At the intersection of inspiration and exhaustion lies the belief that all things are possible, where we forget our own limitations. I saw a beautiful, do-it-yourself Christmas decoration several weeks ago on Sweet Cabane‘s Instagram feed and forgot for a moment that I enjoy DIY and crafty things only in theory and in other people’s Instagram feeds, because the reality is a f-ing mess.
But, like all capable women, I took on the challenge. It’s not too late to whip this up and add it to your holiday decor, too. So far, everyone who’s seen it in person has loved it.
In anticipation of a week’s worth of meals that will inevitably consist of tryptophan-laden courses, recipes that call for two pounds of butter, hors d’oeuvres, and Brie topped with fig cabernet wine jelly, it’s imperative to get some fresh air and exercise. Head out into the woods and do double duty by finding suitable sticks for the project. Enlist the help of any willing body.
You’ll need 8-9 medium to long(ish) sticks, approximately two centimeters in diameter.
Pro tip: Some helpers will be more willing than others to part with their sticks. (I said DROP IT!)
Lay out the branches on the floor and decide where to place them, top to bottom. Begin cutting the sticks in lengths to mimic the shape of a pine tree.
This is where the reality of my DIY deficiency came crashing back. I spent five minutes whipping branches around, swearing about the dirt and twigs and bark everywhere, and generally questioning the sanity of anyone who willingly makes their own things like a pioneer instead of going to a store and buying it like any other self-respecting woman who has no time for this shit.
Use the brains given to you and make promises to your partner for unlimited sexual favours if they’re good at DIY — or can just tie a knot — and they’re willing to take over the project. Christmas is stressful enough without losing it over a few branches and fairy lights.
Pretend you can’t hear him or her when they call in the favour.
Next, sit back and offer instructions and helpful tips, because the key to a successful DIY is recognizing one’s strengths.
Use one, continuous length of twine, beginning at the bottom of one side of the tree and working your way up and to the other side of the tree, to connect all the pieces of wood. Tie off each stick using a clove hitch knot.
Arrange 2-3 strands of battery-powered, micro, LED lights on copper wire, around the sticks and rope. Keep it loose. This DIY is rustic and not meant to be set with military precision, which is what appealed to me in the first place. I simply lost track of that when the real work began.
But don’t be afraid. After watching a more patient person than me at work, I realized it’s a simple project that takes very little time and the result is beautiful.
Now go pour yourself a congratulatory drink, or make do on your promises. Merry Christmas.
You’ve seen the Pinterest posts telling us how to make things with scrap pieces of wood, or leftover pallets, or barn boards. Inevitably the projects end up on a funny Pinterest Fails slideshow somewhere when the instructions become too complicated and we lose steam.
Seriously, if the fun weekend project loses its fun appeal, we’re checking out. I’m not about to tell you that there’s isn’t planning and commitment necessary to make the vintage map on wood project, but the results will be worth it. And the steps are simple to follow
Fun Weekend Project: Vintage Map on Wood
Step 1: Find the size and type of pallet you would like to use.
Remove the pallet boards. Using a pry bar cracks and breaks more pieces than it should so I used a sawzall to cut through the nails. Make sure you have enough pallets to have a bit of overhang on the map, so you can see the wood. Alternatively, cut your map down a bit so it fits better. Now…find a map you love.
Step 2: Sand the back, front, and sides of the pallet boards smooth.
Step 3: Lay the sanded boards together and attach them all together with 2 or 3 supports on the back of your piece. You can use nails or screws although I found it easier to use an impact driver.
Step 4: Paint or stain your wood. I used a dark stain to match the lines on the map and to add contrast since the map was so light in coloured.
Step 5: Apply the mod podge by spreading a generous layer all over the side of the pallet wood where your map will sit. And work fast! Mod Podge dries quickly. Smooth out the mod podge and then place the map where you want it to sit. Press the map onto the glue and smooth it out with your hands, getting all the bubbles and bumps out.
Pour and brush out more mod podge over the top of the map, creating a smooth but generous layer. Make sure to use a lot of mod podge on the edges of the map to seal them to the wood. Extend the mod podge all the way to the ends of the wood so when it’s completely dry, you won’t see a ridge where the map is glued.
