Monday, November 15, 2010

Crafting A.D.D.- This has got to stop

Please tell me I'm not the only one with this issue!  I have serious crafting A.D.D.   For some reason, I have so many projects on my plate right now and instead of finishing them, I keep thinking of new things I want to do and try.

Okay, so here's the current "To-do" list:
  1. Hack my Ikea end tables- I have 4 cheap Lack style tables that I want to put my own twist on.
  2. Sew Christmas flannel pj pants- Personal tradition, I buy a new pair every year to wear on Christmas morning, for some unknown reason I thought, in the midst of everything else I have going on, I'd make a pair, rather than buying them for say $10 at Target.  I really am a glutton for punishment.
  3. Sew quilted tote- There was a pattern sale, I had no intention of making one, now I have the pattern so the next logical thing is to make the tote...
  4. Finish decorating powder room- this involves painting the vanity, framing out the mirror, installing a new vanity light, etc.
  5. Finish decorating dining room - partially done, have to fix the wall where I had to change the mirror hanger position, need new sconces, a vase and some reeds to which I plan to add mini lights.
  6. Make Christmas cards- I've hand-crafted cards for the last, I dunno, 4-5 years, not sure if I should accept defeat and just buy them this year or keep the tradition alive and get back to papercrafts.
  7. Decorate for Christmas- I have absolutely no holiday decor.  Part of me is thinking to get the bare essentials to make it through this year and then stock up after the season when everything is discounted.

So, what are you tips for conquering crafting A.D.D?  Or am I doomed?  I'm thinking of "forcing" myself to pick one project and finish it, just to start.  I just hate the thought of "forcing" though, shouldn't crafting be more natural?  I think having so much to do is just overwhelming me and instead of tackling it, I avoid it.

Maybe I should take a day or two off of work and get to it! 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Happy Veteran's Day!

I love Veteran's Day! It's one of those few days a year that people think, I mean really think, about the men and women who serve our country and allow us to maintain the freedoms we take for granted.  

I was fortunate to grow up in a military family.  No, it wasn't always easy, but I wouldn't trade the experience for anything.  My dad taught me at an early age to respect our country and what it stands for. 

This is one of my favorite pictures of my dad and I, so I thought I'd share it with you today.  My dad served in the US Navy for 25 years, rising to the rank of Master Chief Petty Officer before he retired.  Now my brother has followed in his footsteps and is making his career in the Navy.  I am so very proud, and lucky, to have these two wonderful men as my family.  

On this Veteran's Day, I'd like to say "Thank You" to all the men and women serving in our wonderful country's armed forces and also to their families!  God bless you all! 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Fleece remnants = Easiest dog toys

I happened to visit a local chain craft store twice this weekend (yep, I think I spent more time there than at home this weekend, oops).  On my second trip I was actually there for a specific item, but ended up wandering past the remnant bins and a few pieces of fleece caught my eye.  The remnant bins can be incredible if you're there at the right time.  This particular store offers 50% off of the current sale price per yard on the remnant, so you can sometimes get it ridiculously cheap.  The only problem is that you really don't have a wide selection.  If you're not particular, you can really clean up.  Let's just say I walked out of this craft store paying $8 for over 4 yards of patterned fleece. Score!

One of the prints I bought was a brown fleece with light and hot pink dog bones, from which I knew I'd make the easiest dog toys I have ever seen.  Basically you tie three or four strips of fleece together, braid them and tie the other end off.  Presto- easy and instant dog toy.  My parent's doxies are chewers and I knew these would be a great addition to their collection, especially because it was so cheap if they demolish them and they can also be washed if needed.

I started by cutting 4 strips of the dog bone print and 2 strips of a plain brown fleece, my strips were roughly 2 inches wide.  By folding the material in half, I really only had to make 2 cuts from the patterned and one from the solid, great time saver.  Once you're done cutting the strip just snip across the top to make the individual pieces.  The best thing about these dog toys is that your cuts don't have to be perfect, the braiding will hide any imperfections.

