Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Best of the Old Year

It seems to be a trend among some of my favorite bloggers to celebrate the biggest project successes of the outgoing year - what a great idea! Here are my personal top five favorites, though I've enjoyed all of the projects shared on this blog - even the ones that didn't go so well.

#1: The growth ruler

This project makes me mushy, because I hope it stays meaningful even longer than paint on a wall or plants in the ground!

#2: Subway signs

I almost gave up on this numerous times, but every time I look at these expressions of my travel memories and hopes I love them even more. They're one of the few projects I've completed that I don't criticize when I look at them (perfectionist? Who's a perfectionist?!).

#3: The sealer

This project wasn't actually mine, of course - I just watched as my talented family members worked magic. But this project truly remade the exterior of my house in a way that no plants or patio could have.

#4: The stripes

No explanation needed - I love these stripes!

#5: Paper ornaments

This first Christmas in my home was wonderful and memorable, and it's the first year in a long time that allowed me to keep the Christmas spirit instead of growing stressed. I think it's because I had so much fun decorating for the holiday that I never lost sight of the reasons for the festivities! These paper ornaments were a surisingly big hit with friends, family and neighbors that stopped by.

For more of The Hits of 2011, check out these top projects from blogs I enjoy:

Rhoda's Top Projects Party

Thrifty Decor Chick

Decorating Cents

Centsational Girl

320 Sycamore


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Brown Paper Packages Tied Up With String

For months, I've been studying the possibilities of brown paper as Christmas wrapping. People far more creative than I will ever hope to be have made magical gifts with simple brown paper. I've been saving a bunch of brown paper that served as packing for one of the many dining room lamps I ordered from Home Depot before returning it because it wasn't "the one." The packing is two layers of thick brown paper all crumpled up.

The brown paper went perfectly with another current obsession: chalkboard paint. I knew I wanted to do chalkboard gift tags so I'd saved semi-thick cardboard from noble things like a pizza box and a shipping envelope. Once they were painted no one could tell!

I considered making my own chalkboard paint, which seems pretty easy to do (check out the cool DIY chalkboard project at Ogo's Love Nest). But I didn't have any black paint to use, and since I know I want to use chalkboard paint on my pantry when I eventually refinish and repaint the cabinets, I splurged on the $10 can from Home Depot.

So here, without further delay, are my not-quite-masterpieces that have made me happy for days. I love the ribbons but was glad they ran out because I like the jute twine even better ($3 at Home Depot for a big roll of it!). It's simple and old fashioned and, as you can tell from the title of this post, it makes me think of one of my all-time favorite songs.

Speaking of my favorite things, thanks to all who read this blog and share the ups and downs of my homeowner journey. I'm grateful for your company and comments!

P.S. I apologize for any grammatical or spelling errors you may find...I'm writing this from my phone in a quiet house while I impatiently wait for my family to wake up so Christmas festivities can begin.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Quick note for those of you who are bored at work this quiet holiday week (not that I'M one of those people, of course!)...this Colortopia quiz is kind of fun!

(click here to check it out for yourself.)

The questions are great - especially the one where you have to pick your favorite vacation. (Backpacks and world travel, baby!) This one stumped me...Anna, I guess I need to have a conversation with you about how you describe me.

Merry Christmas Eve eve eve!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

No More Dyeing

As I mentioned in my last post, I have been putting all my DIY/creative skills to use in creating one-of-a-kind handmade Christmas gifts this year. (Consider this advance warning to those who will receive them...and advance warning to those who will not receive them next year, because this is fun but way more work than I'd planned.) Some gifts turned out great, and I'll share details after Christmas...others were flops and some are still not done yet. So to entertain you with my failures, I give you The Story of The Dyed T-shirt.

I loved this idea when I saw it on Pinterest awhile ago:

It seemed easy enough for a novice to try so I purchased the supplies and tackled the oh-so-fun glue gel. The only experience I have with dyeing was a tye-dye project I did when I was really little...I don't remember details and I certainly hope I never wore whatever I created.

Not to emphasize how cheap I am, but I'm proud: the t-shirt was on clearance for $3.74 at Target, the glue was $1.99 at Michael's and the dye was just a couple of bucks and I planned to use it for lots of things. Awesome. I won't share all the instructions here but if you want to verify that I did it exactly right you can check it out here.

