Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Ridiculously Quick Thank You Gifts

It's the Season to Say "Thank You"

Very Quick and Inexpensive Gifts for Teachers, Caregivers... anyone!

It's just about May and I'm already starting to stress about end-of-year teacher/caregiver gifts. I want to genuinely thank these amazing people, but I don't want to just give something for the sake of giving it. As a teacher myself (taking a mommy hiatus), I know how much I've always appreciated someone simply remembering me with a handwritten card or thoughtful gift. Those sentiments have always meant more to me than a gift card or candle (unless it's a lavender candle, JK). But one problem I always run into is time. The kids have a lot of teachers who interact with them, and taking the time to make something for everyone just isn't reasonable (time-wise) for me. Add to that the expense of finding something for everyone... and in that rush, I sometimes get caught up in that "buying something for the sake of buying something" trap. So hence the panic, but now I've at least got one done.
Thankfully, I know that my son's Wednesday morning babysitter loves flowers (she told me that when I gave her a petunia at Christmas) and tomorrow is our last day. So, there it is, flowers for Ms. E. I originally wanted to get a hydrangea, but I couldn't find one, and these petunias were smiling over at me, so I went with them. I wanted to make it a little prettier without having to buy a pot, so I used this burlap ribbon, which also allowed for the drain holes in the bottom to remain unobstructed. Tied it together with twine, used a popsicle stick, scrapbook paper, and stamps (all of which I had in my craft room) to create the card. In the interest of time, this popsicle stick card could be modified by simply handwriting or typing the note. Also, a skewer or even a branch could replace the popsicle stick. 

There it is, my project for today. Quick, easy, and the right price.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Washi Tape Kids Collection Jars

DIY Collection Jars for Kids

Upcycled Washi Tape Craft from Peanut Butter Jars

Peanut butter is very popular at our house, which is great because it's quick and easy, but it's always bothered me to just throw the plastic jars in the recycling bin when we're done. And like any parent, I'm always looking for activities to entertain my little ones. One day we were playing outside, and I was being brought beautiful flower (i.e., dandelion) after beautiful flower. To save myself from having to come up with original, excited reactions to each new offering, I suggested they make a collection first, then bring their whole collection to show me. And, bingo! It hit me: they needed collection jars!

The original collection jars were not so pretty... they were simply the peanut butter jars, sans labels. But I wanted to "pretty them up," and I had yet to play around with washi tape, so I gave this a shot, and my girls were thrilled with how they turned out. They even decorated their own. The washi tape was especially awesome for them because they could rip it themselves and reapply it easily when they wanted to reposition their designs (which they did constantly). I think the only drawback to the washi tape is that it's a little pricey, but if you use your 40% off craft store coupon, it's not so bad.

To get the jars ready, I cleaned them out and used Goo Gone to get rid of the glue residue. I applied a few rows of washi tape on each one. I used my rotary cutter to get a straight line on the edges (but be careful if you try that). They still looked a little plain, so I decided to make labels by painting Avery address labels with chalkboard paint (I think it took about 3 quick coats).

And that was it! Let the collecting begin.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Kids Consignment Sales = Mega Bargains!

Kids Consignment Sales are the Real Deal 

I only recently discovered kids consignment sales. Not stores, but big sales where the organizers rent a huge space, coordinate hundreds of consignors who want to sell their items, and host a giant sale. Ok, maybe I'm in the dark here, but we just recently moved from a very rural area, so there wasn't a lot of that happening out there.

Two weeks ago, I decided to jump right in. Most of the sales are staffed by volunteers, and the perks of volunteering are that you get to shop first! Yes, please! And I'm so glad I did. Not just for the amazing deals I got (for instance, this $20 mint condition wagon!), but because it was really fun, and I met a lot of other like-minded moms. And you really don't have to be a volunteer or shop first for great deals --I can't believe the amount of deals I missed when I was cashing people out after I shopped.

I just can't get over how ingenious these sales are. It's a win-win for both the consignors and the shoppers. By far, my newest favorite economical (i.e., cheap) & environmental (think about all that Little Tykes plastic being reused instead of tossed in a dumpster) shopping idea. I just wish I could find more! I heard they're really big down south. Can anyone fill me in on more in the northeast?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Starting to Shop at Consignment Stores

The Power of Consignment Store Pieces

Anyone ever moved into a new house and felt completely overwhelmed by the need to fill it with furniture? Never mind the stress that goes into choosing your layout and decorating style... but the cost! OMG, new furniture will cost you thousands of dollars, even if you're shopping at the more reasonable furniture stores.

