"Handmade (Not Homemade)" describes the way this Denver blogger approaches her many projects in life: creating, inspiring, loving and exploring. Living life to it's fullest requires more than a rag-tag assortment of homemade theories and thrown-together decisions. But the goal is not perfection, for handmade items and actions have a slightly imperfect organic charm.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Pot of Gold- Part 1

Since St.Patrick's Day is coming up, I thought I'd share with you my personal journey to track our family's Pot of Gold! You see, one of my New Year's Resolutions was to educate myself about our family's finances and create a plan to get us out of debt.

I'm proud to say that I have (and am still in the process) of successfully doing both.

My feelings surrounding money in the past was basically "ignorance is bliss," which is actually not blissful at all. I didn't want to see our monthly financial picture because I figured that if I ever saw that things were tight, it would stress me out. So my husband was in charge of all that. All the bill paying, all the earning (since I stay at home with our son), and consequently, all the "worrying."

I didn't think that was very fair. So when I took that burden away from him, I discovered that knowing how much money goes in and out and being able to control that is very empowering!

Here is what I have done so far, as well as the helpful resources I have found to help me. This will be broken up into a few posts, so that you can use it as a step-by-step tutorial and/or not get overwhelmed with all the "to-do's."

My main goals were to create a monthly budget and to craft a plan to eliminate debt in a few years. Three years, actually. By Feb of 2015, we will be debt-free, with the exception of our home mortgage, which at that time, we will be able to pay down more quickly starting then.

So here is Step 1: Gather your numbers.

Sit down with your spouse or significant other. You will need 3 pieces of paper, your computer, and all your bills (unless you can find them online).

On the first piece of paper, add up all the income your family brings in each month. Use your online banking to see a 3-month average. Or look at earnings statements/paychecks. Count every kind of income that you use to buy the things you need each month (pay, extra money earned, money from child support, etc.). If you have investments, you probably don't need to worry about that money if it is not accessable to you as a payout on a monthly basis. Come up with a grand total and circle it.

One the second piece of paper, write out all your monthly bills that relate to your home. You will see why this is in a seperate category later. Mortgage or rent, phone, power, water, TV, Internet, etc. I also put in our monthly alarm system payment and our pest control bill (I will be cancelling the pest control service in May, when our iron-clad contract expires, but that is another story... grrrr...)

On the third piece of paper, write out all your credit and loan accounts (credit cards, auto loan, home equity loan, lines of credit, student loans--anything that has a monthly payment and a term). Make 4 columns: Column 1-name of loan, Column 2-current total amount owed, Column 3-interest rate and Column 4: MINIMUM payment.

If you have other regular monthly charges (for example, newspaper subscriptions, fitness center dues, etc.) don't worry about those for this step, they go in another category that you will learn about later.

Then go to bed and stay tuned for the next step.

Don't stress. Feel good about what you are doing. You are about to use all the overwhelming amount if information you have gathered to create an amazing plan to get your family out of debt, start saving up for a long-term goal, and know where your money is going.


When I was first doing my research on financial empowerment, I ran across a business called Smart Cookies, which empowers women to take control of their finances. I downloaded their pdf about starting your own Money Group amongst your girlfriends to use as a support system and to provide yourself with some accountability.

I soon wrote an e-mail to about 20 of my girlfriends, hoping to recruit 4 or 5, to see if anyone else was interested in joing me.

Only one person was interested.

Everyone else had all kinds of excuses, most of them along the lines of "Sorry. I don't really WANT to know how much actually spend on [blah-blah-blah] each month." They were scared. And I get it, because I used to be scared, too. But I realized I had turned a corner in my thinking when I found myself appalled by that answer. Isn't it more scary to NOT know where your money is going?

I understand that if you do find out that you spend way too much on clothes, a hobby or something else (we found out that we spend an appalling amount on eating out) and need to cut back, it could feel like a punishment. No one wants to feel punished.

But I'm telling you that my husband and I feel very good about taking a lunch to work or having a home-cooked weekend breakfast or using a coupon from our Entertainment book to get a buy-one-get-one meal because we know it is a little step in helping us meet our ultimate financial goals.

Now you tell me: What are your emotions surrounding family finances? Are you anxious thinking about it? Guilty? Etc.? Who pays the bills in your family, you or your husband? Do you have a monthly budget? Do you know the details about your family's finances?

Monday, February 13, 2012

A baby shower...

My sweet friend Kristen is expecting a baby boy any day now! So we threw her a baby shower! Look at her loot!

So... just thought I'd share some photos of the decor my friend Stephanie and I came up with to celebrate Kristen's "Bundle of Boy." We had a theme of turquoise-blue and orange. The blue because it's a boy and Kristen's favorite color, and the orange because it looks great with the blue and between Steph and I, we had a ton of orange touches anyway.

When you are super-crafty and hoard pretty fabric and papers waiting for the day they will be put to good use, you can decorate a party on a teeny-tiny budget.

Stephanie had the orange tablecloth fabric leftover from Halloween and I made the runner out of a 2 yard cut of fabric I bought for a long-ago project I never got around to.

The month-by-month onesies, our gift to Kristen, were made with scraps from the fabric we bought for the napkins and other fabrics from my scrap drawer. They became part of the decor and we didn't have to do much else.

