Wednesday, January 4, 2017

DIY Tea Box

It has been quite a while since I've posted a project. Almost a year. It is time...

It's winter again. The hardwood floors in my old house and lack of insulation in the walls make for a miserable few months in Minnesota. There is a solution: hot beverages.

Tea has become a staple in this house. So much tea. It began taking over an entire shelf in one of my cupboards. Containment and consolidation was needed, thus the Tea Box project came to life.

My cupboard shelf went from cluttered to satisfyingly empty in one evening.

Materials Needed:

  • Wooden box of your choice. 
  • If the box doesn't have dividers, you will need:
    •  1/16" thick basswood
    • Scissors
    • Wood glue
    • Ruler
  • Paint brush
  • Brown acrylic paint or a wood stain
  • White gel pen and pencil
  • White transfer paper (optional)

When I went to my local craft store, I brought a tea bag with so I could make sure the box I chose would work. I tried to find a box that already had dividers in it, but the compartments were too small. Instead, I picked up a 24"x2"x1/16" sheet of light basswood so I could cut my own dividers.

Using a tea bag for reference, I measured how many tea slots would fit in the box and marked each side with a pencil. Then, I cut pieces of basswood to fit snugly. The basswood I found was thin enough to be cut with plain scissors. Using wood glue, I lined the bottom and sides of each divider, placed them where I penciled my measurement marks in the box,  and waited about until the glue dried before moving onto the next step (maybe 30 minutes to an hour).

To "stain" the box, I used brown and black acrylic paint I already had at home and watered it down. I wanted the wood grain to show through, so I used a very thin mixture of paint and applied a couple of coats. The first coat I applied was too light for my taste, so I added a little bit of black paint to the mixture for the second and third coats.

Once finished with the stain, allow the box to dry completely. Once dry, you can apply your lettering to the top of the box. I didn't take pictures of this process, but it's fairly straightforward. I sketched the lettering I wanted on paper and then used white transfer paper to neatly transfer the lettering onto the box. You can definitely freehand on the box--but I don't trust myself to get things right the first time. Once I had the outline traced, I used a white gel pen to fill in the design.

And voila! The box is done! It was incredibly satisfying to organize all of my tea bags into my new box. 

Thanks for checking out my project! If you enjoyed this, please explore the rest of my blog. I've got lots of random crafty things to peruse.

You can also pop over to to see what else I'm working on.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Project 1012: Recycled Sidewalk Path

After reviewing all of the pictures for this project, I now realize just how ridiculous and labor intensive this project was/is (it's still not done!). It required so many steps to get to a somewhat decent looking end result. The reason we started this project began with a leaking basement. Every time it rained, or when snow started to melt, water would seep through our foundation. Luckily, our basement isn't finished so we don't have mold concerns.

Why was the basement so leaky? Well, our sidewalk was sloping towards the house. It might be a little hard to see, but take a look at the picture below. Years of rain running towards the house also caused the basement walls to crumble a bit (I will show you that project another time. Don't you worry.) The only solution that I came up with was to rip out the sidewalk, repair parts of the exterior foundation that have crumbled away, bring in dirt to get a proper grade away from the house, and then use the busted up sidewalk to make a new path around the house. Sounds simple enough, right?

I had been planning this project since we moved into this house two years ago, but with so many other things going on, I was afraid to start it. Then, one day in May, I thought 'I wonder how hard it will be to take out the sidewalk?' So it began. I learned fairly quickly that a sledge hammer is a glorious tool that even I can wield. And wield it, I did.

Once the sidewalk was out, we had to clean up the exterior of the foundation. The general process was: 1. break up concrete 2. move concrete to giant pile next to the garage 3. dig a trench around the house 4. scrape, clean, and apply cement where needed 5. seal 6. fill in with dirt. Easy, right? Sure!

There was a lot of damage on this corner of the house from water. The facial layer practically fell off. So that was a fun treat...

We rebuilt the surface with cement. One of the worst parts about this project was that it required a lot of dry time. I am not a patient person. Once we applied the cement, that had to cure. We tried to give it a few days of no rain to make sure all of the moisture was out. Then, we had to seal the new cement. We used two products to do this: white Watertite for above ground and black foundation coating for below ground.

I had to keep telling myself that everything was going to look worse before it looked better. We had so much work to do before I could get to the fun part, which was putting the sidewalk back in! I kept staring at this pile in my backyard. This huge, precariously stacked pile. Someday, it would have a new home.