Once the strips were cut, I layered them and tied off the one end.  I somewhat tightly braided the strips and when I had about 6 inches left, I tied off the end.  The last step was the cut the ends of each strip in half to create more fringe.  That's it, about 10 minutes and I was done.  The girls got them on Sunday night and absolutely loved them.  It's great that you can get them a toy that will entertain them for less than $4.  I also made a fleece pom-pom but my camera battery died before I could get a picture of it!

So, why was I at the craft store in the first place?  Well on Saturday I found a really cute flannel print and decided that I am going to attempt to sew pajama pants. You see, I have this personal tradition over the last few years of buying a new pair of flannel pj bottoms to wear on Christmas morning, only after seeing this fabric I decided to attempt to make them myself.   I don't typically do apparel construction, so this is new territory for me. (I'm hoping that I don't think at the end of this that I should have just bought a pair at Target for $10 and been done with it.) Stay tuned to see how this turns out!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Pumpkin Spice Cake Cookies

I have an addiction from which I never want to be reformed - I love pumpkin and anything pumpkin.  Unfortunately, there was a shortage of pumpkin earlier this year and, as a result, all of my local grocery haunts had empty shelves where the pumpkin once graced.  To say I was sad would be an understatement...  Well, we finally have pumpkin back in stock in the Pittsburgh area, so I have now stocked up (there is a case of pumpkin in my pantry, I shall not be without again!)

So, while at the store the other day, I picked up a package of Betty Crocker Pumpkin Spice cookie mix with the intent to not follow package directions and instead use a Weight Watchers trick and add a can of pumpkin puree to the cookie mix.  Yep, no eggs, no butter, no water.  Just cookie mix and a can of pumpkin  How easy is that?  And it's somewhat healthier to boot.  (Now mind you, if you want crispy cookies, this is not the route for you to go, by adding the pumpkin your cookies will be more of a cake consistency.)

Mixing takes a little bit more elbow grease to get everything incorporated.

 Once out of the oven, they sat for a bit to cool.  Here's a tip, however you drop the cookies on your baking sheet will be what they look like once cooked.  These cookies do not expand, so if you want a round cookie take the back of a spoon and in a counter-clockwise motion smooth the cookie out to a thinner and rounder shape.

 Mmm, marshmallow cream, cream cheese, powdered sugar, a tiny bit of unsalted butter and pumpkin pie spice!

A couple of the finished cookies, so yummy and they aren't lasting long!  The mix only made about 3 dozen, and after some taste-testing by myself and the boyfriend, as well as giving a bunch to my parents, there's probably 18-20 left. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Yes, even dogs need clothes...

A few months ago, my parents adopted two very adorable dachshunds - Latte (a tan long-haired) and Madison (a smooth pie-bald).  The are total sweethearts and goofballs at the same time.

Well, as it's gotten colder over the past few weeks, the girlies have really been affected.  When you only weigh 10 lbs, I guess that's to be expected.  So I started to look around for something to keep them warm.  Yep, I bought them clothes...  But hey, at least it's not like we're playing dress up for kicks, their clothes serve a purpose.  I ended up getting them both hoodies- look how cute they are!

Unfortunately, the way that doxies joints are, these two tend to pull their front legs out of the "arms" in the hoodies.  They'll work for keeping them warm, for now, but they definitely needed something sleeveless.  Let me tell you, I definitely learned that there is money to be made in dog couture.  Some of the stuff I found was absolutely outrageous, I mean come on, a bikini for your dog?  Like that is at all necessary.

With the amount (or lack there of) of fabric required to make dog clothes, you would probably expect they aren't that expensive.  WRONG!  Even the simplest of dog coats that I found were upwards of $30-50.  There was no way I was spending that for a coat I wasn't even sure would fit the girls correctly.  (Dachshunds have longer backs and most dog clothes are made for an average length back, typically 4-6 inches shorter than the doxies.)

