DIY: Handmade Ceramic Coasters

I hope you enjoyed the long weekend and ate your fill of turkey and pie!  We relaxed together, traveled down to Newport for an overnight, and got some projects done.  I’m happy to report we sailed smoothly through putting up two Christmas trees, our outside lights, and our wreaths yesterday.  It’s beginning to look like Christmas!  I even made last night’s Shutterfly deadline and ordered my holiday cards for 30% off.  While I am certain this level of organization won’t last, it’s been a productive few days.

I’m also happy to report that I made several sets of handmade coasters this weekend.  I’m excited to give them to some family members for Christmas.  These would also make great hostess gifts.  You could also buy bigger tiles and make trivets for the chefs in your life.

I picked up some white 4.25 x 4.25 inch ceramic tiles from Home Depot (just .16/each!), and a giant pad of colorful scrapbook paper from Michael’s.  I already had Modge Podge on hand, but Michael’s has it if you need some.   I’ve also made a bunch of these using photos for Christmas presents, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise by showing them here.


Here is what you will need:

+A good pair of scissors

+A ruler

+A pencil

+A medium-sized paint brush

+Several ceramic tiles measuring 4.25 x 4.25 inches

+Decorative paper of some kind

+Modge Podge

+Clear spray polyurethane

+White felt (for the backs)

Here’s what you need to do:

+Start by wiping the tiles to remove any dirt or dust.

+Select the paper you want to use.

+Using your pencil and ruler, measure out squares of paper to go on top of the coaster.  I recommend making the squares a bit smaller than the coaster.  So in this case, the tile measured 4.25 x 4.25 inches and I cut my paper squares to be 4 x 4 inches.

+Spread a thin layer of Modge Podge onto the tile.  Carefully line up your paper square evenly and press gently into place on the tile.  Let dry 20-30 minutes.  A thin layer is key to your success.  I learned the hard way that the paper will bubble up and wrinkle if there is too much Modge Podge on the tile. Also, don’t try to lift up your paper if it’s not lined up totally even because it will rip.

+Next, brush a thin layer of Modge Podge over the top of the paper square and let dry 20-30 minutes.  Do not worry if you haven’t worked with Modge Podge, it dries clear!  Repeat once or twice more.

+In order to use these for drinks, you will want to protect them from water.  In a well ventilated area (I used my garage), gently spray a coat of clear polyurethane spray over them.  lf it’s new it should be fine, but if it’s one you’ve had around the house, be sure to test it as sometimes polyurethane can yellow over time.  Repeat after they are sufficiently dry according to directions.

+The last step is to apply felt to be sure these won’t scratch up your counters and tables.  Measure and cut white felt squares the same dimensions as your tiles to glue onto the back.  I’ll just use the Modge Podge again, but any craft glue would be fine.  I bought the felt at Joann Fabrics.






DIY: Upcycled Sap Bucket Trash Cans


My mother-in-law deserves all the credit for this project.  Even though we’re going to talk about trash cans, it’s a very creative and a fun way to decorate.  It’s also easy and quick, and something you can involve your kids in.  My husband’s grandmother made these as well, so it’s a pass-it-down sort of project.  Of course you could use any sort of metal can for this, but the sap buckets really add character.  You can find them on Ebay or sometimes at antique shops, depending on where you live.

Here’s what you will need:

+Sap bucket or other metal trash can

+Some kind of artwork, photo, or magazine pages to decorate your can.  You could really do anything, so be creative!  We haven’t finished my daughter’s pink can, but we may do a big photo collage.

+Spray paint in your color of choice.  Some types of spray paint are meant for metal, so be sure to read the labels.

+Spray adhesive like this to adhere your images:


+Spray polyurethane (clear)

Here’s what you need to do:

+Choose your spray paint and paint the can in a well ventilated area.  Apply at least two coats and let it dry thoroughly.

+Figure out what image(s) you will use.  My mother-in-law bought an inexpensive coffee table art book to tear the pages out of.  You can put a big image on each side of the can.

+Adhere the images to the can with the 3M Super 77 (image above) and let dry.

+Finish off with polyurethane over the images.