My creation was intended for my sister, who is one of those superwomen who seems able to be everything to everyone...wife, mother, businesswoman, friend - the kind of person who never has enough time for herself. We both love The Lazy Song, so the lyrics on the "lazy day shirt" were intended to create an oversized shirt for those Saturday mornings when she actually gets to relax. (Side note: the shirt only used the words of the chorus of the song, in case you're curious.)

Looking back, this is where the whole thing went wrong. As instructed, I did let the glue dry...and then I let it continue drying for a week. I was busy with work and I had to wait for the glue on the back of the shirt to dry too, so by the time I dunked the lovely, glue-covered fabric into its blue bath the glue on the front had been hanging out for awhile. When it came out of the dye it looked a little odd - the letters on the back were white like they were supposed to be, but the front...well it didn't look like it was cooperating.

Here's a last shot of my attempted creativity waving in the wind before true disaster struck. I still wasn't sure if it would turn out at this point. Good news: you can read the letters. Bad news: they're different colors and the coloring is stronger in some areas than others. After allowing that shirt to stain my garage wall, the sidewalk and all the plants (some would call them weeds, but they're green and they're mine!) an odd shade of blue, I gave up and moved onto the next step: the washer and dryer.

I didn't take a photo at the end for a reason. The washer didn't change the coloring but apparently the glue on the front had soaked so thoroughly into the fabric that repeated baths wouldn't get it out. The dryer took full advantage of the opportunity, and caused the glue to stick together so the shirt looked kind of like an alien being that just might be pulled apart but never repaired.

The t-shirt didn't give its life in vain, though - I learned an important lesson. I am never allowed to use dye. Ever. Seriously, it's like giving permanent markers to a toddler and telling them to sit quietly on the white couch. I made such a mess and my fingernails are still blue, despite using everything I can think of to make them boring again.

Don't be depressed on my behalf, though...after all, my sister already got a wreath that actually did turn out. And there are more crafty presents wrapped under the tree awaiting their debut!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

This Old House Inspiration: January Edition

I have disappeared from the world of online communication but it's not because I don't have projects to share - it's because I can't share them until after Christmas! So far, my resolution to handmake all my Christmas gifts is on track...but the hard part is still to come, so Target may take more of my money on Christmas Eve if I have to do a mad rush for gifts that don't look like they were made by angry elves.

I did take time from my Christmas Crafts to read This Old House, though (of course!). So to continue my tradition of sharing TOH things that inspire's the January edition. (Though technically it's the January/February version. I have to wait until March for a new one. Insert sad face.)

Idea 1: I want roses. They are the most amazing flower and they smell like heaven and they fit my category of "good plant" because they have thorns. (I didn't seek this preference...I just discovered it when I noticed that bougainvillea makes my heart skip a beat.) I've always been scared of them but if my friend David can grow a rose garden I think I should be able to. I'm not naive enough to think that I can actually grow this new kind in Phoenix, but anyone who has ever read or watched Anne of Green Gables will understand why the name made me fall in love with them. I'd appreciate tips from anyone who has successfully grown roses in Phoenix!

Idea 2: Brag. This isn't an idea at all - I just wanted to point out that this ottoman is $159 for one square...thanks to Ross, I got the one with four squares for $120.

Three cheers for discount shopping (and for creating the best hiding spot for my nephew)!

Idea 3: An idea for my dining room nook? I keep looking for the best way to feature the interesting nook in my dining room...this is definitely on the options list.

Idea 4: Refinish old metal. I am SO excited about this little paragraph of greatness!

There are countless really special features in my house that have been cursed by decades of paint layers, and I wasn't sure how to restore them. (This, by the way, is the final piece to my mystery photo of what I bought at Home Depot several months ago..."Stripper" is going to someday help me return my old-fashioned mail flap, milk door and hallway vent to their former glory!)

And last but definitely not least, Idea 5: this kitchen. Their remade kitchen is eerily similar to mine, and I love love love many things about it.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Because Nothing Says "Merry Christmas" Like Giving Something That Has Needles on It

There are times when crafts or decorations inspire you as you go, and there are those that inspire you because you know if you try really, really hard there's something you could do with these ingredients.

Pinecones are in the second category.

When my family froze to death enjoyed camping in northern Arizona over the Thanksgiving weekend, my sister and I diligently collected beautiful pine cones when they fell from the ice-covered, frozen bowers beautiful trees surrounding our igloo motorhome. It was a great idea, since pinecones can be used in countless Christmas decorations and Michael's charges something like 30 cents apiece. But now it's the middle of December and the bags of pinecones were still bouncing around in the trunk of my car, so this weekend I decided to tackle an early Christmas present for my sister: a pinecone wreath.

