry your stem, bake it in a 275 degree oven for ten minutes. When it has cooled, hot glue it to the top of your velvet pumpkin.






Glue on stem




And let the decorating begin!





Velvet Pumpkins Centerpiece





To see some fun ideas other crafty bloggers have been working on, click the link to the Sunday Showcase Party,  below.


By Stephanie Lynn


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Blooming pumpkins: DIY succulent pumpkin centerpiece


First, I should tell you, there are two ways to make a succulent pumpkin centerpiece.




Succulent pumpkin and crowPlease note my favorite painting of a paper bag (well, my only painting of a paper bag) in the background.




There’s the easy way.




And the hard way.




Guess which one we’ll be doing?




If you said “the totally easy, lazy person’s way” you guessed right. But, just in case you want to know the hard way…



Because you like options….



Because you want to kill time in the spirit of Halloween….




Because you don’t own a hot glue gun….






Book of spellsBut speaking of easy projects, I made the “Boo!” banner above by cutting burlap triangles, painting letters onto each one and hot gluing the triangles to a piece of black satin ribbon. Easy does it.





Here is the hard way…



The hard way: Use a serrated knife to remove the top portion of your pumpkin. Consider how many succulents you want to fit into your pumpkin planter when making the opening. Use a spoon to scoop out the stringy, seedy innards of the pumpkin. Fill its cavity with potting soil. Plant succulents and admire.



When the pumpkin begins to show signs of age, (shriveling, wrinkling, just like on a human–or a hotdog microwaved on high for over 50 seconds), you can bury the pumpkin planter directly in your yard. Make sure the entirety of the pumpkin is hidden and only the succulents are visible above the soil line. The succulents will continue to grow and as the pumpkin decomposes, it will provide natural fertilizer. Not so hard, really.




But, for the rest of us who have the attention span of a gnat. Hello? Hello, did you make it this far?




 The easy way:




1. Begin with a pumpkin. I chose a white one (this variety is so aptly named “Casper”) with beguiling green splotches since I imagined the green would blend nicely with the green of the succulents. But plain white, or regular ol’ orange, would look nice, too.





Casper Pumpkin




2. This next step almost feels like cheating it’s so easy and no knives are necessary–only finger-singeing hot glue, so it’s still a project that requires adult supervision and/or an adult who knows her own level of coordination and is, therefore, never more than a few feet from an ice-stocked freezer in-case-of-a-glue-gun-emergency.





Glue reindeer moss (available at Michael’s Craft Store and most nurseries; did you know this stuff also comes in a chartreuse shade?) directly to the top of your pumpkin to form a moss base.





Gluing moss to pumpkin




3. Continue gluing until you have created a nice foundation for the succulents. See that bald spot in the picture below? Don’t leave a bald spot. I happened to take this photo before I filled it in. Repeat: no bald spots!




Moss on pumpkin




4. Use a knife, your fingernail, or scissors to snip most of the stem off you succulents because you want to give the illusion that your succulents are planted in the moss, not on the moss.  Don’t worry, succulents are tenacious things and can eventually re-root through the glue and moss.




Cut succulent




5. Now apply a bit of hot glue to the underside of your succulent and press it into the moss.




Gluing succulents to pumpkin




6. Keep gluing the undersides of your pinched succulents (as in pinched-bottomed, not stolen) and adding them to the arrangement until it looks right and/or you have run out of room.




And you will end up with something like this…





 Succulent pumpkinSo pretty if I do say so, myself! (Ooh, I just did.)





Just in case you’re in need of a spooky surface on which to perch your pumpkin centerpiece, here’s an idea. You can make a “Book of spells” book prop using an old text book or other hardcover book that you never care to see the cover of again. The beauty of this project is you get to reuse a book that might have otherwise be destined for the recycling bin and make a cool book prop: win win!





Text book beforeThis was JB’s textbook. If I had studied Marcroeconomics, I don’t think I would have become an interior designer or be penning this blog–you know what I mean?





Paint your hardcover book with black paint and use a white, gold or silver pen (or paint) to write “Brews and Enchantments” or “Spells and Potions”, or whatever else piques your interest, on the spine. I used a template for a printed cover from the Crafty Cupboard (you can, too, by clicking here), aged the paper by painting it with a mixture of 1 T instant coffee mixed into 1/4 cup of hot water. When the paper dried, I ironed it smooth and glued it to the cover.






Brews and Enchantments




I also have the Crafty Cupboard to thank for the “poison” apple inspiration. To make your own, hunt down a very red, shiny apple from your local produce aisle. Take a single bite then use a paint or basting brush to coat the exposed flesh with lemon juice to thwart oxidation. Quick aside: I set mine out for a party and, two days later, it still hasn’t turned brown (yay!), but the skin around the exposed flesh is starting to pucker (boo!).





Red fleshed appleNote: When I bit into this apple, I was shocked at how sweet it was–and that is was partially red inside! It turns out this particular red-fleshed variety is called “Hidden Rose”.







Halloween book props





And, with that, I wish you happy it’s-almost-Halloween decorating!




Better than Calgon…Bridal Shower Lavender Bath Salts Tutorial

If you caught that Calgon reference, welcome to my peer group.



