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Cardboard Stove

26 Jan

We bought Alex a really cute little cooking set and play food for Christmas.  He enjoys it, but he hasn’t really known how to play with it.  When I cook, I use a stove.  He’s great with imagination, but I realized the cookware would make more sense to him if he had his own little stove for cooking.

What I didn’t want to do is spend money on a play stove.  Alex has so many toys as it is.  I didn’t want to put down cash on even more stuff.  I figured a cardboard box could work nicely, so I searched Pinterest to see if anyone else had had the same idea.  I found several cardboard stoves on there, and used a few different photos for inspiration.

I started with a large moving box.  I did have to buy this, as we got rid of all our moving boxes last year.

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I hot glued the top of the box to keep it closed and give the box its shape while I worked on it.  I used a box cutter to cut out a door for the oven.  I also cut a window into the door and hot glued a piece of clear vinyl over it.  (The vinyl was leftover from one of Steven’s projects.)  For a handle, I used a cabinet pull that I’d bought shortly after we purchased our house.  I’d brought it home to see if I liked it for our cabinets.  I did, but after counting how many we’d have to buy and replace, that project was tabled for a while.

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Ninja and Theo can't resist a box

Ninja and Theo can’t resist a box

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Steven got involved at this point.  He was concerned about the structural integrity of the cardboard.  It’s for a rambunctious 2-year-old, after all, so he figured it should be reinforced.  He grabbed some vinyl slats leftover after he shortened some window blinds and cut them to fit around the door of the oven.  He also fitted slats on the inside of the box around the door so that the door can’t be shoved in.  Additionally, he added a magnet and a small piece of metal to keep the door latched shut.

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I’ve been crazy sick lately and on a ton of prescriptions.  That meant that I had a lot of medicine bottles I’ve recently emptied.  I used the lids to make knobs for the stove.  I had some leftover chalkboard spray paint from another project, so I used that to paint the lids, then I used a metallic sharpie to write on them.  Steven drilled holes for me.  Then he figured this would also need reinforcement, so he used more blind slats inside the box where the knobs would go.  This meant he had to use his drill to make holes in the box for the knobs.  For the knobs to spin, they needed washers or nuts or something behind them, and Steven didn’t have any small enough, so that did require another trip to Lowe’s for a 99-cent bag of thingamajigs.

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I saw on Pinterest that several people used CDs for burners on their homemade stoves.  I thought that was brilliant, so Steven dug up some unused CDs for me to hot glue on the top.  I didn’t do anything fancy to the top of the stove, so it’s not terribly impressive with the obvious line across the top, but I’m okay with that.  It’s just a little play stove, and Alex doesn’t care.

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I’m quite pleased with the finished result, and Alex thinks it’s pretty fun, too.

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Of course, the best part about it is getting to climb inside.

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This was a lot of fun to make, and I love that it was so inexpensive.  The total cost was under $3.

Improvements

15 Jan

I’ve found myself in a bit of a nesting phase lately.  Old episodes of House Hunters on Amazon Prime have been high on my watch list. Easy viewing while folding laundry.  It’s been fun for me to watch home shows lately.  I didn’t used to be able to do this.  Living previously in a home with foundation problems that never seemed to be fixed, no matter what we did, made me feel depressed when I watched programs about other people’s nice houses.  Now that I have a house I love and am interested in fixing up to my liking, I enjoy watching.

I do find myself annoyed with some of the people on House Hunters, though.  The ones who walk through beautiful kitchens that just don’t have granite counter tops, so they act annoyed and horrified that a kitchen could be *gasp* granite-less!  Or the shower isn’t redone in that brown, large tile that everyone seems to be installing these days.  I’m noticing that no matter how much home buyers claim they want a house with character, they really just want the interiors done in the exact same materials and bland neutral colors that everyone else has.

And then there are the pretentious buyers.  The ones with super-grand expectations.  I watched one episode where the couple wanted a home that would reflect their level of success.  I automatically disliked them.  It got worse.  As they looked at a master bedroom that was easily 4 times the size of my own, they kept saying that it seemed small.  Same with the master bath, that had to be the size equivalent of the entire upstairs of my house.  Seemed “small.”  That line from The Princess Bride kept going through my head.  “You keep saying that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Which brings me to the subject of my own master bathroom.  It wouldn’t pass muster with the majority of home buyers on that program.  It’s small.  It has a tub/shower combination, and the tub isn’t a garden-sized one.  The cabinetry and counter top are original to the house, which was built in 1980.  The cabinets were painted badly by the former owner.  Sure, I’d love to get a whole new vanity, but it’s not in our current budget, nor do we feel capable of taking on a project of that size at this time in our lives.  I can’t even seem to get my kitchen painted because I can’t figure out how to get it done with a toddler at home and a husband at work all day.  Nap time isn’t long enough.  (Seriously, how do other people do it?!  I see blogs where the writer has small children, and somehow, major, messy projects are accomplished.  I’m baffled.  Do they not sleep?  Because I need sleep.)