Allow to dry over night.
Step 6: Use a sharp exacto knife and slowly cut out the map where the pallets join.
This will be a slow process as the mod podge that went in the cracks is now dry and hard to cut. Are you going slow? This is not a race. Take your time and make sure your knife is SHARP!
Step 7: Using fine sandpaper, sand both sides of the cracks that you cut in Step 6. This will smooth the edges and make it look like the map is one with the wood.
DONE! Take that, Pinterest Fails!
Let me know how it works out for you. I’d love to see your projects!
Last summer, my husband surprised me with a visit to The Fergus Scottish Festival. I didn’t know where we were heading until we pulled into a dusty field, which doubled as a parking lot, that the most Scottish experience this side of the Atlantic was our destination. If I had known, I would have cleared my schedule for the entire weekend and made sure we were there to enjoy every caber toss, every raised glass of whiskey, and every kilted wonder that passed through the admission gates. As it was, I enjoyed a single afternoon and evening watching the calling of the clans, listening to some drum and pipe bands, and visiting the vendors’ stalls. I may have spent time appraising the leg game the kilted men had going on, but that’s another story for another time.
See? The leg game is strong with these lads, but that’s not why we’re here. (It’s totally why we’re here.)
I knew my wallet was going to take a hit the moment I saw the first vendor’s booth. I spotted a rack of woolen shawls in some of the prettiest tartans around. I bought a LochCarron of Scotland serape in a beautiful Stewart Eve plaid on a whim. It cost me $160.00, which seemed a bit much for a rectangle of fabric with half a long oval cut out of it. Still, with that purchase I not only had a cozy shawl, I also had a pattern for as many other shawls I could make. When my local fabric store had a big blowout sale after Christmas, I scooped up a couple of meters of a wool blend coat fabric and got to work. Now you too can make your own Scottish serape shawl at home to keep you warm and dreaming of men in kilts.
Not everyone has a shawl they can use as a pattern, but I have another way to share my serape love with you. Because the pattern is so basic, it’s easy to make your own paper pattern for this, all you need are the measurements. It’s simple!
Super Easy DIY Scottish Serape Shawl
You can make this pattern out of tissue paper taped together or a roll of kid’s craft paper works too. Start with a 63″ by 56″ rectangle of paper and follow these two steps:
- On the short side (the 56″ side) measure in 24″ from both ends and mark with a pencil.
- From the 24″ marks, cut in about 30″ in a straight line, then round your cuts inward until they meet in the middle. The long oval you cut out of the fabric should be about 32″ long from the edge to the top of the oval.
- Pin the pattern to the shawl fabric and cut around the pattern. Depending on how you want to finish your edge, use pinking shears for this step.
- Finish your edges however you see fit. A few popular options include a rolled hem, bias tape, zig zag stitch, blanket stitch, attach decorative trim, or leave it raw edged.
I’ll be heading back to Fergus this summer and I can’t wait to see what other inspirations will be on display, like cable knit sweaters, celtic jewelry, and . . . legs.
Image source: Snowballs, loveclothing.com
This kid loves hot chocolate and I love this kid a whole lot.
That’s why I like making homemade hot chocolate for her. In the past we’ve gone easy peasy with this simple, three-ingredient mix but we recently bought a new cappuccino maker and now that she can froth milk she’s fancy now and as such has upgraded her tastes.
She asked me to make her something we could keep on the counter and that would be creamy, like the kind she gets from our local coffee shop. Hmmm. Well I knew I wanted to avoid ingredients, like dipotassium phosphate and silicon dioxide, since I don’t actually stock that at home. I wanted real ingredients and for it to be extra chocolate-y.
I sniffed around a little bit on the interwebs and found what I was looking for—in three different recipes. With a little playing around I was able to eliminate what I didn’t want in there, like cornstarch, and add in things like cinnamon and extra chocolate pieces. In the end, this recipe was exactly what I was looking for. I think you’ll like it too.
- 2 cups powdered (icing) sugar
- 1 cup cocoa
- 2 1/2 cups powdered milk
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 tsps cinnamon
- 1/2 cup semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips
- Place all ingredients in a food processor and mix on high until well blended.
- Add 3-4 tbsps into a cup and add hot water or milk.
