Friday, October 31, 2008 0 comments


My kids begged and begged to get goldfish. I just happened to have two identical small fishbowls that I picked up at a thrift store at one point for $0.50 each, so we let them each buy a small "feeder" goldfish from Wal-Mart.

Here's my daughter's that we have affectionately dubbed "Tuna Cakes," which is her hilariously fitting version of "Precious Petunia Cakes" (an inside family joke): And here is my son's that he thinks he will name Sammy Brown (?!):
As you can see, they had a blast watching them!

The fishbowls are now on top of their dressers for safe-keeping. We'll get them down to feed them and watch them now and then, but this is the safest arrangement for now! :)
Monday, October 27, 2008 1 comments

I finished 14 cards today!

I've been itching to use this new stamp set (Garden Delight by Inkadinkado). So today my husband gave me some time to work on cards, and I managed to get 14 of them done. I almost always make multiples of cards (usually 4 each) since assembly-line construction is a lot easier than reinventing the wheel every time. I made 4 each of two designs and 3 each of the other two.

Another disclaimer: None of these "designs" are original with me. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I'm not very good at coming up with my own designs, but I can copy like nobody's business! :) And I always adapt it slightly to match the supplies I have on hand.

So here we go ...

I found the inspiration for this card here. How I adapted it:

  • used a circle punch-out for the sun (or moon, depending on how you see the picture)
  • used patterned paper instead of the brayering technique (I ebayed my brayer before I got back into cards!)
  • used a different sentiment - because it's what I had on hand!

This card inspired my version. How I adapted it:

  • Everything I mentioned above! :)

This is my version of this lady's card. I wasn't sure about the colors at first, but it all worked out in the end. How I adapted it:

  • used a background stamp to make patterned paper instead of the purchased embossed paper
  • used dollar-store glitter glue instead of the pricey stuff (although I admit hers looks much more elegant!)
  • used a stamp with a shaped sentiment in place of the bookplate and other stamped sentiment simply because it's what I had on hand [Are you noticing a trend here?]

This is the last one I made so far, and it's my favorite. I'm a bit partial to pink. You can't tell unless you have it in hand, but the butterfly was stamped on vellum, glittered, and then colored from the back. It makes for a neat effect!

Here's the card that inspired it. How I adapted it:

  • used a different edge punch
  • used a different sentiment
  • used different papers and colors

... In short, your usual adaptation! :)

I have a feeling I'm in for a huge creativity crash in the next day or two, so don't expect to see much more of it for a little bit. It usually takes me a few weeks to recover. :)
Saturday, October 25, 2008 0 comments

Another frugal gift: stamped address labels

I know I'm going to give away a secret by posting this on my blog, but I just had to share these with you, just in case someone else could use the idea for Christmas (or any other time of the year)!

I was planning to break open my new acrylic stamp set and make a few cards today, but instead I was drawn to the address labels I bought yesterday at Dollar Tree.

First of all, by all means, get your address labels at Dollar Tree. There are 15 sheets to a package with a total of 30 labels per sheet. No one can beat their price! I've personally used these labels before, and they do stick.

With that in mind, I made some address labels for family gifts. (There will be more than this for gifts, so I'm not giving away all my secrets today!)

I used all Studio G $1 stamps from Michaels - the ones that came in the small packages for $1/package. Check them out:

But this was the lightbulb moment of the year for me! If you bought these stamps, did you happen to pick up the family tree pack? If not, you're going to wish you had! Lookie, lookie at what you can make!

Yep, these are just like those expensive labels you can send away for, except they are LOTS cheaper. And you know the funny thing? That grandpa stamp looks exactly like my dad! :)

Okay, my time is up and I need to run. Let me know if you try it!
Friday, October 24, 2008 4 comments

Card portfolios: More hostess gifts DONE!

My friend and I bought the cutest clear Christmas stamps (Inkadinkado) at Michael's the other day. We had 50% off coupons, thanks to JoAnn Fabrics (competitor's coupon). This was a special 2-pack with a promotional Christmas display. Judging by the pricing of the other Inkadinkado clear sets, it should have been priced around $20, but it was priced at $13. Thanks to our coupons, we got them for $6.50 a set.

Since I wanted to make some card portfolios to show at my ladies' meeting next week (Homemade Holidays theme), this was the perfect chance to try them out. So here's my 4-card snowman card portfolio:

Inside: Since the white circle is popped up with dimensionals, I could only fit 4 cards into this set.