For all of you who have entered the Time Machine with me (capitalized because it makes it more “real”), Hi! Good to see you. You’re looking lovely today. So glad you could make it!



But, enough small talk. Please make way as I’m about to open the doors on a month ago. Well more like a month and a half ago if I actually consult the calendar (Really, where does the time go?) when I needed to come up with favors for my it-will-be-here-any-minute bridal shower.



I wanted something cute and useful and not likely to end up in a trashcan with the resolute proclamation: “This macrame’ friendship bracelet will never adorn my wrist–nor anyone else’s!” (said spitefully in the direction of the open-lidded kitchen trash bin, as a brightly colored yarn bracelet lands with a quiet thud atop a towering stack of sodden paper towels and one moldy orange).



So my mom suggested this…





Unicorn Farts Lip Balm


Which, truth be told, I thought was hilarious because come on, just the imagery conjured by the words “Unicorn Farts” is funny. When I read that it was a “lip balm”, I was a guffawing mess.  But, unfortunately, the Etsy site of the also brilliantly monikered Long Winter Farm, was put on temporary “This shop is taking a short break” status. No, not because Etsy is crusading against labels featuring the word “farts”, but likely the genius behind Long Winter Farm was bombarded with orders and needed a break.*




*Update: It turns out her real, non-Etsy, website is up and running where she offers such scrumptious flavors such as Honey Fig, Pumpkin Cheesecake–and Yetti Breath. Yetti Breath? Need I say more? Click here to see if for yourself.




So when the spangly, glitter-encrusted door to Unicorn Farts Lip Balm slammed shut, another had to open. So I got out a crowbar and flung the door open on this DIY project…





Epsom salts


I’m sorry if I just caused you eye strain (the light was pouring in from the window which meant my shot was back lit); the sign says: Lavender Bath Sachets.



Which you can make too!



Easy-peasy style. And so useful they almost come with a will-not-be-thrown-out-with-yesterday’s-moldy-oranges label (sure, not a “Unicorn Farts” label, but cool, nonetheless).



Epsom salts, lavender oil (for my local readers, the Clairmont Lavender Farm in Los Olivos sells lavender oil; for my non-local readers, they’re happy to ship), and dried lavender blossoms*.


*Lavender grows like a weed in my mom’s yard. If you don’t have access to my mom’s yard, lavender plants are easy to find at any nursery. Select one that is in bloom. Run your fingers across the blossoms to strip them from the plant (after you’ve paid for it, of course) and sprinkle them on a plate and leave in the sun or in a sunny window sill to dry.



Tip: If you happen to have an old window screen hanging around, (the Restore/Habitat for Humanity is a good source), shame on you for being such a hoarder! But, I get it, it’s moments like these that justify and motivate the behavior, don’t they?–she says knowingly. To use the screen for this project, wash it, dry it, and place it on top of a large empty bowl (or other surface that will allow air to circulate below). Sprinkle your freshly harvested lavender blossoms atop the screen, and leave the whole kit and kaboodle out in the sun to dry for at least a day or two. Meanwhile, and this is very important, seek out some other item from your homestead that you can part with since now you know how useful that screen is, you’re likely to never let it go. Dirty hoarder.




Important: “Ingredients” implies that the finished product might be consumed. Do not eat these, lest you suffer from the soapy taste of lavender in your mouth, a bout of upset stomach to rival the feeling in your tummy as you watched the Red Wedding scene in Game of Thrones (I know, I need to let that go, already) and possibly a worse calamity that could have been avoided entirely had you heeded my warning: Do not eat these, no matter how tantalizing they turn out.





Lavender sachet materials



Once your blossoms are dry, mix the ingredients.
The ratio should be something like this:


2 cups Epsom salts

4 drops lavender essential oil

2 T dried lavender blossoms




Epsom salts and lavender




Stir your mixture with a dry (this is the second mention of “dry” here; I hope you’re catching on to its importance; wet = clumping) spoon and fill the sachet bags. If you can’t find any sachet bags at the usual suspects (Michael’s, or any other craft store), you can order them online here.



Tie the top of the bag shut and hot glue a pretty embellishment to the knot. Source: the paper birds with rhinestone eyes came from the aisles of Michael’s.






Glue on accent



Like so…





Bridal Shower epsom salts favor



To make the sign, I cut a piece of cardboard-colored cardstock to a sign-appropriate size and folded it in half. Next I cut a piece of black craft paper with scalloped-edge scissors to give interesting shaped edges to the craft paper. I used a white pencil to create a chalkboard lettering effect and used a Gelly Roll pen, in pink, to add some glitter to the letters. I stuck the finished craft paper sign to the face of the card stock sign with double-sided tape. Translation: Make a sign.




Boom, a sign is born. (Which is totally important because I know you don’t want anyone mistaking these sachets as filled with snow-colored pop rocks.)





Epsom salts sign




In situ, they looked like this.








Lavender bath sachets 2



And this…





Bridal shower dessert table 2




And then by the end of the bridal shower, like this…




Because, unlike a bowl of macrame’ bracelets, everyone wanted one!