When we moved in, I just slapped up my old shower curtain and used all our old towels and bath mats that matched the curtain.  There was nothing wrong with it, but it didn’t go well with the beige walls, and as I got it as a wedding gift more than 15 years ago, it was time to change things out.  Good-bye, Laura Ashley’s circa 1990s “Bramble.”  Hello, something more contemporary from Target.

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I should confess here that in typical little-sister fashion, I totally copied my big sister with this shower curtain.  I saw the same one hanging in her daughters’ bathroom in their new house when we were in Texas for Thanksgiving.  Loved it, bought it, copy-catted not for the first time in my life.

I bought new towels and floor mats to coordinate.  It all looks nice with the existing wall color, which is good, because the next thing I paint (if I ever get the chance to paint again) will be my kitchen.   I also found this round, swirly metal thing at Hobby Lobby for super cheap.  It dresses up a very boring beige wall.  (Sorry about the bad lighting.  Small bathroom, poor light conditions for photos, especially for someone who doesn’t really know how to use her camera.)

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Next up was new lighting.  I wish I’d thought to take a photo of the old light.  It was slopped with paint (because apparently, the previous owner let a 12-year-old paint the entire house without taping off anything), had rust spots, and mismatched glass globes.  It was a real thing of beauty, let me tell you.  I found a beautiful new light at Lowe’s, and my handy husband installed it in about 15 minutes.  All was well, except for this:

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That would be the improperly-installed medicine cabinet/mirror from our master bath.  The hole in the wall for the lighting is too low for the cabinet/mirror.  The glass globes didn’t even fit over the mirror, much less allow the doors to open.  Whole new problem.  My husband took this mirror/cabinet down, and then we were left with a darker paint color on the wall where it used to hang, as well as no mirror.

Cue the emergency trip to Lowe’s.

We found a new mirror that coordinated well with the light fixture, it was attractive, and more importantly, it was affordable.  The only drawbacks: it doesn’t completely cover that dark paint patch on the wall, and it’s a tad too small, in general.  I can’t see anything below my chest, and my tall husband has to bend at the knees to see his entire head.  Ah, well.  That’s what happens when 1) you have to buy an emergency mirror right away, and 2) you can’t afford to spend $300-$400 on a mirror.  Because that’s just crazy, in my opinion.

So, if you can ignore the ugly paint patch behind the mirror, here’s the new light fixture and mirror.

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A $25 can of paint certainly would have been cheaper, but in addition to wanting new stuff, this room really needed a sprucing up with nicer things that aren’t slopped with paint.  And I came out $15 ahead.  I sold that tacky medicine cabinet on our local Facebook selling group.  I should probably use the cash for a can of color-matched paint to touch up behind the mirror.

Craft Room Re-do

20 Oct

The previous owner of our house decided to paint the entire interior a neutral color.  Instead of being all HGTV, it comes off as dingy and depressing in many of the rooms.  My plans all along were to paint the kitchen and adjoining breakfast room, which serves as my craft room, a combination of pink and white.  Non-traditional for sure, but it works well with the green and white tile floor.  More importantly, it makes me happy.  I’d hoped to get the painting done before we moved in, but our house was given to us in a filthy state, so I had to spend the time prior to move-in cleaning like a madwoman.  Painting didn’t happen.

I also learned how impossible it is to get extra, nonessential projects done when you have a baby to look after.  Somehow, it always seems more important to cook dinner and do the laundry and cleaning during nap time.

I finally got fed up and decided to paint.  I pulled meals from the freezer for our dinners and got to work.  My husband (wisely) advised me to do only the craft room and not the kitchen at that time.  I was annoyed, but he was right.  It was too much work and mess to have done it all at once.  But the bad thing is that the kitchen is still ugly-dingy.

The horrible before pictures:

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During the painting process:

While I'm proud to say that I did most of the painting myself, my husband did help.  He even replaced all the outlets and light switches so all would be new and clean.

While I’m proud to say that I did most of the painting myself, my husband did help. He even replaced all the outlets and light switches so all would be new and clean.

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Painting is finished:

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This was all done back in May.  I’m finally posting about it in October because I just finished putting the room together.  All the furniture was moved back in right after we cleaned up all the painting mess, but I wanted to get stuff on the walls and clean up my other mess before I took completed photos.

This is the view if you're standing in the kitchen.

This is the view if you’re standing in the kitchen.

My craft table

My craft table

Storage

Storage

My lovely butterfly batiks that my dad brought back from Barbados for my sister and me over 30 years ago

My lovely butterfly batiks that my dad brought back from Barbados for my sister and me over 30 years ago

More storage

More storage

My craft table (covered in paper-punch mess from the toddler) with my inks and some of my ribbons on the wall.  You can also see my kitchen, which still has our mess from lunch on the counter.  Oops.