+Voila!  You are done.  Here are a few more of the completed sap bucket trash cans:


These would make great Christmas gifts.  Don’t want to give someone just a trash can?  Use it as a gift basket with smaller wrapped gifts.  Fill the bucket, then wrap the whole thing in clear cellophane and tie with a ribbon.






DIY Projects: Easy Slipcover/Envelope Pillow Tutorial

Yes, you CAN easily make a pillow!

Project level: Beginner

***If you don’t sew, and have no desire to, but love the idea of updating your house with new pillows, skip to the bottom for a few suggestions of where you can buy some great ones!***

If you are someone who thinks they can’t sew, but would like to learn, have no fear. This is the perfect project for any beginner. This is also a very affordable way to make a quick update in any room and the entire project should take you an hour or less. If you own a sewing machine or have access to one, own an iron, and can sew a straight line, you can do this!

In terms of fabric choice, I do think stripes and geometric patterns are the easiest for beginners because you can typically line things up and cut them easily.

First, you will need to measure your pillow.  Use a tape measure across the center and measure from seam to seam. Some pillows are marked on the tag.  My pillow is 14″ x 14″. Be sure to iron your fabric before cutting this out.

Next, figure out how much fabric your pillow will require.  Your first measurement will be the length of the short side, so 14 inches in my case.  The other measurement is calculated by multiplying the length of the long side by 2 (for both the front and back) and adding 4″ (for the seam allowances and overlap).  So in my case, I cut my fabric 14″ by (14″ x 2 + 4″), which comes out to 16 x 32. Here is my rectangle, all cut out:


OK, now press & hem your two short sides.  These will eventually become your flap in the back. Place fabric right side down with a short side towards you.  For my pillow this meant the 14″ sides.  Fold and iron a 1/4″ hem on both sides.  Then, fold each side over another 1/4″ (to hide your unfinished edges), iron edges flat, then pin and sew both hems. It should look like this:


STEP 4: Next, sew your side two seams.  Now place fabric right side up with the long side towards you.  First, fold one side with the 1/4″ hem over a bit more than half-way.  Fold the other side over so it overlaps the first side.  I folded one side of mine 8 inches and the other 6 inches, which gave it a 2 inch overlap.  I then put my pillow on top, to make sure it all measured evenly and would fit..  Pin each of the side seams, and sew with a 3/8″ seam allowance.  Be sure to trim the seam allowances at each corner. This will ensure your 4 corners stand out nicely.


You’re almost there: This is my favorite part of sewing…I call it your “reveal” because it usually involves turning something inside out to see your finished product! So, turn each side right side out and stuff your pillow inside. I prefer using down pillows a bit smaller than the pillow case.  As for where to buy pillows, there are lots of options such as Joann’s or  If you’re in the Boston area, they have great pillow forms in the basement of Zimman’s.



No desire to sew? Check out these great Etsy shops to buy yourself some cute new pillows:

 Enjoy your new pillow!



DIY: $10 Art With My Daughter

I love doing art projects with my kids.  I’m a self-admitted crafting junkie, and I love to sit and watch as they create masterpieces.

A couple of years ago we went on a lovely trip for my mother-in-law’s 70th birthday to South Seas on Captiva Island, Florida.  (aside: if you’ve never been there, it’s a great spot for families:  The beach is gorgeous, and there are tons and tons of shells.  Here is a small sampling of what we brought home:


My daughter is 7, and decided recently that she really wanted to do something with a few of her favorites.  It was a fun and simple project and required very little time.  Here’s what you need:


You will also need some type of flat wood you can paint in advance, depending on your desired size.  We got our piece at A.C. Moore and it was around $2.00.  Simply paint the wood and let it dry.  Then, arrange your shells.  Use the glue to adhere your shells (note, it smells terrible and should be used in a well-ventilated area).  I ordered the glue on Amazon.  Let it dry overnight.  Find a ribbon that you like, and staple it to the back.  Be sure to measure so that it is centered for proper hanging.

Here’s the finished product.  It’s simple and small, but my daughter is very proud of it.  It looks very cute hanging on her wall above her bed.  I dated the back with a Sharpie because I know before I blink again, she will be heading off to college and I want to remember when we made it.

shellroom  shellonwall

Happy creating!