Outside: You can't tell, but there's lots of silver glitter glue ($1 store) here! I used it on all the snowflakes, and they shimmer just like the real thing. I decorated the envelopes just like Michele recommends here. I like the special effect!

And then, since most of the ladies from my church are not into cardmaking, I made one just from a $1-spot card set that I picked up on clearance for $0.50:

Inside: I decorated the inside of this one a little bit. I included 6 cards/envelopes in this set since they're one-dimensional.

Outside: I'm not totally sure I like how I framed the image on the portfolio (I used the back of the card), but it's done. I'm sure the ladies will love it anyway, and the ease of this project may just tempt a few of them to make it!
Tuesday, October 21, 2008 3 comments

Notebooks for missions - pictures!

Here are the notebooks I mentioned last night. (I made them for a group of our missionaries to give to the children they work with this Christmas.) I guess I only did 12 of them instead of the 14 I thought I did!
And here are closeups of my favorites:

Just in case you missed the last post, I used last year's child-friendly Christmas card fronts to make these covers. And in case you've just recently found my blog, I have complete instructions on how to make these notebooks at this post.

I worked on Christmas gifts today.

Sorry, no pictures just yet. We're in revival this week, so that means late nights and (sometimes) sleepy kids.

So I wasn't able to finish the last of the notebooks I made for the Indian mission to give out to their kids this Christmas. And that means I didn't take a picture of them yet. But I think I did around 14 or so notebooks, using last year's kid-friendly Christmas card fronts.

In case you're wondering why in the world I'm making them notebooks for Christmas gifts, it was on the list of things they'd like to give out for Christmas. I had a bunch of stockpiled items from their list as well, so I'm going to put it all in a big box and let that be part of our Christmas giving this year.

I'll try to remember to post a picture tomorrow!
Saturday, October 18, 2008 1 comments

New photo software: Paint Shop Pro Ultimate Photo X2

I am totally in love with this program!! It was on sale this week at Staples for $70 after mail-in rebate (regular $100). I'm long overdue for a semi-professional photo editing program, so I treated myself, thanks to a months' worth of personal money.

Why did I need a new, better program? First of all, while Picasa has some great features, I needed more control over my images. Secondly, I needed to be able to fix and then save my images as high-resolution images for printing purposes. Thirdly, I've been wanting to try my hand at digital scrapbooking to see if it's right for me, but I had no program that was compatible with the level of control I wanted.

After seeing this software on sale, I checked several reviews and found that it scored high marks for value and end results. I originally thought I'd buy Photoshop Elements the next time it went on sale, but some reviewers commented that this was even better than PSE.

Anyway, I was not disappointed - not one little bit! Check out two photos I've adjusted just last night to see why I'm so thrilled with this program. (Click on the photos to see them larger. The smaller size doesn't do them justice.)

First of all, this was my favorite smile of all the pictures I took of my son with his new cast on. However, the lighting was terrible, and so was the white balance. I originally thought I'd have to use another shot, but check out the end result of playing with Paint Shop Pro Photo x2:

What I did: adjusted the white balance (Color Balance), removed distractions in the background (Retouch and Restore - Object Remover) and removed digital "noise" (Digital Camera Noise Removal).

Here's another photo I took for artistic purposes, but it didn't turn out the way I had envisioned. Enter PSPPx2 ...

What I did: straightened the photo, added fill flash, removed digital "noise" and adjusted depth of field. The result: exactly the photo I had envisioned!

I'm excited about the possibilities of this software! I'm also excited about the fact that I can finally save my retouched .jpeg images in a large enough file size to develop online. [Save File - Options - Lossless Encoding] The end result is as large as, if not larger than, the original.

As if that were not enough, I got a call today about taking pictures for a January wedding. This was a referral from a friend who had me take her son's senior pictures. The bride can't afford the $5000 (!) price tag of the professionals in our area, so she wondered if I could do it. I'd love to!

I think I got my software just in time. :)

Thursday, October 16, 2008 2 comments

Harvest Home: Over $320 in groceries!

Are you familiar with the Harvest Home concept? Some areas of the country call it a "pounding." I always thought it was amusing to hear parishioners talk about giving their pastor a pounding. :)

The concept is simple - parishioners bring groceries or other grocery-type necessities (paper products, etc.) for the pastor and family. I'm sure in pioneer days it was due in part to the fact that preachers weren't paid much of anything and didn't have a lot of time to devote to raising animals and tending gardens. But I'm still grateful some churches continue this tradition even when the pastor is on a salary, because it is always a huge blessing to our family.