The digging, scraping, patching, and painting continued around the house. Once one section was finished, we would fill in the trench with dirt we had available, and move on to the next.

It was a glorious day when we reached the front of the house. We had to do some tree/bush removal before we could get to the foundation, though. I'm starting to wonder how we accomplished all of this in a couple of months...

Okay! Trees removed, trench dug, concrete patched and sealed! Now, we just needed more dirt. We bought a yard of black soil from a local landscaping place and tamped and filled the remaining trenches. Since we didn't invest in a tamper, this process involved me stomping on the dirt, layer by layer to make sure it was adequately packed in. Any extra dirt was piled up next to the house to use to set the sidewalk pieces.

We used a flat shovel to level the ground where our new path was going to go. Since all of the sidewalk pieces were irregular in thickness, we didn't mess with being too accurate at this point. We then moved all of the pieces off the giant pile and laid down a general outline for the path. It was starting to come together!

As I have said in previous posts, my mom is a beast when it comes to physical labor and making weird projects come together. I enlisted her help when it came to setting the pieces of the path. I still wasn't 100% sold that this was a viable idea, so I needed her 'We can make it work!' attitude.

We installed the path in one day. I don't know how my body handled lifting all of that concrete, but I don't plan on doing that much labor in one day again for a very long time. Jake put in the landscaping edging and an additional fence panel, I pieced together the path, and my mom fussed with the irregular pieces to get them to stop wobbling. Go team!

Things we learned: Use water to get the dirt packed under the pieces and to make a mud that 'glues' the pieces where they need to be. My mom filled dirt between the pieces, sprayed the area down with a hose, and then shoveled more dirt between. Sand would have been an excellent base, but I want to plant creeping thyme between the sidewalk pieces, so I thought dirt would be better in the end.

We didn't use a level or try to be exact with getting the path put in. We eyeballed the height of each piece and accepted that the end result wouldn't be perfect. But, overall it actually looks pretty legit.

The last part of the path needed to meet up with our front sidewalk. I think this little section is what I like most about the project. Part of the front sidewalk was breaking away from age, so we used that to have a natural transition from whole slabs to broken pieces. It's surprisingly nice to look at.

Some of the pieces along the path were still wobbly once we were done for the day, but after a few rains everything settled perfectly.

We still have a lot of work to do, but we've made quite a bit of progress! The weekend after laying down the recycled sidewalk path, we were able to fill in our rock beds. We even made a flower bed around our front tree with smaller pieces of the old sidewalk.

Please leave comments below! I would love to hear your feedback on our project. Or, let me know if you have questions. Thanks for checking out my post. If you liked this one, please check out the links below for some other projects.

Project 1012: Kitchen Makeover
Project 1012: Adventures in Refinishing Our Hardwood Flooring

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Lib Balm Labels: From Scrapbook Paper and Packing Tape

I just finished the tutorial for making Tinted Lemon Lip Balm, and as promised, here is the tutorial on how to make labels for the tubes. Super cheap and adorable labels, I might add. I know there are other options online, where you can buy fancy labels and what not, but it's just not as satisfying and industrious as these little beasties.

Okay, to start, gather some supplies. You will need:

  • Scrapbook paper of your choosing. 
  • Clear packing tape. 
  • Scissors and/or guillotine cutter. 
  • Return address labels, or plain printer paper. 
Take your scrapbook paper and cut pieces measuring 2"x 1 3/4". If you plan on using labels, you can either print or hand write the ingredients. I chose the printing method, because I didn't want to write the same thing 11 times. You don't even need the sticky labels. You can print the ingredients onto a piece of paper and cut them down to size. 

I placed the labels in the middle of the scrapbook paper pieces.

Take the packing tape and roll out a strip onto the table, sticky side up. Turn the scrapbook paper pieces over and place them on the tape. Keep at least a quarter of an inch of tape between each piece.

Cut the tape, making sure to leave excess on each side of paper. The tape should fit perfectly on the lip balm tubes. Press the edges of the tape onto the tubes, and voila!

Easy lip balm tube labels! Give them a try and let me know what you think.

Homemade Tinted Lemon Lip Balm

I am obsessed with lip balm. When I was in high school, I wore holes through my back pockets, because I always had a stick with me. I just can't handle dry lips, apparently. So, it's surprising that it took me so long to try and make my own. There are countless recipes online for lip balm. It's kind of crazy. Why would I want to add another recipe to the mix? I highly doubt there is anything original about my lip balm, but I suppose originality isn't really my concern. I just need an excuse to use my new DSLR camera and be on my laptop for hours at a time. The life of an introvert. 