I had always seen consignment stores and heard chatter about them, but until a couple of years ago, I'd never actually been into one. I think part of my resistance was that I was a little intimidated by this other world where people understood the value of things in a way with which I wasn't familiar. But one day I finally did it, I mustered up the courage, went in, and now I'm hooked. I don't think I bought a single thing on my first five or so trips, but it opened up a whole new world of possibilities.

Last summer I found this piece at a beautiful consignment store in CT. I had gone in looking for something else entirely, I think a gift (this particular store has a lot of cool, inexpensive jewelry too). But this piece caught my eye and stuck with me. Price=$285. I snapped a photo on my phone and showed my husband when I got home. After his standard first question, "How much?" he agreed it was a nice piece (translation: he would be willing to do the grunt work of picking it up, fitting it in the car, lugging it into the house). I waited a little while to think about it... I mean, $285 isn't exactly pennies... but I couldn't get it out of my mind. And it's when I get that itch that I know something's really special, so I went back.

I asked them to tell me more about the piece. I learned it had just been brought into the store the day before, and it was acquired at an estate sale of an old inn in Vermont (can a story get any better than that?!). The woman who bought it has a partner who refinishes furniture... and such is the current finish. Well that story just made me fall in love with it more! The cute ledges on top, the little drawers, the shape of the legs... LOVE! I thought it would be perfect for my dining room. Then that little voice inside my head, "Dining room? Isn't this a dresser? Shouldn't you really be looking at china cabinets instead?" But no, I keep my resolve. I'm in love, and I'm moving forward here!

But back to reality... the cost. Now here's where the intimidation factor comes in for me. I have NO IDEA how much this piece should cost. None. I don't know exactly how old it is, I don't know where it was made, nothing. All I know is that I love it. But as I've said before, I want to at least FEEL like I'm getting a deal... so I asked if they'd be willing to take $250. Yes, still a good chunk of our furniture budget for this room, but I'd been in and out of furniture stores, and a new piece this size (but one most certainly made overseas) would cost significantly more than that, and I hadn't spotted any with the charm (or the charming story) of this one. They called the consignor, and she accepted. Then she ran into the shop to snap some photos of it before we took it home--she never expected it to sell so quickly!

And here she is in my home. And I haven't regretted it once. Literally, of all the furniture in my home, furniture that cost a lot more than this, this piece gets the most compliments, hands down. So was it worth $250? If I sent a pic into Country Living Magazine or Antiques Roadshow, would they value it at $250? I don't know, probably not. But I am certain that if I passed it by in the consignment store that weekend, it would have been gone the next week. And I love looking at it in my dining room. I love its function (currently it houses tablecloths, place mats, and serving utensils). So for me, there's the value.

In the words of my 4-year old (who loves opening and closing the drawers), "Mommy, this is fancy." Hey, she's a discerning critic (just look at that outfit!). If she says it's fancy, it passes the test in my book.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

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Craigslist Dining Table Transformation

Craiglist Dining Table Transformation

You really can't go wrong with something that was FREE to begin with!

There she was, in all her former glory. If you don't know about the "Free" section in Craigslist, you really should check it out! A lot of times there's just junk listed, but there are many times when people just want to get rid of something ASAP because they're moving or getting new furniture. But things in this section go fast, so you need to check back often and act quickly! 

With this piece, I was immediately drawn to the pedestal base. Our current round kitchen table has the standard four legs, and whenever you have more than four chairs around it, someone is always straddling or banging against a leg. I figured paint could cover up any blemishes, so I jumped on the offer...
and we picked up this baby (by "we," I mean my husband, somewhat begrudgingly). I didn't like the finish at all, so that's what I decided to change.

Pictured here are some of my main supplies (how cute are my pink work gloves?!). I love Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. I doubt there is anyone who's used it and doesn't love it. And this can of duck egg has made its way through several entire projects, and there's still some left. 

My vision: I knew I wanted the top of the table to be a different color than the base. But that's where it got complicated. Originally, I painted base in duck egg and I painted the top in bright white. I had an image in my mind I was trying to attain, the white was a big mistake. It was so offensive, I stripped it off right away and went a new direction: stain (should have taken a pic, I know). But onto my first attempt at staining.

At the hardware store, it was fun looking at all the stain color samples, and decided on this one: Minwax Polyshades (color: Mission Oak). This line is a "stain and finish in one step." I thought that would save me some time, but it really just confused me. At first, I was wiping it off the way I understood you should apply traditional stain... but it was too light, and I couldn't understand why the directions said I needed to wait 6 hours to apply another coat! I applied one sooner, because it had dried... and not much luck with that one either. DUH. I wasn't supposed to wipe it off, I was supposed to apply an even coat and simply let it dry! Which I did, when  finally realized that. But that "even coat" was really hard to achieve. Especially hard for a novice, and I'll be the first to admit that my tabletop is certainly FAR from "even coated." But I really like the color, and I can live with the mistakes, and it was a lesson learned. Would I use the Polyshade again? Maybe... but I'd need more practice, which means more time... and I'm sorta an instant gratification kind of gal.