The good news: it's beautiful and my sister likes it. The bad news: I won't be able to feel the tips of my fingers for weeks. When Martha Stewart says to use leather gloves, she's not kidding or being melodramatic. Those sweet little woodland creatures have more needles than a cactus. And I'm from Arizona, so I'm an expert on these things. (We eat scorpions for breakfast, you know... ;)

I started with the basics, which were much cheaper than I'd feared. I got a wire wreath form from Michael's for $2.50 (it would have been cheaper if I'd noticed that their stupid promise of an additional 20% off my entire purchase was good for only one day -I'm anti-Michael's this week) and a never-ending spool of floral wire for $2. I already had the pinecones and wire cutter, and I'd bought a roll of ribbon to match Anna's kitchen at the dollar store weeks ago. Ready, set, go...

The rest of the process was repetitive: pick good pinecone, cut floral wire, get poked by pinecone while wrapping wire around it, find good spot for pinecone, get poked by pinecone and cut by wire as said pinecone is wired to the wreath frame. I got to watch a lot of West Wing episodes throughout this process so the rather boring process wasn't boring at all. The end result isn't as full as Martha's wreath, but I didn't really want it to be - you have to have a Martha Stewart-sized home in order to make that work well. This little wreath is perfect for my sister's not-millionaire-sized home. Plus, I needed to keep some feeling in my fingers so I could type this blog post.

Have you ever thought about how many kinds of bows there are in the world? There are lots, and I am certain of this because I googled "tie bow" this morning. After weeding out the bow tie demonstrations, I still didn't think any of the fancy ones worked well because I wanted to keep long tails on the bow and unfortunately only had one roll of the ribbon. So I went with the good old-fashioned shoelace bow I've been doing relatively well on my shoes for years now...and voila! here's the final result.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas Bliss: $3.332 A Foot

I had my own little Christmas miracle last weekend. It was Goodwill's 50% off day (a bi-weekly holiday in my world) and I had high hopes of finding nice Christmas decorations or designer clothing...and not necessarily in that order. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw two whole shelves full of fake Christmas trees.

When I was younger, I would have scoffed at Future Beth for being interested in fake trees at all. In my old age and wisdom, however, I came to recognize several major benefits of a fake tree:

- They come in a box. This eliminates the need to load a real tree onto the top of my not-so-large Saturn, which I hadn't quite figured out how to do yet.

- They don't die. Seriously, I hate watching trees die, no matter how much people tell me they're grown specifically for that reason.

- You can put them up whenever you want. December 4 until after Christmas? Not a lifespan problem for a fake tree...and I really wanted to put up my tree last weekend.

- You only have to buy them once.

Despite the economic argument about buying the fake tree once, however, I was daunted by the price tags attached to them. I've been researching them on my every-other-day trip to Home Depot, and was stunned by how much they cost.

Not at Goodwill! At Goodwill, my beautiful tree was only $24.99. (For those of you who pay attention to the titles of blog posts, this is my attempt to prove that I can do some math: $24.99 divided by the height of the tree = $3.332 per foot!) Thanks to a devoted and muscular fellow-Goodwiller friend who was willing to carry the heavy box to my car, I got my tree home and used the backyard as a staging ground to clean everything.

And after lots of patience, here was my tree!

I did have an ethical dilemma I'll confess to you...I discovered when I got it home that the tree came from Wal-Mart. My friends know of my moral convictions about Wal-Mart and given my anti-Wal-Mart sentiments it was rough to see their logo inside my home. But then I realized this is the ultimate anti-Wal-Mart statement - I have their product without paying them for it! Turns out, they sell the tree for only $ unbelievably good price for a gorgeous tree which is, I believe, further evidence of how evil they are.

Anyway, after having my ethical retailing mind battle, I started the ever-so-fun process of putting lights on the tree. And then the best part: my ornaments!

Because of my attraction to plastic ornaments from the dollar store and my partial success at making ornaments, I'm happy to report that my lovely Christmas tree cost less than $50 - including the tree!

I loved these paper ornaments as soon as I made them, but with the white lights surrounding them they're even better. I'm glad I took time to crimp the cardstock - it reflects the light in very cool ways.

My accidental sheep ornament is a happy addition...and a daily reminder that I can't be perfect at everything so I may as well keep a sense of humor!