To the balm! I used to formulate my recipes with exact measurements, but now I approach it with the same technique I use for cooking; eyeball it and hope for the best. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. My homemade products deal mostly in ratios. Lip balm has a very simple composition. One part wax, one part butter, one part oil. Here's what I needed to make my tinted lemon lip balm:

  • One part beeswax. I got my hands on some wax from a local beekeeper. It's much better than the cosmetic grade beeswax, because it smells like honey. But, if you want a cleaner, less fragrant wax, go for the processed stuff. Both work. 
  • One part shea butter. I used the refined version. 
  • One part oil. Or actually 1/2 part coconut oil, and 1/2 part jojoba oil. Coconut oil is everywhere now, but jojoba oil is a bit more expensive and can be substituted for any other liquid oil. Sunflower oil is a great one for lip balm. 
  • Essential oils of your choosing. I used lemon. Ten drops did the trick for this small batch. 
  • Mica powder to tint. I used to use Coastal Scents to buy samples of mica powder, like the cellini red I used for this lip balm, but it seems they stopped selling the powders. So, what the crap?! I just ordered from them not that long ago! But I found this site, with similar products. I think it will work. When buying mica pigments and powders, just make sure it says it is safe to apply onto your lips. You don't need much. A lot of references recommend that you use only 5 to 10% powder in your recipes for lips. 
  • I use a makeshift double boiler. Fill a pan with a little water and set a metal or glass bowl over the top. I use medium heat. 
  • A spoon! And possibly a straw! Or, a Popsicle stick if you have one handy. 
  • Measuring cups if you like (for example, my recipe was a smidgen less that 1/4c for each part)
  • A stove or a hot plate. 
  • Wax paper to keep your work surface clean (Optional, of course. Depends on how messy you are feeling.) 
  • Lip balm tubes. 

I tossed all of my ingredients (except the essential oil and mica powder) into my metal bowl. I had to cut up my wax chunk so that it melted faster, just fyi.

And we're melting. And we're stirring. And we're melted!

I always remove my mixture from heat to add my last two ingredients. Using a straw with a section cut out (it looks like a little pointy scooper), I dug around in my mica powder pouch until a had a little mound on the tip. You could use the Popsicle stick here if you had one. I should buy a pack. I've been meaning to do that. But I digress. It's maybe an eighth of a teaspoon total...or a sixth. It's a small amount, anyway.

I try to work quickly so that my mixture doesn't start to solidify. I stirred in the mica powder, and then added 10 drops of lemon essential oil. I stirred some more and was ready to pour. Ha! Rhyming.

I had this brilliant idea to pour my mixture into a cup with a pour spout so that I could have an easier time filling the lip balm tubes, but it failed.

Look at those splatters and drips. Towards the end, I just dumped the mixture back into the metal bowl and used that to pour. Weird that it worked better. If your mixture starts to set in the bowl, just pop it back into your pan of hot water. It will usually melt quickly.

There are little tools to help with the messes made from filling lip balm tubes. Like this nifty thing. If I start making a lot of lip balm at once, I may invest in this. If you are really picky, you can take a flat scraper thing and smooth out the tops of your balm, but it doesn't bother me to have the dimples.

And there you have it. Recipe number 1,452,901 on the internet for making lip balm. How exciting!? Well, it's a project that pays for itself rather quickly, so it actually is pretty cool. It took me 15 minutes to make 11 tubes of lip balm, that could be sold for $3 a pop and labeled 'artisanal'. Or, find some friends that want to experiment with homemade beauty products. Spend $40 on supplies, and make a girls (or guys) night of it. Everyone walks away with some useful products. I'm just throwing some ideas out there...

Anywho, if you liked this project, check out these other homemade beauty product recipes:

Natural Face Cream
Shimmer Body Butter
Styling Hair Paste

If you have any questions, please comment below. Also, I would love to hear about your experiences with making lip balm, if you have any. Oh, and I will be posting a quick tutorial about making lip balm labels shortly.

As always, thanks for checking out my post!

Project 1012: Kitchen Makeover

I am fairly certain that I spent the most time on this area of the house before Jake and I moved in. We spent six weeks from closing to moving in, and I think three of them were on this kitchen. Along with painting each surface (except for the ugly linoleum), I even decided to tile a back splash. I had never tiled before. Why do I do these things?

The funny thing about starting home improvement projects is that you never really know just how much of a mess they will be until you are half way through with no way of turning back. If you look at the first picture, you will see a light bluish wall covering behind the sink. I thought this was just a laminate covering that the old owners put up for looks, but it turns out, behind it was hiding a hot mess of holes, grease splatters, and crumbled plaster. I will show you that later...