Epsom salts




PS, Another bridal shower tip: my maid of honor customized this journal with Scrabble tile stickers and I can’t say enough good things about this idea. Much better than a guest book (we altered the cover to read “and groom” and set it out at the wedding), where people often write like they’re writing in a yearbook–“Have a nice summer–err, marriage!” Or is that just me?–when you ask for advice, people give it and once the hoopla of the wedding was over, boy was it fun to read.





Advice for the bride




And last, but not least, here are some parting words from our sponsor…






Always be yourself





What about you guys? Do you have a really great tip for a DIY bridal shower party favor? Do share! Oh wait, nevermind, I’m married now so I don’t actually need to do this again unless it’s to help a betrothed friend in need–oh, heck, share anyway! I love a good DIY tip!




Ombre’ Gilded-Edge Pom Pom “Blossom” Tutorial

Well that was a mouthful. And yet, the question remains, Does the internet really need one more pom pom “blossom” tutorial?




Why yes, I think it does.




Because, because, because.



Because before the wedding, there was a bridal shower. The most beautiful, “Is this really for me? It’s like something out of a magazine!” bridal shower.




Bridal Shower chairs




Held in this amazing house. (Thank you Jennifer Taylor of Taylor House Interiors!)





Bridal shower living room 3






And another view because it takes two angles to do this room justice.





Bridal shower living room 1





There was a drink station like this. (A word about cucumber water: it’s one of those things that I forget about and then I sip it and think, “Every day should be Cucumber Water Day!”)






Bridal shower beverages




A food station.  (You’ll have to use your imagination and picture the gluten-free quiches that were later placed on those pretty glass risers.)





Bridal shower quiche table





A bathroom decorated with details that looked…





Bridal shower bathroom



like this….





Bridal shower vanity




There was yummy food and mimosas (cucumber water? What cucumber water?)





Bridal Shower food




And floral arrangements…





Bridal shower flowers





Oh, the floral arrangements….





Bridal shower flowers 3





Everywhere you looked, there was something pretty…






Bridal shower glasses





Including these gilded ombre’ pom pom “blossoms”…





Bridal shower table




And, without further ado…





Upclose pom pom





(Well, just a little ado)…here’s how to make ’em:





1. You’ll want to use at least 8 sheets of tissue paper. I worked with eight, but you can use more to fertilize (grow) your pom pom “blossoms”. For the ombre’ effect, you’ll want at least two gradations of color (e.g., you could select fuschia and pale pink or lime green and kelly green).





Pom Pom Tissue Paper





2. Stack your sheets, alternating the colors as you go. The stack will likely form a rectangle, (most tissue paper comes this shape), but you want it to be square. Measure the excess and trim away.





Stacked tissue paper 2




3. Now begin at one side and fold the edge over 1″. Flip the paper over and fold another inch. Continue to flip and fold, accordion-style, until you have run out of paper to fold. (If this sounds complicated, simply think of making a paper fan.)





Folding tissue paper






4. Once you have your folded “fan”, use scissors to scallop each end (as seen below). Note: If you want to do something besides the scalloped edge, feel free to cut a zig zag or double scallop.





Scallop Pom Pom edge




5. Mark the center of the “fan” (with pen, your finger, or both). Use a piece of fishing line that is at least 3′ (or as long as you think you’ll need to hang your pom pom) and wrap one end around the center of the “fan” and knot it in place. You will later use the other, loose end, for hanging.





Marking Pom Pom center



Tip:  When you tie the center of the “fan”, make sure it still lies flat (see above) and that you don’t pull so tight that it scrunches in the middle (see below) or you will make the next step harder on yourself.




Don't do this pom pomAck, don’t do this! (See photo above.)




6. Slightly open up the two sides of your “fan” and they will look something like this.






Pom Pom with scalloped edges



7. Start on one side of the “fan” and pull ONE LAYER AT A TIME towards you until the pom pom “blossom” begins to open and take shape.





Open Pom Pom layers




If you noticed we just changed color (and scalloped edge), you definitely don’t have ADHD. Excuse the erratic color shift, but this shot nicely captures the pulling process, don’t ya think?






Pink Pom Pom Open Layers 2




And when you are finished pulling, you’ll end up with a pom pom “blossom” similar to this. (Keepin’ it fresh with the color switcheroo.)





Opened Pom Pom





Ready for some magic? It comes in a can.





Rust-Oleum Metallic





8. Gild the edges of you pom pom “blossom” with metallic gold spray paint. (Alternately you could use silver or Krylon’s gold or silver Glitter Blast spray paint if you wanted to up the bling ante.)




Gilded Pom Pom



9. Ta da! Look at that, nine easy steps! Now you just have to find the perfect spot to hang them.



I hung mine in the living room to keep them as unsmooshed as possible before transporting them to the bridal shower site–and realized they look really cute hung from a chandelier! Note to self: future party idea. Orange and black for Halloween…eh?




Pom Poms from chandelier




Here they are hung where they were intended to.





Pom Poms going up



The lone gilded ombre’ pom pom “blossom”…




Pom Pom chandelier



joined by friends….




Bridal shower table




Speaking of friends, none of this would have happened if it wasn’t for Jennifer Taylor and my sweet Maid of Honor, and BFF, Mary Lynn. Thank you both, immensely, for hosting the bridal shower of my dreams!