- Store in an air-tight container.
Feel free to double and even triple this recipe. It will sit on your counter for a good while, just remember to make note of the expiry date of the powdered milk you bought.
This also makes an excellent gift for friends, teachers, bus drivers, and coaches. Simply fill a jar from the dollar store with hot chocolate mix, tie with a festive ribbon with instructions on the outside and add a Peppermint Candy Cane as a stir stick! Voila! All your gift giving done in one easy recipe and likely under budget too. You’re welcome.
It’s November, a month some people find dreary while others celebrate because they are allowed to officially unleash the festivus they’ve been holding in since they reluctantly took down their Christmas lights in April. While some people were sneakily disguising their Christmas gift making as summer crafts project for their kids, others are waiting until the ghost and goblin decorations are put away before they jump into merry-making full steam ahead.
I’m not going to lie, I usually start thinking about what homemade gifts I’ll be making for Christmas in August. Sometimes it takes me a while to find projects I like and other times people give me their requests of what they would like to unwrap from me. My sister falls into the latter category and I love her for it.
Last Christmas I made my sister a body butter that, all modesty aside, was pretty great. I didn’t use a recipe though and I didn’t write down what ingredients I used. I remember my basic theory of making that concoction though. It went: I bet all of these lovely smelling things and all these things that are good for your skin would make an excellent lotion or if the consistency is right, a rich body butter. Lucky for me it worked, but she’s asked if I could make her another jar to put under the tree this year.
It was time to head back to the kitchen and create something new, but just as lovely. This time I documented what I did, both so I can recreate it in the future, but also to share it with you so you can get you Christmas gift DIY on and make something wonderful for your friends or family, with some extras on the side for yourself, of course.
Don’t forget to have some creative fun with your Christmas cards too. Here are some great ideas to get you started.
- 1/2 cup organic virgin coconut oil
- 1/2 cup organic shea butter
- 2 tbsp grated beeswax
- 3 tbsp sweet almond oil
- 20 drops lavender essential oil
- 20 drops lemon essential oil
- In a double boiler, melt the coconut oil, shea butter, beeswax and sweet almond oil.
- When all the beeswax flakes are melted, turn off heat and add essential oils.
- Pour into glass containers and allow the mixture to harden. You can put it in the fridge to speed up the hardening process if you like.
- You may find that that your body butter looks like it has little granules in it, especially if you keep it in a spot that has a lot of temperature fluctuation. Don't worry, it is just a result of the coconut oil and shea butter solidifying at different temperatures. The granules melt on contact and your body butter will be smooth as silk.
For a long time I held the narrow opinion of where good wine should come from; namely the liquor store. I’ve spent years turning my nose up at “homemade” versions and mostly because I had my share of lousy wines stolen from a friend’s basement in my late teens. I can’t be the only one who’s been exposed to wine that brings tears to your eyes and burns a little on the way down.
Years later when my Dad started making his own wine at a local winemaking store I gave it another attempt. No luck. The wine – red wine in particular – always tasted watery to me. Let’s just all pause for a second to remember that Jesus turned water into wine, not the other way around.
So when a representative from RJ Craft Winemaking approached me about making my own wine I only agreed because I thought if I didn’t like it I could gift it to my parents. How’s that for truth in blogging?
I visited local wine making store, Wine Bottega, in Ottawa in mid-April and met with manager Jonathan. My first fear — that this would be a lot of work— was immediately put to rest. It took under 20 minutes to put my RJS Pinot Grigio and Winemaker’s Trio down. As I talked to Jonathan, I also began to think that maybe my experience with this wine was going to be different. Wine Bottega guarantees the wine, so it’s in their best interest to only carry the best wine juices and concentrates. That they not only stand behind RJS Craft Winemaking Kits – but guarantee them – was a testament to this company’s reputation as a premium craft wine making supplier. Without even sipping the finished product, I was slowly being won over.
Jonathan walked me through the process, and long story short, you’re only there for the yeast. You can certainly participate more if you’d like to, but by law, the owner of the wine must be there to sprinkle the yeast into the juice. The yeast is what turns grape juice into wine. It’s also, I might add, one of those immensely satisfying moments in life where you feel you’ve truly accomplished something….because wine.