But, if the transformation looks appealing to you, I will share my secrets:

  • Have a crap ton of spare time and patience. If you are low on time, just avoid sleep (like I did).
  • Don't be a perfectionist. 
Just kidding. Kind of. So anywho, the main project in the kitchen was painting the cupboards Now some people might think "Why would you paint those cabinets?! They don't look all that bad!" Well, you're wrong. They looked bad. Mainly, because water damage and the scraping of old food from the surfaces caused the finish to peel. Perfect excuse for me to roll on some paint! Not before I created a complete disaster area. Remember folks, it's going to look worse before it looks better. 

If you are going to paint your cupboards, you should follow a few basic steps:
  1. Scrub the surfaces. I used this handy recipe I found on Pinterest to get the job done. Actually, maybe it wasn't that recipe. I think it was Borax and baking soda with a smidgen of water to make it a paste. Wow, I am mighty helpful. Whichever cleaning method you use, just get the surface clean. Tooth brushes help! 
  2. If you have a really smooth finish, you may want to rough up the surfaces with a sander. I did not do this. Remember when I said some of the finish was already scraped from the cupboards? It was like a natural sanding. 
  3. Get a good primer. On one of my many trips to Menards (my local home improvement store), the paint guys recommended that I use Zinsser Fast Prime 2. They did not steer me wrong. This prime sticks to any surface and dries quickly. I used it on the walls and ceilings too. 
  4. Have a good space to spread out your cupboards doors, and don't plan on using your kitchen for a while. 
  5. Take off all of your hardware. It's so much easier that way. 
I applied two coats of primer to each surface using a small sponge roller. I used a brush for the small nooks and crannies, but rollers give the smoothest finish. After the primer dried, I used a semi-gloss white paint and applied two coats again. It's tedious, time consuming, but worth it. I painted the doors, inside and out, the drawers, and the mounted cabinets. 

Now, the kitchen looks like an absolute mess because while painting the cupboards, I was also painting the walls, the ceiling, and prepping the walls for my tile back splash. I meant business. 

The picture kind of sucks, but if you look below, I had to do some considerable patching behind the sink. They must have had a faucet coming out of the wall, because when Jake and I pulled off the laminate sheets I told you about earlier, we found the holes.

And we found this hidden mess as well:

Yes, check out that chunky corner of plaster, and that murder scene of what I hope was spaghetti sauce. And the yellow. Oh, the yellow. No worries, though. I fixed it up, good as new. Took a lot of scrubbing, though. In case you were wondering, I just used a premixed bucket of drywall plaster, mesh tape, and a scraper to repair the walls.

So let's skip a few steps. I painted the cupboards. Bought new knobs. Reattached all of the doors, and painted all the walls with "oops paint". If you don't know about oops paint, then you are missing out. Well, if you are a picky person, then you are probably the supplier of oops paint, so to you I say thanks. Most paint stores will have a section of returned paint, where the buyer didn't quite like the color they chose. The store will then discount this paint to a ridiculously low price. Like five dollars a gallon. I painted my kitchen, both bedrooms, and the bathroom with oops paint.

On to the tile back splash. After watching a couple of YouTube videos, I fancied myself a borderline expert. It didn't turn out all that bad--but it could probably be better. Lately, I have been wanting to rip it all off the wall and put on some different tile, but there are so many other things to do...

Around the time the previous owners put weird laminate sheets on the wall, they must have coordinated the counter tops to match. I grew to hate this weird muted blue color, but I was too cheap and too tired to learn how to replace counter tops. This led me to discover Rust-Oleum Countertop Coating. While using this paint, I really began to appreciate the fact that I did not yet live in this house. The smell is powerful. For those of you that know a little bit about my personality, you know that I freak out over chemicals very easily and quite often think I am dying as a result of moderate exposure. This paint set my anxiety on high. I wore a mask, held my breath while rolling on the paint, and frequently ran outside to breathe in fresh air. Overreaction? Yes, but it's probably not the craziest reaction I've had. 

Anywho, this paint goes on thick. You will want to use a super fine sponge roller for the smoothest finish. Tape off all of your walls, etc. Don't plan on using your counters for at least 72 hours. But the longer you can go, the better. Within the first month of painting, we acquired all of the nicks and dings to the coating. Even though it cures in 72 hours, it remains vulnerable for another month or two. After two years, the counter top paint has remained strong, but could probably use another coat, if I were a perfectionist. 