Anyway, here's a (really small) picture of what we received in groceries for our Harvest Home this year (sorry it's small - it didn't resize well):

I logged everything and tried to figure an estimate of how much these groceries were worth. I'm sure I gave conservative estimates on most of it because I'm so used to sale prices, so it's probably well over $350 worth of groceries. Many of these items are things I consider luxuries and would probably not buy for us if I had to do the buying. Our church people know me well! :) I really appreciate all the treats, as well as the basic staples, we get every year!

All of this, and a sizable cash gift, from a congregation that numbers under 40! These people are so generous it's almost unbelievable. They have us thoroughly spoiled!
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 0 comments

Birthday countdown "calendar"

I mentioned yesterday that my son wanted to know, "How many days is it until my birthday?" Good thing there are less than 30 days between the kids' birthdays! :)

I had just picked up these space shuttle decorations from Dollar Tree ($2 cost for everything pictured here), so I made him a countdown "calendar" for his bedroom wall:

Every morning he gets to take down one space shuttle. The day he pulls down the last space shuttle will be his birthday.

Added bonus: I'm going to use these decorations in our school room later in the year, so I didn't pay any extra for this visual. Double bonus: I don't have to explain every single day that tomorrow is not his birthday. :)

I must admit this looks a little out of place in his John Deere bedroom. You know, John Deere meets the space age and all ... But he loves it, and that's what's important.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008 0 comments

A perfectly themed birthday party!

My son's 5th birthday is a few short weeks away, and he has been requesting an astronaut cake for months now. Fortunately I found an astronaut pan at a thrift store a few years ago! :)

We weren't sure what to get him for his birthday, though. Until I saw this on Craigslist:
Yep, it's an astronaut costume. And no, we're not using it for Halloween. It's a perfect "dress-up and play astronaut" gift - absolutely perfect! The original price was $60, but we got it for $15 because it has a small crack in the side of the helmet. My son will be so overjoyed at this perfect get-up that he isn't going to even notice the crack!

Of course, as my husband commented last night, in a few years we're going to have to quit giving gifts to go with the theme of the party because the kids are going to figure out what they're getting. But for now, we're enjoying this immensely.

Check back tomorrow when I'll show you the birthday countdown I improvised on his bedroom wall - with a space theme, of course!

My baby is 3!

We celebrated my daughter's 3rd birthday this last weekend. Since we don't have any family close by, it was just us. I struggled to think of what to do to make the day special, and then it hit me. We can still have a party if it's just us! And we can certainly spend the day together, doing things she enjoys.

So that's what we did. We went to Toys 'R Us to see if they had any dolls for her dollhouse (her family doesn't include a baby, but she wants one). They didn't have any, but she and my son had fun looking anyway.

Then we went to McDonalds. My husband and I were wishing we had picked a sit-down restaurant, but hey, it wasn't our birthday we were celebrating. The kids love McDonalds, so that's where we went. We considered getting them Happy Meals since we rarely do (as in, once in each of their lives so far) and they've asked a few times. My husband and I agreed, though, that the Happy Meal toys don't last very long - the attraction or the quality. So instead we gave the kids $2 each to get something at the dollar store. (We paid less than $7 for everything at McDonalds, including cookies, so we figured we could spare a few dollars.) They had a blast picking out identical Pooh Bear stamp sets and (different) puzzles.

Then we came home and I finished decorating her puppy cake. Both of the kids kept popping into the kitchen to see how it was going. Then they'd race off to stamp more with their stamp sets. Unfortunately, they ended up getting purple stamping ink all over their fingers - and, in my daughter's case, her whole hand. But at least it kept them out of my hair while I was finishing the cake! :)

And speaking of the cake, I was quite pleased with how it turned out. Here's a closeup:

I used the Wilton 101 Dalmations pan that I picked up at a thrift store one time for $2. I knew one of the kids would end up wanting a puppy party, so I grabbed it. Sure enough, that's what my daughter chose for her birthday.