I left Wine Bottega with an appointment to return in July to bottle my wine. When all was said and done I would have thirty bottles of white and thirty bottles of red to take home. I started to do math on that and… it hurt, you guys. Really, really hurt because a) math is hard and b) there was an obvious cost savings I had been missing out on. My favourite California red runs roughly $14 a bottle, the red currently sitting in an oak barrel at Wine Bottega was going to cost me $7 a bottle. $7 savings per bottle x 30 bottles = $210. I’m not going to extrapolate any further on the yearly savings because we’re not that close but let’s just say it’s enough for Botox, highlights, and a smokin’ dress. (Every woman should look fabulous with a glass of red in her hand.)
When the wine was ready to bottle I returned to Wine Bottega, fully expecting more work than it was worth. You know the twist though; it was a snap. State of the art equipment and a super clean and organized facility made bottling not only easy but actually fun. The real test though was going to be in the tasting. Thankfully, I was up for the challenge.
The Pinot Grigio is a perfect summer wine; refreshing and light-bodied. Red wine is my thing though, and I’m pleased to report the Winemaker’s Trio made me very, very happy. Although it should sit a few months before being opened, Jonathan assured me that it would be fine to test right away. There’s a good chance the red won’t make it to October. I would not only be happy – but proud – to serve both of these wines to guests in my home. My parents are out of luck though, because as it turns out, I’m not gifting any of this wine.
My opinion on making your own wine has been drastically changed, but before you rush out and try the same make sure you are looking for a retailer that carries RJS Craft Winemaking juices and concentrates. It really does make all the difference.
After buying our first fixer upper house in 2009, transforming it on a zero-budget, and then recently tackling a large-scale addition and renovation in 2014/15, we have tackled do-it-yourself projects big and small. You can catch most of them over at my blog, THE SWEETEST DIGS.
There is nothing I love more than rescuing a piece of furniture in the garbage pile and giving it new life by sanding it down, staining or painting, and replacing the hardware. My husband, on the other hand, loves to break out the more heavy-duty tools and build. Whether it’s laying a new deck or building shelving or creating a custom desk for all of his computers, he finds it super rewarding to grunt through it himself.
Even if you don’t want to tackle any major projects, even the small-scale stuff requires some tools. Here is a round-up of our most used (and loved) tools – something every DIYer needs in their tool chest.
The 10 Tools Every DIY’er Needs
A tape measure. I’d be surprised if you don’t have one of these already, but time to grab one from the hardware store if you don’t. You’ll probably use it for just about every project you ever do around the house.
A hammer. Again, seems kind of obvious right? A good old-fashioned hammer will get you places. Even if it’s just hanging up some pictures around the house.
A portable drill. Having a good portable drill, particularly one that is light and that you can easily re-charge, is a great investment.
A screwdriver set. Even though you can use your drill for most things, for small stuff like replacing hardware on a dresser, it’s really nice to have a simple screwdriver. If you don’t want a whole big set, just buy one of the ones is change-able and comes with multi-heads – so practical.
A bullet level. Any level is going to be useful, but the “bullet level” is a smaller version that will be easier to store. Hanging just about anything on your walls is going to require a level. I put up wallpaper in a closet the other day, and the level was useful for getting that first perfect vertical line to work from.
Stud finder. Again, when you’re hanging anything on your walls – shelves, cupboards, headboards, and basically anything heavy – you’re going to want a stud finder so that you can identify where on your walls the studs are. Drilling into these makes everything way more secure. Plus, they beep like metal detectors and are kinda fun to use.
Chop-saw. There are lots of different types of saws you can buy for all kinds of purposes, but our most used saw is a chop saw. You can do both straight and angled cuts, which is what you need the majority of the time.
A brad nailer. For building furniture, putting up trim, whatever, having a brad nailer can be things sooooo much speedier. Having a cordless one that doesn’t require a compressor is even better.
Hand sander. Remember how I mentioned my love for re-finishing old furniture? Well, sanding is my least favourite part. Having an electric hand sander is the only way to make it go quickly and painlessly.