To add to my painting to do list, I spray painted all of the hinges and cupboard knobs with an 'Oil Rubbed Bronze" color. There are few surfaces in this house that I haven't painted. I think it was worth it, though. 

This winter, I added the cafe curtains, and the shelves in front of the window. Maybe some day I will do a short tutorial for the curtains. Obviously, I couldn't find pre-made curtains that I could buy, so I had to bust out my ancient Singer sewing machine. By the way, someday I am going to destroy that linoleum. It's the worst.

Thank you for checking out another one of my projects! If you like home improvement projects, check out how we refinished our hardwood floors. Otherwise, stay tuned for more random messy adventures.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Shrink Plastic and Wire Earrings Tutorial

If you are familiar with my jewelry, you may have noticed by now that I rarely use beads, if ever. I love to incorporate color into my designs, but I try to do it in a new way. I try to use different materials like nail polish, alcohol ink, liquid polymer clay, and now illustration markers. It's cool to see how many unconventional materials I can use to make jewelry. 

For this pair of earrings, I used shrink plastic film, colored with Blick brand illustration markers. These are comparable to Prismacolor markers, but are a little bit cheaper. Illustration markers are primarily alcohol based. You can use Copic as well, but my goodness those are spendy things! Or bottles of Adirondack alcohol ink and a brush would work. Oh and sharpies! I can't forget about those. 

Materials Needed:
  • clear shrink film plastic
  • scissors and/or paper cutters (like guillotine cutters)
  • hole punch (standard three ring binder paper punch size)
  • alcohol based markers or ink (Copic, Prismacolor, Blick, Sharpie, Adirondack, etc.)
  • 18 gauge wire
  • 8 jump rings (you can make them yourself with the wire and tools)
  • wire cutter
  • round nose pliers
  • flat nose pliers
  • earring posts with 4mm pads (Or french hook ear wires if you want to eliminate a step)
  • super glue/super glue gel/E6000 glue (whichever you prefer)
To begin, cut your desired shapes out of the shrink plastic. I wanted to use long rectangular shapes. When you bake the shrink plastic, it reduces to about 20% of the original size. I did some guess work when cutting my shapes. I cut strips of the plastic, wide enough to fit a standard hole punch with a little extra plastic on the sides. I would say my longest shapes were three inches or less in length and 3/4 inch or less in width. 

I punched holes in each rectangle and then cut irregular angles from the tops of the shapes with my scissors so the shapes wouldn't be so boxy. And sorry about the flash reflection in the pictures. The lighting in my work room was not bright enough to turn off the flash.

Next, I took my illustration markers and just started doodling.

I used tinfoil to line a baking sheet and placed all of my doodled plastics on it. The directions said to bake at 250 degrees for 3 to 5 minutes. It's kind of fun to stare into the oven while the plastic shrinks. There's nothing wrong with a grown adult sitting cross-legged on the floor, staring into the oven. Silly? Yes. Wrong? No.

As you can kind of see from the last picture. The designs shrunk nicely, and the marker became more saturated and intense. The green pieces are my favorite.

Next, I made the swirly wire designs for the studs. Using 18 gauge wire and your round nose pliers, twist the wire tightly until it is wider than the post pad. I usually twist with the flat nose pliers for a better grip. Snip your wire with your wire cutter and then create a loop at the end with your round nose pliers.

Repeat this for the second piece.

If you want, you can pound the design with a chasing hammer and bench block for a flatter look, but that's totally optional.

Take your glue of choice and place a little drop on your post pad. Stick the posts to one side of your spiral designs and allow to dry according to your glue's directions. The super glue gel sets up in less than 15 minutes.

Using the cap of my super glue and more 18 gauge wire, I formed a circle for the next part of the earrings. 

Once you form the circle, twist one end with your round nose pliers to make a loop, then cut your wire from the spool. Twist the other end of the wire to make another loop like the sixth picture. I curled it into the circle. Repeat this for the second piece. 

Now, you will need your eight jump rings. You can make them yourself by following the pictures below, but you can also buy them if you want. 

Now you are ready to assemble your pieces. Using your flat nose and round nose pliers, open and attach the jump rings to your plastic pieces and connect them to the circle design. Then use the last jump ring to connect your stud spiral to the top loop of your circle design.  

There you have it. A nice pair of dangle earrings. The plastic pieces sound kind of cool when they click together as you wear them. If you have questions or comments about this tutorial, please let me know! I would love to hear from you.