The making of the Save the Date sign: Let there be light(s)



If you’re a loyal reader, you know I have been determined to create a clever Save the Date for our pending (as in, “Holy cow, fast approaching, someone slow this thing down!”) nuptials. I wanted it to look as cool as something the hipsters would’ve devised, although they would have done it minus my angst, my gotta-get-this-right stress, but with the addition of their, “We could be doing something so much better right now” blank-faced flair.






I was after something like this. (See my absolute favorite Save the Date*, below). Although, to be fair–or accurate, really–these people can’t be hipsters; their faces convey too much human emotion:  an oxymoronical combination of worrisome glee.






Literally saving the date copyImage via Lydiasnextstep






*Excuse me, but I must interrupt my blog post to make a very important aside. When one is doing a lot of talking and thinking and scribbly note making about materializing Save the Dates and sending out Save the Dates, etc., one soon finds it is easier to resort to shorthand and discovers the handy acronym: STDs. And then one bursts into peals of laughter over the hilarity. I mean take the word “sign” off this blog post title, insert acronym, and it has a very different meaning, indeed. Come on, tell me that made at least someone smile, if not just guffaw.








Back to the scheduled post. I think I liked this Save the Date so much because they were actually saving the date. So I racked my brain. Dates. Saving. Thoughts, thoughts, chin tapping, brow scratching. Nada. Then I decided I could play the date and pretend to be tied to train tracks, like a damsel (or date, in this case) in need of saving. I could pull off looking delicate and distressed. (I think.) However, my idea also sounded like the other “D” word. No, not dumb: “DANGEROUS!”





So I came up with this, instead…






Hand holding save the dateYes, you are witnessing my real hand. No models were involved. And, you guessed it, that is an authentic dried date.  Points for originality. Am I right?






Because I recently tried a brussel sprout recipe that involved dates, (I do have a hipster moment now and then), we happened to have a box of dried dates in our fridge. So I whipped up a toothpick-inserted sign for my date and headed to…where else? The railroad tracks.





Save the date with real date




The problem, as though I need to tell you, the perceptive viewer, is obvious as witnessed above. But, I’ll spell it out for you anyway: my date and “Save me!” sign were so tiny, in order to show enough tracks to give context, the date and sign became but a speck of something resembling a small sausage or animal dropping. So I picked up my turd-shaped date, watched as a train zoomed past us, and then crossed the tracks to my car and drove home with my head hung low.





Save the date on tracks



Not to mention, (but to totally mention), before I left the house JB declared my literal sense of humor was likely a sign of having a really bad sense of humor or no sense of humor at all. Nice. But, rest assured, despite my fizzling ego, the wedding is still on.



I arrived back at home, so unenthused, I surely could’ve been mistaken for a true hipster.



Enter: JB, who has these moments of brilliance. This was one of those moments. While I was out tramping on the tracks (as in walking, no midriff baring shirts were worn on this day, or any day, really), he was at home making a mock-up of a sign we could use for the STD photo. (Tee hee.)




Cardboard save the date signInspiration a la Lite Brite, cira 1985.





I loved it. So JB cut a piece of plywood to size to create the sign we’d use for the actual photoshoot. I wrote in chalk (and evidently dark pencil) to loosely mark the numbers and used a 5/16″ drill bit to create holes that were large enough to fit Christmas light bulbs through.





Wood save the date sign




Once the holes were drilled, I painted the sign with black acrylic paint. When the paint had dried, I popped a bulb through each light, plugged in the end of the strand and we had this…






Save the Date signWho has a Redwood tree in their front yard in So Cal? We do.




Insert humans (us) and we had this…





Save the date poses 2




and this…





Save the date poses 1




to choose from. And we chose this one….





Save the Date final with datePhoto credit goes to Lyn Gianni (aka: Mom).



In retrospect you can hardly make out that there is an actual date in JB’s hand, only the “Save Me!” sign which makes it look a whole lot like he is requesting to be saved from…marrying me? While that certainly wasn’t our intended message, this was the only one in which we both looked generally excited, not too posed–so unhipster, it was probably hipper than hipster. Not to mention, in this one JB looks like he just spotted a unicorn and is waving hello with his single jazz hand.




Save the Date card




We used a template from (see above) because JB liked the idea that if you’re going to send out STDs (chuckle, chuckle), it should be done the ecologically-minded, paperless post way. And did I mention it’s inexpensive? Many of the templates are free, including the one we chose, but to send the posts is another story. You can send out as many as 75 invites for free, but they will be accompanied by an ad. For $10 they offer a single-use, ad-free premium design that you can send to up to 2,500 guests (I’m guessing this option is for really popular people). We decided to be big spenders and choose the deluxe $30 package that includes the use of ad-free premium designs (although we happened to pick a free one) that can be sent for one year to 250 people (because we’re not that popular?). This package also includes two free printed post cards to be sent to yourself, or a friend, as a keepsake or to your parents who are wondering what you have against paper.