DIY: Cleaning Muffin Tins

I’ll admit it:  I ALWAYS leave the muffin tin overnight.  “It’s a soaker,” I say in a resigned voice, before heading up to bed.  The next morning, I come down, hoping that the crumbs have come loose like they always seem to effortlessly do in the Dawn commercials.  Sadly, it never happens this way.  Usually about half of the residue is left behind.  So, I soak it again, and scrub some more, and wait again.  This goes on for a few tries until I either settle for it being 80% clean, or I’ve scrubbed nonstop for what seems like forever.

You would not think it would take me 42 years to figure out that there is a much simpler way to deal with this, and maybe you all are way ahead of me.  When I make muffins like this, I am often left with a real mess.

Today I tried baking powder and I don’t think I will ever go back to store-bought dish soap when dealing with tins.  I mixed about 1/2 cup with a couple of splashes of very hot water.  I gently scrubbed, and it worked very well.

I also just read that as soon as you take your muffins out of the pan, another option is to immediately fill them with water and stick back in the hot oven for 10-15 minutes.  I haven’t tried that yet, but I will soon.

Finally, a clean muffin pan.  It’s the little things, people!




DIY: Sew A Burp Cloth (In 30 Minutes Or Less!)

Just when I thought nobody I knew was going to have another baby, a friend in town had an adorable girl a few weeks ago.  I made her my absolute favorite gift to give: burp cloths.  All moms know how vital these are for survival during those first six months, so you might as well have something stylish on hand!

This is a PERFECT project for a beginner looking to sew something fun and useful!

Don’t need a baby gift to make but love this idea?  Repurpose an old hand towel with a strip of fun fabric and use it to dry dishes and glasses next to your sink!

Resources:  My favorite place to shop for fabric is (I recommend 100% cotton fabric for this project).  My favorite spot to buy ribbon and trim is Les Bon Ribbon.

I am partial to Gerber pre-fold Heavy Weight Gauze Cloth Diapers.  I like how soft they are after a few washings.  I recommend buying a set and washing, drying, and ironing each cloth you plan to sew.  This way, they will be good to go and can be cleaned with all of the baby’s other soiled items.

Start by measuring and cutting out a rectangle shape of fabric, approximately 6 1/2 x 18 1/2.  This will allow a 1/2 inch seam allowance on all sides.  Line the fabric up accordingly, press, and pin in place like this:


Don’t worry if it’s not perfect.  I’ve never found a burp cloth that was an exact rectangle, so just do the best you can to make it look even.  Then, sew all the way around, using a 3/8 inch or smaller seam allowance…


When you are done, press the cloth and fold.  Voila, you are done!  This is the “base” style, and if you’re really short on time, or like the simplicity, stop here!


If you have time, now the real fun begins.  You can add trims and ribbons to your liking.  Here is my completed set.  Note, I did one with the first initial of the baby’s name.  Simply print a letter out in a font you like.  Trace it onto the fabric you will use for the letter, then cut it out.  Hint:  You will need really small, sharp scissors to cut it out well.  Press and pin it onto the cloth where you want it.  Using a zig-zag stitch, sew around the letter in the matching thread color.


Now, all I need to do is make her a card…



Have fun sewing!







DIY: Recycle Your School Supplies

I find it totally outrageous that I spent over $150 at Staples for new school supplies last year.  Now that my children are going into 2nd, 4th, and 6th next year, I’ve decided to take things into my own hands.  Up until this point, I have felt intimidated about sending in second-hand supplies, bordering on concern that it somehow would be unacceptable.  My aggravation about spending all of this money over the years has grown, as things like several boxes of gallon bags and baby wipes have been requested. After a recent conversation with a friend, I am going to suggest that our schools need to write on each request list that repurposing supplies in good working order is acceptable.

My mother just retired from teaching, and every year she had a ridiculous surplus of supplies hanging around. In our own home, we have amassed enough colored pencils, regular pencils, and Crayola markers to outfit an entire classroom.

As I write, three plastic pencil boxes are in the dishwasher.  All supplies that came home are being sorted.  Anything broken or really tired is getting tossed.  I’m reviewing the lists for next year, taking time to check off what we already have.  Then, we will sort what we have into bags for each child,  My goal is to cut last year’s bill at least in half.