So, I'm sure you know where this is going- if I couldn't find what I needed already made... I would make it myself.  I just so happened to be at a local craft store while they were having a pattern sale.  Now mind you, I did not go to the craft store with the intent to make the dog coats, I was actually there picking up stuff to refinish this bench. Anyway, I noticed the pattern sale and, for giggles, decided to see if by chance there was a dog coat pattern.  Bingo!  So for $2, I walked away with two sets of a fairly simple pattern.  Why did I buy two sets?  Well, most patterns include multiple sizes, which I needed, but they overlap the pieces rather than nest, so by cutting out one size, you make it impossible to cut out anything else.  Advanced seamstresses use tracing paper and the nine yards, but for a buck a pattern, it wasn't worth my time.

Next decision was fabric.  The pattern showed a cute hounds-tooth (haha, get it?) and sherpa selection.  Eh, I wasn't about to spend a ton of money on coats I wasn't even sure the girlies would keep on.  I, instead, opted to buy a no-sew fleece blanket kit.  Let me explain my rationale here: fleece by the yard was on sale, sure better selection, but it would have cost me more money and yielded me less fabric to go that route.  By buying the no-sew kit I had 2 coordinated pieces of fleece and enough of it to make 3 coats, or in my case extra in case I screwed up.  Think outside the box sometimes, it can save you money!

An investment of about 3 hours of my time and I had two cute fleece dog coats, a small and a medium, with straps that looked like they'd fit a horse.  Who's dog did they measure these things for? So, despite finishing the coats off with a top-stitch and pressing them out, I knew I'd be seam ripping them to correct the length of the straps.  After fitting them on the girls, I had to shorten the straps by about 4 inches each (see what I mean when I say dog clothes, and patterns, were not made with a dachshund in mind?)

Regardless, the finished products are uber-cute and the girlies love them.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Hello Fall!

This being my first year in my own home, I don't have a lot of seasonal decor, but I've slowly been creating some to fill the void.  I think at this point my poor boyfriend has had enough of me spending hours in craft/decor stores just wandering the aisles looking for inspiration to strike me.  Sometimes I have an idea in mind before I get there (those trips are notably shorter), but lately I've been going shopping with a clear mind and letting the store's stock guide/inspire me.  (Besides, nothing is worse than having an idea and not being able to find the items to create it anywhere!)

Well, on a recent foray into a local home decor store, I found a cute iron pumpkin candle holder that I knew would look great in the middle of our dining room table.  So, I scoured for a candle ring to add a little something to make it a true centerpiece, unfortunately the selection was lacking.  There was, however, a vast array of silk florals - some better than others.  After about 30 minutes of picking through the flowers, I decided on some gold berry picks, a bouquet of these gorgeous rust orange flowers and berry bunches in an autumnal palette. 

Back at home, I spent about an hour weaving the pieces together to form an ellipse rather than just a ring for some added appeal. When I was done, the boyfriend questioned, "How did you know how much of each that you'd need?"  If you've ever watched Project Runway you'll know the quintessential Tim Gunn phrase "Make it work!"  That tends to be what happens, though I can usually gauge things pretty well, if I happen to be off, I'll figure out a solution.  I added a flameless candle and voila!  The piece cost me about $20 in total, including the candle.

Next on the list was something for our front door.  I've seen a lot of wreaths at the store, but nothing I was truly in love with, so in typical Megan-style, I set out to create my own.  I ran to one of my favorite local craft stores after work one day and picked up a few things.  (I apparently have a fascination with gold berry picks, this was the second time I picked them up!)

This piece took me about two hours, sitting at the dining room table weaving leaves and gold berries through the wire star form.  Despite it taking a bit longer and my hands being scratched up from the wire, I was pretty pleased with the result. For a focal point, I added a large cream colored flower to the bottom right.  Total cost: approximately $8.