Happily Ever After light sign







Yes, I know this is a design blog. So here you go. You don’t really need plywood to make one of these signs; you could use cardboard or stretched canvas. I was inspired by our sign and decided to quickly make another one that said “Happily Ever After” out of a plywood scrap we had lying around. I figured it could hang on the wall or lean against a tree as a prop at our outdoor wedding. Unfortunately, I made it so quickly I forgot my own advice of plugging in the strand before popping each bulb into a hole. Save yourself a headache–and from your results looking as spotty as mine do above–and keep the strands plugged in as you insert them through the holes so you don’t bother wasting time with a busted bulb.




Note: You will end up with a scraggly bundle of Christmas light cords on the back which you can flatten to a manageable lump by using long strands of duct tape taped across the back of your board. If you use plywood, you can insert screw eyes to attach wire and hang the board. If you want a more finished look, you can purchase trim molding from Home Depot and spray paint it any color you like–think gold for a gilded look. Use a miter saw to cut the corners. Use brads and hot glue to attach the molding to the front of the frame. Or, large-scale rope (left natural or spray painted gold) can be attached with brads to the perimeter of your board to create a rope “frame”.


The possibilities are almost endless: “Peace” or “Noel” at Christmas; “Boo” for Halloween, “Love” for Valentine’s Day–or any day. A simple word like “Wonderful” or “More” would be intriguing and kind of Pop Art-ish, as well.



One last design thought while we’re on the subject of drills and design. The other evening, JB and I went to Chipotle (because their food is yummy and all their meat is Humanely Raised) and, while there, I noticed this wall…





Chipotle hole wallChipotle Wall. La Cumbre Shopping Center, Santa Barbara.




It’s really a simple concept: a wall of raw plywood in front of a lit niche that has been painted a contrasting color. However, you could take it so much further. You could customize it by painting the plywood, using the holes to spell out a word, phrase, line from a poem–or even a family crest or company logo. In other words, by using a drill bit, plywood, and lights, you can get a whole lot of “wow” for not much money.



And that’s something to get excited about!




Chipotle wall detailChipotle wall detail.




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IKEA Dish Towel Hack: from the kitchen to the bedroom!

Yes, away to the bedroom we shall go. But first, now that I have your attention…



The blogosphere is bursting with impressive IKEA hacks. For example, one talented blogger began with this BILLY bookcase, added crown molding and baseboard, caulked and painted and–presto!–it looks like a custom built-in that cost thousands of dollars, not $59.99 per 31 1/2″ x 11″ x 79 1/2″ unit.




Billy bookcases ikea hackImage via





Another style savvy blogger turned IKEA’s RAST dresser into a side table Dorothy Draper would’ve been proud to call one of her own designs.





Ikea Hack Rast DresserIf this doesn’t say Dorothy Draper, (it does), it certainly doesn’t say $34.99 RAST 3-drawer chest from IKEA. Image and project via Marcus Designs.






In contrast, my IKEA hack is on the small side: 16″ x 26″, to be exact. It’s cute and easy to make but, admittedly, only a humble contribution to the hacking greatness that runneth over on the internet.





However, while it might not exactly blow your mind, the good news is, it won’t blow your wallet, either.





It starts with one of these….





Ikea Elly dishtowels

And we’ll turn it into a pillow.





Yes, a dish towel. IKEA calls them ELLY. At $3.99 for a pack of four, I call them a sweet deal.




Note: The IKEA site discloses all sorts of pertinent information about these towels. (See highlighted IKEA link above.) For example, they tell you each towel is 20″ x 26″, that they’re made of 100% cotton and should be machine washed, and that shrinkage 5%. That is not a huge amount of shrinkage, but to be on the safe side, you may want to wash (and dry) the towels before you sew them so you don’t have to deal (and by “deal” I mean: freak out/cry/eat two bowls of ice cream because that always makes it better) with shrinkage later. Just a suggestion.



Choose the dishtowel you like best to convert into a pillow. Or “billow” as I accidentally typed (which is odd since the “P” and the “B” do not reside anywhere near one another on the keyboard; I suppose that would be a pillow with a cold). I love the faded denim shade of blue on the one I chose and I’m a sucker for stripes, but the skinny stripes or plaid ones would transform nicely into pillows, too.






(Flashback alert!) Do you remember when this towel was hanging in my kitchen? One day it whispered to me, “I can do more than just hang here and look pretty.” (I thought it was so pretty, I never actually used it to wipe dishes.) Apparently I speak “dishtowel” because I listened.




SUB-ZERO front









But I digress. A lot. Obviously. But, back on topic. After you select your dish towel, you will also need white cotton fabric (remember, you may want to wash and dry it if it is not preshrunk) for the back of the pillow as well as a 20″ x 26″ pillow insert. Velcro/buttons/a zipper are optional.





Pillow supplies




IKEA conveniently also sells a 16″ x 26″ down-filled* FJADRAR insert–(Your guess on how to pronounce that is as good as mine; if you know that or how to insert the two dots over the “A”, please enlighten me on both accounts.)–for $6.99. This folks, is another steal of a deal.



*I have become rather anti-down after researching and discovering that the majority of down comes from live-plucked geese–(Yes, live! Future blog post. Brace yourself!)–but IKEA is the only source I know of (besides Patagonia, but last I checked, they weren’t making pillow inserts) who responsibly sources their down. Yay IKEA!