A good painting kit. Having the right tools for any painting project is going to make it much easier and result in a better job. Get a high quality angled brush (2.5 inch is my favourite size) for cutting in trim, a good roller, a tray with inserts, and one of those “handy pails” for when you’re painting up on a ladder. As someone who has spilled an ENTIRE gallon of paint on her brand new hardwood floors, trust me on the handy pail thing.
That’s it! Having DIY tools around your house will set you up for most DIY projects. You’ll be an expert in no time, and everyone will be super impressed at what you’ve been up to at your own pad.
Do you guys have any others you would add to the list? I’d say a super close #11 for me is a staple gun. I constantly use that thing for upholstery projects!
Are you a thrift store junkie? I am. In a big way. I have major “stop the car!” moments whenever hubby and I are driving in a new town and we pass by the local thrift shop. I just can’t help myself. You never know what kind of treasures might be lurking in there for a serious bargain.
One of my fave spots where I regularly feed my thrifting habit is Value Village (for you Ottawa folks, I love the one at Merivale and Baseline). Their prices are great, the stores are usually big and offer a huge variety of items, and everything is clean and presented nicely.
On one of my more recent trips, I came across this wooden hanger thing. I don’t really know what to call it. It has three slots for holding papers/envelopes/etc. and then some hooks on the bottom for keys or other small things. The best part? It was a grand $2.
I picked it up without much thought – I’m always into anything that is going to help keep things organized. I brought it home, cleaned it off, and then decided to give it a coat of paint.
Can you guess which colour I chose? If you have been over to my personal blog before, you’ll know that I have a slight mint obsession. This bad boy got two coats of my fave PARA paint’s “Baffling Behavior” and suddenly it was looking pretty transformed.
To finish it off, I used some chalkboard labels that I had grabbed from Staples (they are from the Martha Stewart line), and placed one onto each section.
I haven’t figured out the perfect spot for this piece quite yet in our home – I’m thinking it’ll be perfect in my future office/studio – but for now I just hung it up and threw some stationary in it. Looks so cute, right? It would be a great “letters in/letters out” spot to help you organize the mail.
What about you guys? Are you guys thrift store junkies like I am? Come across any amazing finds lately? I want to hear all about them!
Thank You to Value Village for sponsoring this post.
Yesterday I did something I’ve never done before. It’s the middle of summer, but I went out and bought things for . . . Christmas. WAIT, don’t go! I swear I’m not one of those people, I just need things to do with my kids for the next four weeks and thought why not get them to do craft projects now that they can give as gifts later. Plus, if the kids want to paint or make things covered in glitter, they can do it outside. Add to that the fact that they actually have the time to enjoy making things without the responsibilities of homework and extra curriculars vying for their attention and you have a recipe for summertime/festive success. I don’t want to pat my own back or anything, but this is a pretty good idea.
Over the next weeks, any store that carries seasonal items will be selling off their summer stock. I’m looking out for little lanterns, plain bird houses, and clay flower pots because I think these would be fun for the kids to paint and decorate and they would be happy to wrap them up to give as gifts. Not everything will be a sale item, but I’ll be buying craft supplies one way or another, why not do it now while the kids can truly enjoy them?
This is also the perfect time for older kids to make friendship bracelets or hemp necklaces for their friends. I’m always caught off guard when my girls start adding their copious numbers of friends to our gift list. Not this year – they can make a whole boatload of them and figure out who is getting what in December.
If you are having a bit of cabin fever this summer, take the kids to one of those pottery painting places. I’m doing this with my kids in a few weeks. I’m going to have them pick out something they want to give to me. What? I love pottery and my children’s art – it’s perfect. While we are there, I’ll probably paint something for my own mother. Two birds, one stone.
I have a big bin just waiting to hold all of our creations. I plan on putting it with my Christmas decorations so I’ll not be searching the house in a couple of months. Losing a gift that you have taken the time to make for someone is the worst, and I promised the kids that I would not let that happen; they’ve witnessed frantic December 24th gift searches before apparently.
I’m looking forward to the crafting with kids extravaganza that is about to go down at my house. The kids will be busy and having fun which means I’ll get to take a break from refereeing. If we do end up painting or glittering bombing outside, I’ll just turn on the sprinkler when we are through and let them have the first pass of cleaning themselves up. This idea is getting better and better. Happy summer festivus!
Image source: Make It Do, imgarcade.com