 I could still probably use 2-3 more pieces of fall decor, but with needing to get some regular decor done and some art on the walls, these two pieces will have to do for now.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Craiglist Trash to Treasure: Bench

I've been looking for a bench for our entry for some time now, never quite loving anything that I've found.  Big surprise, I know.  So, I decided to peruse Craigslist and see if I could find anything with potential.  Sure enough, about 35 minutes from our townhouse was a bench for sale for $30.  I'm sure other people would look at this and say, "ummm what were you thinking, Megan?"  I'm pretty sure that was on my boyfriend's mind as he hauled it into his suv. But, I knew I could rescue it!

The bench was in rough shape: the finish was worn in spots (I wasn't originally planning on painting the bench, but as you can see, we have a mix of woods in the entry already and with the spindles on the stairs, the bench seemed a little lost), the seat fabric was disgusting, and to be honest the whole thing smelled a little, but those things can and would be fixed.

The first task was getting rid of the fabric on the seat. Luckily the seat is held on the bench by 4 screws, so removal was a breeze. Now if only I could say that for the rest of the rehab project! A flat-head screwdriver, some patience, and an hour later and it was bye-bye ugly grey fabric.  Unfortunately, that exposed an even uglier choice- the original red vinyl - complete with dust, dog dander, and a huge gaping tear.  Back to the screwdriver for a bit and that too was gone.  For good measure I also trashed the original foam (goodbye weird smell!) and replaced it with fresh, clean batting. This is not the most comfortable choice, but foam was super expensive and it's not like we're going to be lounging on this bench anyway, so I went to economical route.

I must have spent two hours staring at the fabric at Joann's, I kinda knew what I wanted but couldn't really find anything that fit that idea.  Finally, I ended up choosing a brown floral decor fabric with hints of teal and green for the base of the seat and a coordinating fabric to make an accent pillow.  To finish it off, I bought a darker teal green trim to fill the gap between the bench and the seat, this would help give it a clean finished line.  Little did I know that this decision would also be a trial.  Every time I would staple a section of the trim on the seat and then try to put the bench in place, the trim was either too long or too short.  After a lot of trial and error, wasted staples, and some frustration I finally figured it out - tape is your friend!  I put the seat in place on the bench and then tucked the trim in until it was sitting right where I wanted it, then I simply taped it in place, removed the bench and stapled the trim where it fell on the backside of the seat. 

Refinishing the wood on the bench was not as easy as recovering the seat, however.  I wanted a clean look that would help it to stand out from the other wood in the entry, so I decided to go for a white or ivory finish.  Armed with mineral spirits, I cleaned the bench- twice, and still there was more dirt and crud to be found.  After I was finally satisfied with the cleanliness, I attacked the bench with spray primer, which is uber sticky and gets everywhere (including the boyfriend's new grill cover, oops!)  The bench absolutely ate the paint, every coat I put on it just seeped into the bench with no end in sight.  Once I had finally exhausted the primer, I let it dry and then started to coat it with the actual spray paint.  It was splotchy, not at all the look I wanted and I was uber frustrated.  So I let it dry completely and pulled it back into the house.  What was I going to do?  I didn't want to buy more spray paint, nor was I keen on inhaling any more of it.

I remembered the set of test paint I bought, and if you know me well enough you'll find this funny- they are Martha Stewart paints.  Yep, Martha Stewart saved the day!  There happened to be a color- Heavy Cream, that was exactly what I was looking for.  So, while I really didn't want to hand-paint the entire bench, I broke down and did it.  It worked beautifully.  Three coats with a foam brush (so there would be no bristle marks) and I was done.   Here's another tip, if you know you'll need to do multiple coats on something, put your paint brush in a plastic sandwich or storage bag and seal it, this will keep the brush from drying out and save you from having to wash it between coats.

Last step was to put the seat back on the bench and place the finished project in the entry.  I added a simple pillow (envelope pillow covers are the easiest to make in the world!), oh and some pumpkins as part of my fall decor.  I'm totally please with the finished project and the fact it cost me less than $50. 

On another note, I recently joined on a recommendation from another crafty friend.  Got a blog or an interest in crafting in general?  Head over to their site and join- connect with other crafters to learn something new and share your talent too!