My plan was to make the easiest pillowcase possible which meant instead of a zipper enclosure, I made an envelope fold. The 20″ x 26″ sized dish towel lends itself to perfectly to making a 16″ x 26″ pillow. If you want to go fancy and create a contrasting welt with one of the other dishtowels or a plain white welt, you are a more ambitious–and likely much better–sewer than I. For those of us who prefer the easy peasy method, begin by placing the ELLY dish towel and your white cotton fabric front to front.




Dishtowel draped on white



Just so you can see where we’re heading, I draped the fabric over the pillow insert to create a concept of the finished product, below. Which reminds me, another great thing about the ELLY dishtowels, (besides the cuteness factor and price and the fun fact that our cat happens to share the same name–and personality, I might add), is these towels are hemmed on the edges which means you don’t have to hem the flap of the envelope fold. Go IKEA, go!




Positioning fabric






Now sew the sides together.




Graffiti on sewing machine





You will end up with something like this.





Unstuffed Ikea dishtowel pillow



To make sure the pillow stays snugly shut, you could add a button, but in the interest of finishing in a jiffy, I used Velcro. Tip: pinning through Velcro can be rather difficult and can bend your nice sewing pins. To keep the Velcro in place, I taped it to the fabric using clear Scotch tape which I removed as I sewed.




Pillow with velcro



Stuff your pillow, toss it on a bed, and you’ll get something like this…





Ikea dishtowel pillow and peaches



ELLY IKEA dishtowel pillow on bed






Here it is against blue bedding.




Ikea dishtowel pillow blue bedding



Don’t worry, these antlers are not a permanent bedroom fixture. JB and I agreed to not hang much until we renovate and paint the walls, but they were too blah for the photo so I thought the antlers would add a little something. I think now, it wasn’t quite the right something. Perhaps I had been watching too many back to back episodes of Game of Thrones. (We’re almost caught up with the rest of the watching world.) As a friend mentioned, the look I achieved is: “Horny.” Great. But the real reason I removed them after I shot the pictures is we live in earthquake-prone California which means these horns could impale us while we are sleeping. So, new pact: an antler-less bedroom wall is a safe bedroom wall.



By the way, if you happened to be thinking this pillow is cute but 1) I don’t have a sewing machine or 2) Sewing isn’t much fun, those are two perfectly reasonable sentiments to which I’m happy to respond. This is another “IKEA does it, again!” moment. IKEA just happens to have come out with this new pillow cover that perfectly fits their 16″ x 26″ FJADRAR fill and it’s only $10 (!!!), beautiful, and, of course, hard to pronounce. It’s the VITFJARIL (please imagine two dots over the A, for the sake of correctness).



Here it is…



ikea vitfjaril pillow





Told you. In real life it’s just as cream-colored with a linen texture (100% ramie; 4% shrinkage).


How about you? Have you done any IKEA hacks lately? No, taking an axe to their “It has to be missing a part!” assembly-required furniture does not count. 🙂


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Our new planter boxes and the magical, regenerating onions!



When we bought our house last September, one of our pressing projects was to build planter boxes. We loved the idea of eating our way through a vegetable garden (fresh, organic, and cheaper than Whole Foods–oh my!) and we had the perfect spot in mind….




The front yard.



Bark and land




Before you ask, “Isn’t there a backyard?” Well, yes, there is, but it’s somewhat sloped and already bursting with specimens of full-grown this, that, and the other thing–(a redwood tree here, a ginkgo tree there, yuccas, a South African Coral tree, ferns, succulents and many more; my mom captured it well when she proclaimed, “It looks like something Dr. Seuss would have designed.”)–that have already laid claim to the land.


Meanwhile, the front yard had this unused space that was just sitting there…looking lonely and desperate for something cool. And we decided cool would be planter boxes.


Yeah, I know. I can already envision (in the very distant future) potential buyers grimacing as they wonder aloud, “Planter boxes in the front yard?” But those won’t be our buyers. Our buyers will say, “Great use of space. And I see the owners have a thing for kale. Let’s offer over the asking price!”


Admittedly, there was some opposition. One family member said we should plant grass. What? We’re in a drought. There was another–completely reasonable–idea posited to build a patio in the front.  And we pooh-poohed it explaining there’s already one in the back and we prefer our outdoor living to take place in the backyard where (if the mood strikes us) we can cruise around in our pajamas and unkempt hair, without suffering the stares of the dog walkers (crucial because the mood strikes kinda often). Besides, the front yard gets a surplus of sunshine.



So, in the end, the front yard won! We began the project by clearing the existing bark to level the land and make way for the 4′ x 10′ boxes JB built from redwood.



Raking barkSexy leg shot. Two boxes down, one to go.




And when all three boxes were built, we stood back ready to pat each other on the back for work well done…



and we realized the boxes sort of resembled coffins.








But we held strong to our conviction that we had chosen the right spot. And crossed our fingers the boxes would look less creepy when they were filled with dirt and planted with plants. (Spoiler alert: they did.)