Anyway, this is what I ended up with. This pic is without the leaf in the middle (we'll use the leaf when we have guests) but I like the perfect circle look better.

This was a great learning experience project for me. It's certainly not perfect, but it's a big improvement over what we are currently using (and over what it was when I picked it up free from Craigslist, I think)!

Does anyone else have tricks for a more seamless staining experience? Please share! I love the look of the stain, and want to continue experimenting with it, but I'm on the hunt for more tips!

You can also check it out on Metamorphosis Monday at Between Naps on the Porch!



Saving a Step with Our Recyclables

Recyclable Plastic Bags

I'm so excited that my family is at the point that, between single-stream recycling and the garbage disposal, we have more recycling every week than trash! When we started transitioning to this stage, my biggest obstacle became storing the recyclables. We were either trudging out to the garage or mudroom or leaving them on the counter (very unsightly). So I looked and looked, and I finally found a trash can that is divided into two equal sections for garbage and recycling (I'll post more on that later;the garbage can itself deserves its own post. It's literally a favorite of all our guests). But then the problem became needing bags that were recyclable. Another search. And most of the solutions were very expensive!

While I wasn't prepared to spend $36.99 on (essentially) garbage bags, what looked like the best value was this set of 250 Blue Recycling Bags I found on Amazon (comparably,the name brand option costs $100. No, mine don't have the drawstring feature of the name brand option, but for another $60+, I wasn't about to spring for that). And we majorly lucked out! We're not even halfway through the box after 7 months of using them, so at this rate, we should make it through the year with this box. Just to clarify, we don't use them for every single thing we recycle, just the everyday items that we keep in the house (e.g., juice and milk cartons, seltzer bottles, cereal and snack boxes). 

They come in a box like the one shown above (and it's heavy!), and BONUS: they're made in the USA! I just store this box under the sink with the regular garbage bags on top, and it's really convenient. And they qualify for free shipping if you have Amazon Prime.

What are some other clever ways you've found for storing your recyclabes?

Quick, Heathy Kids Snacks To-Go

Quick, Healthy Fresh Fruit To-Go

I'm constantly looking for really quick snack ideas for my kids. As easy as it is to throw some pre-packaged snacks into their lunch boxes (and this certainly happens more times than I wish), I prefer to give them something more pure. Because of this, I spend a lot of time cutting up fresh fruit every week... and sometimes, it's just too chaotic to do that. And then I saw these bags of jumbo navel oranges on sale at the supermarket. I got them, mostly because it was a good price. I figured I'd have to spend time peeling them for the kids, which is a bit of a pain, but since the clementines were starting to not look so good anymore, it was a citrus substitute, if nothing else.

But then one night soon after, my husband and I got takeout "movie boxes" from our favorite Japanese restaurant. One of the items you get as a dessert is cut up fruit--oranges that look just like this. Take-out is a special night for us, and we try to at least have one decent conversation while we eat, so we often end up bribing the girls to engage in a quiet activity by telling them they can have our fruit when we've finished eating. And they get SUPER excited about it. Really. When they see we've gotten takeout from this place, they immediately ask, "Can we have your fruit?!"

It's amazing that the simple act of cutting a piece of fruit into pieces completely changes its appeal. And sort of baffling that it took me this long to figure it out. But, alas, I did, and now these orange slices have become our new favorite snack! So easy to prepare, and perfect to throw in a lunch or snack box.

I'm always looking for more easy, healthy snack ideas. Please share some things that work for you!

Hand-Me-Down Patio Table Makeover

Hand-Me-Down Table Makeover

DIY Spray Painted Patio Table

We've all seen these round glass-top patio tables before. And they're great! Easy to maintain, easy to look at. So when my neighbor asked us if we wanted theirs (they had gotten a new table), of course, I said yes! We were in need of an outdoor eating space. Easy enough, right? Well, not exactly. Me being me, I had to turn it into a project. 

I'm not really a neutrals lover; I love color. So I thought a little spray paint could really jazz this table up. I used Rust-oleum Painters Touch in "Lagoon." I got it at Home Depot, and it was the closest shade they had to what I really wanted (I've since learned that Michaels has a much better spray paint color collection).

After cleaning all the parts of the table, the next part was super easy: just spray paint! I had to do about two full coats and then a couple touch-up coats after.