All in all, we had a fun day and didn't have to spend a fortune. Better yet, I think we still made it a memorable birthday - with just the four of us! My daughter fell asleep singing "Happy Birthday" to herself. :)

Thursday, October 9, 2008 3 comments

Cookie sheet Advent calendar

Yesterday I mentioned the Christmas Countdown calendar I made out of a $1 cookie sheet. I found the pictures I took last year, so I thought I'd share them today:

Here is the calendar with all the boxes on it (you could also start with the "24" box and work your way down to "1"): And here it is with no boxes on it:

And lastly, here is a blurry picture of the tiny matchboxes that I decorated to hold little treats for each day (a coin or small piece of candy for each child):

Just a few design notes:
  • I would not use the clear-type stickers again, if I had it to do over. As you can see in the pictures, those "clear" edges show up. (I'm referring to the pine branch stickers across the top.) Definitely go with closely-cut stickers!
  • I covered small matchboxes (found at Wal-Mart in a bundle of 10 or so for around $1) for each day, but I've seen lots of these calendars done with just a punched-out shape for the days. I wanted to be able to have a little surprise each day, so I chose the matchbox idea, which was not original with me. (I just don't remember who I got the idea from!)
If you make one, please leave a link in the comments. I love to see other people's creations!!
Tuesday, October 7, 2008 2 comments

More great links for homemade gifts!

I've been collecting these for quite awhile now. I didn't realize how long it's been since I posted a link roundup, so here you go ...

For the sewer:

  • Here's a tutorial to make appliance covers. I need to make one for my stand mixer, so maybe I’ll get a few minutes one of these days.
  • I love lined baskets, and here's a tutorial to make your own liners.
For the paper crafter:

  • This candy carton carrier is so cute! It looks like we’ll have to figure out how to make the tops for ourselves, but it was too cute to pass up sharing with you.
  • I’ve made an Advent calendar from a cookie sheet, but this is another great (and beautiful) gift idea for $1 cookie sheets.
  • This calendar is a little more involved, but I’ve picked up similar ones at the store before. They’re great for writing your weekly menu. This way, you can design it to match your kitchen.
  • Stamp your own napkins for your next party. (Make sure you use smear-resistant ink!)
  • Do you have ugly Chap-Stick tubes in your purse? This project wouldn’t be hard, and I’m sure "tweens" would love it, too. (Hint: Wrap packing tape around them once you’ve adhered the decorative paper.)
  • This is pretty involved, but WOW! Who wouldn’t like a stationery box? (Or maybe it’s just me …)
  • Check out this composition book. Stunning!
  • Here's another card portfolio. Cute and easy!
  • This is a super-cute Christmas planner that would be perfect for yourself, as gifts – or for both.
  • These are so cute! Could these maybe, just maybe, be used for recipe card holders? If not, they’d make wonderful place card holders at a special dinner, or even "markers" at a buffet table to tell what everything is. At any rate, this would be another great hostess gift, especially packaged in a set. Here is a variation on the decoration.
And for the general crafter:

  • You can make a "white board" out of a regular picture frame. Who knew? Check out this great gift and/or decorating idea.
  • Or make a perpetual calendar using the same concept.
  • Here's a tutorial for covering cheap Bic pens with polymer clay. The possibilities are pretty much endless for this, and I could see kids enjoying this activity.
  • What 10-year-old boy do you know that wouldn’t like this gift? It’s a lot cheaper than those CSI kits at Toys ‘R Us! It wouldn't take much to fancy up those containers, either.
So who else is going to make something tonight? :)

2008 Christmas Project #2: Gift Tents DONE!

I actually finished these on Saturday, but I didn't have the chance to post them until today. I am so thrilled with how these turned out!!

Our Conference President and his wife were here this weekend, and they told me they know a lady who makes tents just like this and travels all over selling them for $100 each. Wow! I guess the $13 I have in each of them isn't so bad after all ...

Here is my son's tent. I opened the flaps to show you how the kids get in, but those flaps close, too. Isn't the snakeskin at the edges absolutely perfect? It just screams, "Indian teepee" to me! :)

And here is my daughter's, as girly as a tent can be:

And since they take up so much floor space (both of them covered most of the available space in my husband's large study), it's wonderful that they fold up to this size:

When they're folded (and tied with the shoelaces sewn onto them), they remind me of patio table umbrellas.

In case you want to try a similar project, I'll warn you that the kids are still going to need your help putting up these tents each time they come out. It takes a minute to get the "legs" just right, but once they're up they won't be coming down easily.

I cannot wait to give these to my kids this Christmas!!
Saturday, October 4, 2008 0 comments

Frugal framed prints

On Thursday my husband asked me to stop by a local thrift store and see if they had black sneakers. They didn't have any sneakers, but I did get some good coupons from their free coupon basket, as well as this wonderful gift book called Down a Garden Path by Karla Dornacher.