This is my favorite example of dollar store greatness - I got three of these sequined ornaments for $1, and I love them!

I'm also very happy that all the ornaments are kid-friendly, because I have a Christmas elf who, as you can see, loves playing with the ornaments!

Update: my tree has joined a Christmas Tree Party over at! There are countless great ideas for you to see from other bloggers.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

'Tis the Season

Christmas cheer has definitely hit my 'hood, and it's contagious. Multi-colored lights blink from rooftops, fake snowmen line doorways, and the temperatures have dropped into the 60s. This is the first Christmas in years that I have not been distracted by school and/or a new job, so I have devoted myself to spending too much money on Christmas decorations.

I'm doing very well, actually, and not being too unreasonable. Hopefully I'll have tales of an amazing Christmas Goodwill find to share soon, but for now the festivities remain outdoors.

Some genius person came up with the idea of a miniature living Christmas tree out of rosemary. For those of us who always bought living pine trees with the hopes of not watching the Christmas cheer literally die, this is genius. Rosemary actually likes Phoenix weather, so I invested $20 in this beautiful centerpiece to my outdoor welcome.

My intentions of creating a masterpiece Christmas wreath haven't played out yet, but for now I have this lovely garland wreath that I made for a grand total of $4.50 thanks to a sale at Michael's and the Dollar Tree.

Combined with a lovely garland I bought at a yard sale for $5 and some festive flowers, I think I have a rather friendly Christmas entryway!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Counting Sheep

Rhetorical question: How many projects must I destroy before I understand the importance of measurements?

On Monday, I was inspired to tackle more Christmas tree ornament creations. I'd had success with the first batch but was even more inspired by this beautiful ornament that looks like snow fell on it.

It had taken trips to Michael's AND the dollar store, but finally I'd assembled the whole cast of necessary items - including glue sticks that actually worked with my hot glue gun. These instructions of the project are thorough and easy to understand...except, apparently, the part about the diameter of the felt circles.

I was lucky enough to get the right materials at a great price. Snow-white felt was 29 cents at Michael's, and Dollar Tree four two-inch styrofoam balls for - you guessed it - $1. The ribbon is just cut from strips of red velvet ribbon I got at the dollar store...and voila! I had my pallet for creativity.

Since I didn't have anything that was a two inch circle, I instead relied on a beautiful but nearly useless dollar coin that was spewed upon me by the ticket machine in the D.C. metro.

Whether I was distracted by the beautiful gold of the dollar coin or by the West Wing episodes I had on in the background (season three, for those of you who understand or care why these particular episodes were so distracting!), I never considered the fact that small circles would be much harder to deal with in numerous ways.

After three West Wing episodes and numerous burns from the hot glue gun, I was tired and bored of dealing with teeny little felt "cones" and not even one ornament was completed.

Inspired by a little second-grade level creativity, I got out a marker and made this cute little sheep instead. It's very Nativity Scene-esque, isn't it?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Time for Thanks

I have big plans for Christmas crafts and decorations next week, so I will take this opportunity to focus on the wonderful fall festiveness I've enjoyed the last few months. I think my non-Halloween policy is great because it makes the simple fall season seem longer - I didn't dedicate any time to scary ghosts or goblins (except for my fun Halloween night!), so there was lots of time to think about pumpkins. I got a little carried away and even bought three of these straw "people" before I realized I am not in any way a straw people kind of person.

I returned them so they could go home with someone who would truly appreciate them, and instead turned my attention toward more subtle decorations like these...

These placemats were a simple find at Bed Bath and Beyond, made very special by the fact that I was with close friends during a snowstorm in DC when I bought them. I will treasure them always!

This small dish was a reward for braving a very overcrowded Ross with my sister...she has a matching one, that continues to fascinate my nephew. He likes to gently carry it to make sure everyone in the house knows it's a red leaf.

I think my pumpkins and fall-colored basket are even nicer to look at than anything on the TV screen...

And of course, I'm quite proud of my wreath that I made. I even bought the right size glue sticks so I can make sure it holds together in storage. That trooper made it through numerous dust/wind storms and a lot of rain - I'm impressed it held together at all!

I'm excited to see what treasures I can find and create for my first Christmas in my home, but I think these autumn details will always be my favorite. They remind me of my first house party, my first Halloween with kids at the door, and a birthday to transition into a new year filled with new adventures.

Happy Thanksgiving!