And there you have it. Simple project, simple post. Just in time for the warmer weather. Although you may notice I'm missing a couple things. Yup, still looking for come cute chairs to pull it all together (Nevermind! Found some at the Country Living Fair!). Oh, and one of those umbrella holder things.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Plastic Party Chairs from Craigslist

Great Deal on Outdoor Plastic Party Chairs

Craigslist find! I have been coveting chairs like this--really! No, they're not fancy, but they are practical. Any time we have a party, I want to be sure there's enough seating, but I could never bring myself to pay anywhere from $10+ each! Plus, I hate the idea of bringing more plastic into circulation. So I waited patiently, and then it happened. A great price on Craigslist. The listing said they were selling 10 of these for $20. Not bad... but I'm not satisfied unless I REALLY feel like I'm getting a deal, so I offered them $15, and they took it! I was worried about them all fitting in my car in addition to my two kids who were with me that day; I didn't want to take two trips (it was about 25 minutes away)--but they fit! And the nice couple who sold them realized they had 13 of them, not 10, so they threw in the extra 3 for free. So I really made out on this one--I paid approximately $1.15/chair! Now I just need to plan my next party :)

My creative side is always itching to do something else... what do you think? Play around with these? Paint them? Or just leave them as they are. Has anyone ever painted plastic chairs? How do they hold up?

My Favorite Deal of the Week

I will not buy any paper products (e.g., paper towels, toilet paper, napkins, diapers) at full price. They don't expire, so I just buy in bulk when they're on sale. This week I think I got an extra great deal. Target has Up & Up paper towels ($9.99) and toilet paper ($11.99) on sale. If you buy two of them, you get a $5 Target gift card (there are also other products in the offer-diapers and laundry detergent among them). I'm running low on these two products, so I bought two of each, and earned $10 Target credit in return! For me, that translates into an easy $10 savings off my grocery bill next week!

*this is my first post using the Blogger app, so I'm curious of how it will format on a real computer screen... It doesn't seem to let me choose where I can place the photos.

DIY Upcycled Baby Boy Knit Pants

Baby Boy Pants Upcycled From Long-Sleeved Tee Shirt

Any parent of a baby knows how fast they go through clothes that first year. It's unbelievable how it seems like one day, there is an entire drawer packed with clothes that don't fit anymore. Well, that's where I am with B3 right now. But here's the problem: I'm not a newbie parent anymore, and I REFUSE to pay $10+ for a pair of baby pants that will only be used (and abused) for a matter of months!

I'd been admiring a lot of upcycling projects on Pinterest, so I decided to attempt some baby boy pants from the fabric of an alternate garment. I couldn't find anything sufficient in my closet, so I perused the clearance rack at Target, and, voila! I found a women's XXXL shirt in the 70% off section! Armed and ready to create, I came home and promptly began my project for B3. And I proceeded with such fervor, that I neglected to take a single photo during the process! I was too excited... I'm doing to try to replicate and most some soon.

This shirt provided SOOO much fabric, I didn't know where to begin. And then it struck me: the SLEEVES! The cuffs would be perfect for his legs, thus eliminating any hemming (and very little sewing) for me! Anyway, to gauge his size, I used a pair of his current pants folded in half lengthwise and lined it up on top of the sleeves (that was my guide for cutting out the fabric). I did that twice--only two cuts! Then I lined up and pinned the raw edges to make the rise of the pants. Got out my sewing machine and zipped through that... and then added the elastic at the waist. So easy! And there is still plenty of fabric left over for at least two more pairs. And that funky seam design in the original shirt ended up looking really cool down his pant legs!

I'll definitely be attempting this lady-sleeves-into-baby-pants project again, and next time I'll be sure to take more pics during the process. 

Linking up to:
Cast Party Wednesday

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

First Post!

I'm so excited to be working on my first blog post. I can't wait to share some of my favorite cost-saving techniques with other like-minded people out there!  In the meantime, before I'm officially up-and-running, I'm sharing one of my newest favorite projects that I made with the help of one of Ashley's awesome Make It & Love It tutorials.

I am in love with Ashley's blog and am always looking for new ways to integrate her projects. The Double-Layer Square Circle Skirt is a really quick, fun project. I can't tell you how many compliments I've gotten on the girls' matching skirts, and the materials only cost me about $10 (thanks to my Joann's coupons)!

This is a great beginner project because you can get away with little "boo boos" without anyone knowing the difference. Ashley's tutorial is also really good at breaking down each step of the process with detailed pictures, so you don't feel overwhelmed! But one caveat: this project can be addicting: I've made six of these skirts so far!!! Just one of the ways I keep my girls looking super-cute without "breaking the bank"!