I have seen her books before and thought they were pretty, but I'm not much into the gift book scene. When I opened it and discovered that someone else had written in it, I knew no one would be wanting it for another gift. So I decided to buy it (for $0.25) and frame the pictures for inexpensive gifts.

My Dollar Tree has a nice selection of 8x8" frames, so I picked up a white and black one on my way home, too. I already had a burgundy one at home.

Then I went through the book and picked three pictures that would match the frames best. So here they are:

This is in a burgundy/purplish frame and is for my sister-in-law, whose kitchen is done in grapes. I especially love that these pictures are based on (and include) Scriptures!

I have someone in mind for this one, too. I really liked how the black frame set off the black in the picture and made the colors pop out. It says, "God shall supply all your needs."

Lastly, I just framed this one in white because I thought the white looked so nice with it. I didn't have anyone in particular in mind for this, but I may give it to our conference president's wife when they visit this weekend. I remembered that she likes to put Scripture on her walls, and I'm sure she'd like this one!

I consider this a wonderful frugal gift since it costs only $1 but is quite beautiful. And while it isn't a huge picture, it's a perfect size to go on someone's desk or on the counter in their kitchen.

I'm sure you're wondering how many full-page pictures are in the book. I counted 24, so that averages out to $0.01 each for the pictures themselves. I think my budget can handle that! :)

Friday, October 3, 2008 0 comments

Another card using my large rose stamp

First of all, a disclaimer: this was not my original idea. Most things I make are not my original ideas, but inspired by other people's creations. I'm not especially good at coming up with a design from nothing, but I can copy like nobody's business! :)

This was inspired by this card and this one. I searched Splitcoaststampers for this stamp to see what others have done with it because those ladies are so talented and they think of things I would never have thought of ... like making the rose 3-D!

First of all, I stamped the rose three times. Then I colored and cut them out, focusing on ever-smaller sections as I went closer to the center of the rose. This took a little time, but not as much as I originally thought it would. Then I added gold glitter, which I think I like better than the red glitter.

Then I assembled the rose, using pop-up dots on each layer (see below). After I made my card base, I attached the rose to the card with more pop-up dots, giving it lots of dimension. I also "popped up" the sentiment.

And here you have it - a card made with just the supplies I have on hand.
I love the 3-D effect, and I think I'm going to be using it a lot more often!
Thursday, October 2, 2008 0 comments

Using my large rose stamp

I've had this large rose stamp from Rubber Stampede for almost a year now. I've used it a few times, but I've always tried watercolor pencils or just colored pencils, and I've never been totally pleased with the results.

So I challenged myself to find a productive use for it. I discovered that I like it much, much better when I color it with markers and give it a bolder look. I used a basic marker set for this, so I'll have to break out my Bic Mark-It set to get more pastel colors.

So let me show you a few things I discovered along the way ...

First of all, I was pretty pleased with how the coloring turned out, and I added some red glitter to accent it. (Gold glitter looks nice, too.) Then I mounted it onto matching red paper and laid it against my dark green card base (a full 8.5x11" sheet folded in half).

Nice, but a bit bland. (Okay, a lot!) So I broke out my new pack of large acrylic flourish stamps to see what I could do for that card base.

That's much better! And just so you know, I'm terrible about random placement. Everything I do has to be extremely planned out, even if it's supposed to look random. So here's a quick peek at how that card base looks without the oval decoration:

I goofed a little on the placement of the flourishes at the bottom, but as you can see from the previous picture, it didn't matter at all.

I still thought the card needed something more, so I added this ribbon bow:

That looks better! I'm actually pleased with this one!
Wednesday, October 1, 2008 3 comments

Hostess gift #1 DONE!

I don't think I included the link to my original inspiration for these cute magnetic clothespins before, so here it is. This is a perfect, inexpensive little hostess gift and uses teeny, tiny scraps of paper (for those of us who can't bear to throw them away).

Here's a challenge for you: Can you tell me what is unusual in this picture? I noticed it as I was making them, but I stared at it about fifteen times before that and never saw it. It's really not a trick. I think it's more like a trick our eyes play on us. :) (Do I have you intrigued yet? If no one guesses it by Saturday, I'll try to remember to let you know what it is.)

This is one of several inexpensive little gifts I'm making to demonstrate at our church's ladies' meeting next month. I'm doing a "Homemade Christmas" theme and showing them quick and easy items they can easily make that will help cut costs. I know it seems early to do it in October, but some people like to plan ahead ... and November and December themes are pretty much a "given."