Planter boxes and Lilo




Before adding dirt, I laid 4′ x 25′ sheets of hardware cloth over the soil and cut the excess with wire clippers.  Note: Hardware cloth does cost more than chicken wire, but is a wise investment if you have gophers. Hardware cloth has smaller holes and thicker wire and, therefore, makes a superior gopher barricade.


The rolls were 4′ wide (as were the boxes) which didn’t allow enough room to run the edges of the cloth slightly up the sides, so I ran the rolls the long way and fastened their ends to the sides of the planter boxes using a staple gun.





Empty planter boxNot yet gopher-proof.




Galvanized wire





I overlapped the hardware cloth in the main body of the boxes and used galvanized wire to sew the overlap shut. (“Body” and “boxes” in one sentence? Total coffin-lingo.)






Weaving wire







Empty planter box2

Now the message was clear: “No vacancy for gophers.”






Giant pile of dirt




We ordered, and hauled, (60 wheelbarrow trips from the driveway, no less) potting soil from where it was delivered and dumped to the boxes…many, many, many yards away.





Buying lettuces



Then we purchased tiny plants…and watched them grow…


from this…






into this!




Planted planter boxes



It looks like it’s raining sun rays.  JB added caps to the boxes so when you are weeding or harvesting and possibly wearing a skirt, or short shorts, or a bathrobe, instead of bending over, you can sit on the sides, and keep your dignity. (Our front yard is perched on a hill.)





Planter boxes other viewThe other side.




I’m so happy we are now the proud owners of planter boxes. In the end, I think it was a great use of space and the excitement of foraging for veggies in our own garden has not lost its charm. But, perhaps my favorite part of having a planter box garden, has been discovering the magical regenerative power of green onions.



My mom deserves the credit. She told me to save the ends of my store-bought green onions and plant them.




Green onions wholeI started with these.





Chopped green onionUsed the chopped part for a salad and saved the ends.





Planting green onioinPlanted the ends. Note: Fuchsia Crayola marking on pointer finger, completely optional; dirt under fingernails: a must.







New onion growth



And about a week later, the stumpy ends had grown into fresh green onions. Like a lizard’s tail growing back after a cat whacks it off. Only edible. And at least palatable.



How about you, have you tackled any planter boxes lately? Or planted any kale? I’m hoping you’re answering yes so you might be able to answer this question: What do you do when aphids decide to camp out on your kale? I’ve read suggestions online to soak the picked leaves for 20 minutes to an hour in warm water and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. I plan to try it but if there’s any better way, I’m all ears. Thanks, in advance!

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Fit for a gnome: Tips to make your own terrarium garden!

Recently I needed to come up with a birthday present for a friend–in a jiffy.  A friend I had no idea what to get. A friend who doesn’t like chocolate so homemade brownies or toffee were out of the question. But a friend who likes plants.



Then it hit me, terrariums are kind of A Thing right now.




2 terrariums west elmImage via West Elm




They’re such A Thing, in fact, the other day I saw a fake one (real glass housing artificial succulents submerged in resin-sealed soil) in HomeGoods. For $50!!!



Why, right? Why when you can make a real one yourself for next to nothing.




One that’s alive and beautiful, like a mini indoor-garden for your coffee table or desk.





Three terrariumsImage via West Elm




So, the idea sprung. I would make her a terrarium.




And this is how I did it…





Empty vase




Begin with a clean glass vase (square or round, but on the squatty side with a large, open mouth you can fit your hand through). Alternately, you could use a mason jar or a round, glass goldfish bowl.




Vase with rocks




Add a 1″ layer of pebbles, 1/4″ in size or smaller. Option: you can spread a layer of sheet moss atop the pebbles to soak up any excess water and prevent soil from falling through the pebbles.




vase with dirt




Sprinkle 2-3” of potting soil*—the depth should be determined by the length of your plants’ roots—onto the pebbles (or onto the layer of sheet moss atop the pebbles). Tip: Add activated charcoal pieces (found at nurseries) to your soil to help fight fungus.


*(Potting mix formulated for succulents and cacti is available as most nurseries.)




Succulent terrarium





I used succulents unearthed from my garden, but small specimens of ferns work well, too. Once I positioned the plants, I submerged their roots into the soil and placed clumps of reindeer moss here and there on top of the soil and in between the plants. Not only does the moss assist in containing moisture, but it is another interesting bit of greenery to add to the mix.






Succulent terrarium and artThe staged succulent terrarium. (Pre-gift wrap.)






Fish bowl terrarium





I was so inspired, I made one for myself, too, using ferns foraged from the yard and a fishbowl that had just been taking up valuable space in the garage.  Feel free to add a Lilliputian-sized figurine. (Can you see the bronze wolf standing in mine?) Note: If you add any items from the beach, such as sea glass, driftwood or shells, be sure to thoroughly wash away any residual salt first.







Terrarium SB magIn situ.





Water your new mini indoor garden once a week and mist every few days if using ferns or other small plants such as shown above. A succulent terrarium only needs to be watered once or twice month. PS, The vase in the background was a recent HomeGoods score. It’s ceramic covered in real bark and was calling my name at $9.99. I was worried moisture might seep through causing the bark to peel off, but I’ve had it in use for three weeks now and so far, so good!