Here’s some of what we’ve recycled so far:


Getting the kids on board is an important part of this change.  Just because it says “Staples brand glue stick” does not mean other types won’t do the trick.  Pencil still works but has no eraser?  Just add eraser “toppers” to them.  Pink erasers, highlighters, and dry erase markers came home this year barely used so they will be going right back into school “as is”.  I was very impressed and excited to see my kids recognizing the value in reusing items, and look forward to having them help me finish the project before we spend any money beyond what is truly needed.  Also, explain that saving an extra $100 in school supplies this summer could mean instead taking a special family outing.

Happy recycling!








DIY: Organize Your Paint Colors

Hopefully, you’re way ahead of me on this.  If you’re not, this is a fast project that will make you feel like you accomplished something in a very short window of time.

We just did a major interior painting refresh and I’m embarrassed to say I spent a lot of time trying to figure out the names of the paint colors in each room.  Some were easy, as I knew I wanted to change them, so I did not worry about them.  I only wanted to be sure this time around I remembered what color we painted each room.

Here is my simple, ten minute way to organize your swatches (plus a quick trip to your local paint store to get the swatches).



Hopefully you have a file cabinet with all sorts of things in it: warranties, home improvement bills, and all those documents you never want to lose.  Now, I can just file this it away and pull it out the next time we need to paint.  It will be much less stressful than searching through piles of rusty paint cans in my garage.

Happy organizing!




DIY: Easy Initial Frame

I’ve been very busy this week gearing up for some Spring projects around here.  We’re going to be doing a lot of painting, refinishing hardwood floors, and eventually getting our family room renovation started.  I’m also in the process of slowly updating my eleven year-old’s room.  Her original pink, green, and yellow patterns are worn and dated and she is ready for something a little more sophisticated.  Here is a glimpse of her new fabrics, which I love.  I’ll be sure to share what I plan to turn them into with you sometime soon.


Anyhow, our limited interior design budget has highlighted one fact: for now, I AM the decorator.  The truth is that I really love doing it, and find it so rewarding when I can do it well on my shoestring budget.  The quick project I just finished for her room is a great example of thrifty decorating with a Pottery Barn look.

It started with this gold frame, which I bought at a yard sale last year.  There were 3 taped together for $1.  The wire is already on the back, so it’s ready to hang.  Of course you could use any shape, and could easily buy one at somewhere like Christmas Tree Shops.


Next, I went to Home Depot and picked up a can of spray paint for $4.  I’ve found this brand to be very easy to work with in the past:


Next, I removed the inside piece and traced an oval onto some pretty paper I found at A.C. Moore:


It was at about this time that I realized the wiring in the back was set up for the frame to hang the wide way, and not the long way.  You’ll see what I mean at the end.  My daughter wanted just her initial, but you could add anything at this point.  I thought about doing a smaller photo, a peace sign, or spelling out her entire name.

Next, I painted…


I ended up doing two coats.  I don’t show it, but be sure to cover the wire with newspaper or something so it does not get coated in paint.

Before reassembling the frame, I cleaned up the glass with Windex as it was sort of gross.  For the letter, I ended up drawing it freehand.  You could just as easily print out a letter and blow it up to size.  I used a thick cardstock and painted it with acrylic paint.  I then attached it using a glue stick.  Here is the finished frame…


I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.  All in all, it took less than an hour (not counting the paint drying) and cost about $7.

Happy crafting!






DIY: Sewing A Quick Valentine


As much as I love to write about motherhood, I like to sew even more.  As some of you know, I used to make and sell handbags, belts, and baby gifts.  Now I like to find quick projects here and there.  This bag took about an hour from start to finish, and I mailed it off to my mom this morning, filled with chocolate hearts.

You can make this if you are a beginner or intermediate sewer, and you don’t even need your zipper foot.  I found this wonderful tutorial:  and modified it, using fabric I had on hand.

If you don’t sew, at least consider going old-school and make Valentines with your kids.  There is nothing like doilies, red and pink paper, some glue, some glitter, and markers to take your back to your youth and tap into your inner creative.  Besides, cards are so expensive!

Remember, it’s the thought that counts.