My craft table (covered in paper-punch mess from the toddler) with my inks and some of my ribbons on the wall. You can also see my kitchen, which still has our mess from lunch on the counter. Oops.

I was so happy to finally have all this put together that I made some stuff last night.  It’s so nice to have a functional and cheerful space again.  The only problem is that this room has now made the kitchen look even more dingy and drab than it did before!

Rainbow Rice

10 Sep

I wanted to make a new activity for the toddler.  He has piles and piles of toys, yet all he wants to do is color at his craft table and tear my house apart.  Pulling things out of cabinets and drawers is utter fascination.  Then there’s the action of putting stuff into other stuff.

Toys?  Pshaw.  What does he care?  He turns 2 next week, and we really didn’t even look much at toys for his birthday gifts.  Or even books.  I find myself having to read the same Veggie Tales book over and over and over that I have fantasies of throwing it in the garbage can.  So he’s getting a stuffed animal, a matching game, and a tricycle.  And of course, crayons.  My word, the boy loves crayons.

So, that leads back to my desire to come up with a new activity for him.  Perusing Pinterest a few weeks ago brought up the idea of rainbow rice.  That’s nothing more than rice colored with food coloring, then given to a child to play with.  Cheap and easy.

I started with a inexpensive bag of white rice.  I measured 2 cups of rice into 4 loaf pans.  (That’s 2 cups per pan for 8 cups total.)  I added several drops of food coloring to each pan, plus 1 tsp. of vinegar.  Stirred it all up to get the color nicely mixed in and all the rice coated.  Then I stuck the pans in a 200-degree (F) oven for about 30 minutes to dry it all out.

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Next, I went on a search in the house for a large container with a lid.  I discovered a plastic bin full of bank statements from 1999 and figured those could be shredded and tossed, so I dumped them out on the guest bed and commandeered the bin for another, more interesting purpose.

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I added some tubs from Alex’s Box of Trash (a bin full of old containers, mayo jars full of rice or beads or water or some other thing to shake and make noise, milk jugs, etc.) and some dollar-store measuring scoops.  Then I let the little man go at it.

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Alex got busy scooping and sifting and having a great time with the rice.  (And if you’re wondering why my kid is shirtless, it’s because he has started to freak out if he gets any food on his shirt, which means it must come off right now or there will be a meltdown, people!  Nevermind that this wouldn’t be an issue if he’d stop ripping off his bibs during meals.  So, the shirt gets removed, and Mommy is too tired to go upstairs and get another one from his drawer.)

This activity was a big win with the toddler.  It was a losing proposition for the floor, though.  Thank God, we have a whole lot of tile, rather than carpet.  And I have a stick vac.  I nearly lost my mind trying to clean my tile before I bought that thing!

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The bad thing is, rainbow rice cannot compete with a bag of flour while I’m cooking.  I set Alex up in the kitchen yesterday with his bin, hoping that he’d happily play with that while I cooked.  He was good until I turned on my electric mixer (too exciting!), and then I got out a bag of flour, which looked like the Most Exciting Thing Ever.  That turned into a full-on tantrum when I became Mean Mommy and wouldn’t let him play in flour.  I have my mess limit, after all.

Handmade Wedding Gift

24 May

One of our former youth back home in Texas is getting married soon.  These kids grow up too fast, as it doesn’t seem possible that any of them can now be college graduates and getting married!  But they have grown up, and now we’re past graduation gifts and into weddings.

I typically do something for the home, like towels or kitchen items.  I did buy bowls.  Really fun confetti bowls, actually.  But I wanted to do something a little more personal, as well.  I remember the first Christmas Steven and I had together after we were married.  We went out and bought a special ornament together for our first tree.  I also unwrapped an entire box of ornaments that my mom had saved from my childhood.  Lots of great memories.  Steven stood and looked on sadly as I gleefully unwrapped all my special ornaments because he had none.  They didn’t do Christmas trees in his house when he was growing up.   Isn’t that terribly sad?

I don’t know whether or not this young man and his fiancee have ornaments from their own childhoods for a tree or not, but I wanted to make sure that they have at least one ornament waiting for them for their first Christmas tree.

I didn’t want to do anything overtly Christmas-y.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not really into snowmen or Santas or other typical Christmas scenes.  I’m not against them, but they don’t really have any special meaning.  Nor did I want to do something lame like cut up their wedding invitation and put it into a Christmas ball.  Not only is that not very attractive, but to me, it’s like giving someone their invitation in a frame; it comes across as cheap and not very creative.  (I’m a strong believer that couples will save their invitations and other wedding mementos in their own way that befits their own style.)