Terrarium on spool tableThe overall effect.




Bear in mind we’re just about to begin our remodel when you notice the spool side table above. I salvaged it from a job site, stained it using a mixture of hot water and instant coffee granules, and sealed it with water-based polyurethane. Yes, I know it’s is a total throwback to 60s/70s decor. Where’s my milk crate bookshelf, right? Or maybe I could have a milk crate ottoman! Just kidding. (I think.) But what’s old is new-ish and it was free and while it likely won’t be our forever side table inside the house–in the future, it might work on the patio–for now, I like its funkiness and it’s already so rustic I won’t worry if someone forgets to use a coaster before setting down a glass–good thing since that someone will likely be me!







Row of plantsOur coffee table. I told JB it’s starting to look like an overzealous botanist lives at our house. And a fan of ostrich eggs (me!).





A final note: terrariums can be placed indoors anywhere there is enough indirect sunlight such as on a side table or coffee table in a living room, on a kitchen counter or as a centerpiece on a dining room or entry table, on an office desk, or a bedside table. In other words, they look good almost anywhere!


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What goes down, must not stay there: Our new mailbox!

When we first moved in, I remember remarking, “It’s so quiet here. We fall asleep to the sound of crickets, and wake up to the chirp of birds.” It was idyllic. It was tranquil. It was short lived.




Torn up street

Okay, that’s not really our street, (Did the age of the cars give it away?), but the scene was similar.



Apparently the water main on our street had something terribly wrong with it. A malady that required digging and hauling and street-patching to make it right again. And so, two months ago a construction crew arrived complete with tractors, digging machines (forgive me, I’m sure there’s a more technical term) and a port-a-potty. They set up shop and every weekday morning they drowned out the sound of the birds. For two whole months!




BirdsImage via David Kanigan



Which was bad enough. Then one day, we came home to find this.




Mailbox knocked down

Our mailbox, down for the count.



And I couldn’t have been happier!


I’m a firm believer that good design should start at–or extend to–the mailbox so we’d already agreed to replace ours. But the laid best plans…can be put off. Fortuitously, now we were forced to make that good design happen–sooner than later!




Buck mailboxes

No, not like this, but these made me laugh. Image via Odd Stuff Magazine




First, we needed a design plan. For inspiration, I started studying mailboxes as I drove around town. Most of them fell into two categories: dull or unattractive. I was disappointed to note that even some very nice houses didn’t extend their great design to the mailboxes.




Ugly mailboxes




So I Googled “creative mailboxes”. And found this….



Microwave mailbox

Points for creativity and wacky irreverence, but a demerit for “Neighbors Would Hate It!”




We wanted something more sophisticated. One of my favorite mailboxes is this one in Montecito.




 Cyclist mailboxIt gives you an indication that the house just might be awesome, too. Which it is. Image via flickr.





Book house

This is the house that matches that mailbox. Neat, right? Image via Ed Hat 




So we racked our brains to come up with something cool we could repurpose. And came up with zilch. Then I took Lilo for a walk in our neighborhood and my jaw dropped.





Cool mailbox front

Uh huh.




It was the best I had seen! But we couldn’t just copy it exactly; that would be a design no-no. But we could use it for inspiration.




Cool Mailbox side viewThat’s a surfboard skeg for the flag. Oh so clever!




Side note: When I gathered up the nerve to measure the mailbox (for reference) who was standing next to it, putting out the trash, but its owner. When I admitted I was coveting his mailbox, he couldn’t have been nicer and gave our planned mailbox-homage his blessing.



We started with–where else do all good projects start?–a trip to Home Depot….




Lilo on Home Depot Cart

 Poor guy walked the plank and jumped on the hard concrete right after this shot was taken.  (Bad mommy.)





Selected our numbers…(spoiler alert: we went with the large, nickel finished ones at top).




Address numerals




We plotted the width of the planks and used nails to determine the spacing between them…..




Plotting the planks




We framed and secured the box…. Well, JB did. I said supportive things like,  “That looks really good!”



Mailbox frame





Next we plotted the spacing of the address numerals using the templates they came with.



Plotting mailbox numbers





Once we had the templates in place, we found it was easier to drill right through them rather than tapping a mark, removing the paper, then drilling–as the instructions suggested.




Drilling holes

Ignoring instructions.  Almost there….



And here it is…front left.




Mailbox front




And front right.




Mailbox side

We used a metal ruler as our flag as a nod to all things engineering and JB.




Both sides…a total delight! Sorry, I couldn’t help myself; it rhymed.



I purchased the Kangaroo Paw plant but the rest were cuttings from larger plants in our backyard. That’s the great thing about succulents, you can just snip, plant, cross-your-fingers-while-you-water-them, and they’ll reroot.


I’m looking forward to when they’re full-sized (especially the agave) and fill in the surrounding area so it doesn’t look so “new construction-ish”. And as the redwood ages, it will mellow out to a more subtle, silvery patina. But for now, it’s working for us and sets the tone for the rest of the house which we have finally decided (finally!) will be a little modern meets a little rustic.



What about you, have you driven around studying mailboxes too? Or am I the only one with mailboxes on the brain?




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