I went more with a (loose) theme of love, home, and happiness.  I opted for a bluebird of happiness.  The old story goes that two young children went all over the place looking for the bluebird of happiness, only to go home and find it there.  So this was my Christmas-ornament interpretation of that:

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The secret to getting the bird in there is acetate.  I’ve tried in the past to get paper inside one of these glass ornaments, and it was a disaster.  The paper didn’t want to unroll properly once inside, and it looked crumpled and messy.  I searched a long time online one night and ran across this tutorial, which neatly explained how to do what I wanted to do.  The one change I would make to the instructions is to buy acetate in the specialty craft paper section of the craft store.  (I bought mine at Hobby Lobby.)  The instructions say to use overhead projector sheets, but as a former teacher, I can tell you that they yellow.  Badly.  One summer in a Texas attic, and that ornament will be ruined.  (Although, admittedly, I don’t know how the stuff from the craft section will fare.  I’m just hoping it’s better, as it appears to be made of much sturdier stuff.)

A little touch I added was to use shrink plastic to cut out their initial.  (Remember Shrinky Dinks?  Yeah, that stuff.)  I cut their initial out with my Sizzix, colored it in with some Tim Holtz Distress Stain, punched a hole in it, then put it in the toaster oven to shrink.  I then threaded some ribbon through it and attached it to the top of the ornament like a little charm.

I also changed things up by using seed beads inside the ornament, instead of glitter.  The beads can rattle around in there, but they won’t stick to the glass like glitter does.  This was super important, as the ornament had to be shipped from Oklahoma to Texas.

I like big, fluffy bows, so I added that to the top.  As for the bird itself, I used a Martha Stewart stamp and watercolor pencils to color it in like an Eastern Bluebird, which I’m fully aware the stamp is not.  It gets the point across, regardless.

I sent it to a friend back home to take to the church shower for me, as I couldn’t be there.  I’ve already heard some nice things about it, so I think it was a success!

DIY Mother’s Day Corsage

7 May

We always give my MIL a corsage for Mother’s Day.  We could do that inexpensively when we lived in Texas, as we’d just pick one out at the store and drive it over to her house.  Last year we were in Oklahoma for Mother’s Day, and we learned how unbelievably expensive it is to have a corsage made and delivered.  Ouch!  My husband works for a non-profit Christian organization here.  He took a very large paycut to work for this ministry we’re passionate about, and that means we really have had to cut expenses.  I started looking online for an alternative to having flowers delivered.

I first googled “DIY Mother’s Day corsage,” but that kept leading me to a felt flower corsage.  While lovely, I had no desire to cut little pieces of felt and sew or glue them together.  What’s more, I wasn’t sure MIL would care for that as much as something more realistic.  So I changed my search to “DIY corsage” and found this.  Looked easy enough, so I headed to Hobby Lobby to buy the supplies.

FYI, if you didn’t know, they sell realistic-looking flowers.  They’re even labeled as such and have minor imperfections like a real flower, as well as a realistic feel.  I bought all my flowers on a 50%-off sale, bought the wire and floral tape at Dollar Tree, and used a 40%-off coupon for corsage pins, so that brought the total cost to around $11.

Not only did the tutorial make it look easy, it really was easy!  I put a corsage together in under 10 minutes.  As a mama who can only get things done during her busy toddler’s nap, this was wonderful!  The corsage turned out beautifully, and when Steven hand-delivered it to his mom last night (he’s in Dallas on business), she didn’t even know it wasn’t real until he told her!  I’d call that a definite win.

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(I did spend a little beyond the cost of corsage supplies to buy a box and some yellow ribbon for packaging, but it was only about $3 more, again with a coupon.)

Making the Old New

11 Jan

Months ago, I bought a small rocking chair for $20 at a little secondhand shop here in town.  It didn’t look so good.  In fact, when people would come over, no one ever sat in it.  The cats liked it just fine, but I wanted people to want to sit in it, too.

The ugly before

The ugly before

I didn’t have to put any money into this project, other than purchasing a staple gun.  I bought it at Hobby Lobby with a 40%-off coupon, which made it a mere $6.  I already had some upholstery fabric that I’d purchased a few years ago for a project that never came to fruition.  (That’s not unusual for me, unfortunately.)  I removed the seat, pulled off the 2 layers of fabric already stapled on, then put my own fabric on it.  Next, I used Murphy’s Oil Soap to give the wood a good scrub.  Boy, was it filthy!  Then I went over it all with Howard’s Restore-a-Finish.  Truthfully, it really needs to be sanded down, then refinished, but this is good enough for now.  I screwed the seat back on, and voila!  New chair that looks a billion times better!

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Please pardon the cat hair. My Ninja Cat loves the new fabric, and my sticky roller fell behind my dresser. I can’t reach it to use it.

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People sit in it now.