We both have a collection of milk glass vases, so we just put orange tulips and spray roses in them for little pops of color here and there. See how they livened up the buffet?

 And speaking of pops, I made cake pops in blue and orange (of course) as party favors. We used some scrapbook paper on hand to stamp "thanks." on the tags and tied them on with yarn.

Here is the whole dessert and favor bar.
We also used paper to make tags so guests could write their names on their drinks.
We all had a great time. I snapped all these photos just before guests arrived. Once everyone arrived, I put down my camera and got to chit-chatting and forgot to take a picture of Stephanie, Kristen and myself. Grrr....

Hope this inspires you to decorate on a budget for the next shower you host. It was really a lot of fun to collaborate with another creative friend to come up with all these ideas.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Valentine's Day Countdown Board

Yes, Valentine's Day is MORE than 14 days away. Which means you have plenty of time to make your own Valentine's Day countdown board like this one that hangs in my kitchen.

When all the numbers are opened, there is a sweet little message: "I love you so much."

Hurry! Go to the Target Dollar Spot and get 2 packages of red and pink heart boxes! Then gather the rest of your supplies.

I used (not all is pictured above):
  • heart boxes
  • sticky chipboard letters and numbers
  • 5 sheets of coordinating scrapbook paper (one is a full 12x12 and the rest can be scraps)
  • foam core (enough to glue the 12x12 sheet on to)
  • distress ink-or any other dark colored ink
  • scissors
  • craft glue
  • Exacto knife to cut the foam core
  • ribbon
  • 2 tacks or pushpins

The inspiration for my project was a board with the same-type boxes that spelled "I love you so much" since it uses 14 letters. This one was done with magnets and a cookie sheet. I wanted a lightweight wall hanging and didn't have any magnets on hand. Magnets are a bit pricey, so I decided to use mostly materials I already had. Lord knows I don't need to be buying any more craft supplies. The only things I actually bought for this project were the boxes and the sticky letters because I knew I didn't have enough letters and numbers in my stash for what I needed to spell. Also, I wanted mine to be more colorful than just red, pink and white, so I didn't buy any new Valentine-themed paper. I just looked through what I had and found something that was multi-colored and included red and pink.

Let's get started. First, lay out your boxes in rows that correspond to each word. I planned to alternate my boxes pink and red, but then mixed up the starting color of each row to make it a bit more random.

Then, peel and stick your numbers onto the outside of the boxes. You can put them in numerical order, or mix them up like I did. I originally started this project with my little guy in the room because he loves letters and numbers and I thought he would have fun sticking them on with me. Well, he had a little too much fun, because when I went upstairs for about a minute to get him a sippy cup, he had pulled off the numbers from a few of the boxes and was proudly yelling out the number he was holding in his hand. So I waited til his bedtime to finish the project.

Also, notice how the numbers are a titch too big for the boxes. That's ok--I think it gives it some personality.

Then take the lid off of one of the extra boxes and trace it on the backside of one of your papers to make the interior decoration for the hearts. Note the Houston Oilers pencil. I grew up in the Houston area and I can't believe I still have this. The pencil may be old, but it is still appealing to a 19-month-old. Note the little blurry hand that will grab this pencil and scribble all over the backs of the rest of the papers.

Then, cut the heart out about an eighth of an inch smaller than the line you drew so that the paper will fit into the inside bottom of the box. You may have to trim a couple of times.

Once the heart is the right size, use that one as a pattern to trace and cut 13 more hearts on your different papers. You can also use the same paper for all of them. I just wanted to mix mine up.

Time to decorate the hearts! First, place them on top of the boxes in the order that you want them, so you know which letter to put on which one.

Then, start distressing the edges with your ink. This is optional. I put distress ink on pretty much every paper project I do because I feel like it adds dimension and a subtle yet clear border to all the papers. Just scrape the edges of the paper on the ink pad.

And when you are done you will have this. Do it 13 more times for the rest of the hearts.

Now start sticking your letters on. If you do not want to buy chipboard letters, you could also stamp letters onto the heart papers. For the outside boxes, you could Sharpie or paint pen the numbers on--if you have cute handwriting ;)

Then glue each paper heart into the inside of the box.

Now it's time to prepare the background board. Using the scrapbook paper as a guide, cut a piece of foam core with an Exacto knife. Here is a tip for your foam core cutting technique: do it in several shallow cuts, not one big one. Trying to cut through the whole thing at once will usually leave you with some unevenness and tearing.

Then glue your paper on to the foam core. I used craft glue then used the flat edge of my ruler to smooth out any bubbles, working from the center to the edges. I actually distress inked the paper before I glued it on, but I would suggest that you do it after. It's just easier to work with a stiff piece of 12x12 paper than a floppy one.

Now, lay out your boxes on the paper for placement, and glue them down. Note the distressed edges.

If you want to hang your countdown on the wall, you will need ribbon and 2 tacks. Just cut your ribbon to the right length and tack it on each corner. The board is so lightweight that this is sufficient to hold it all together.

You're done! Don't get so excited that you hang it right away. Let it dry so the boxes don't slide down the board.

Now you have a cute little countdown to place treats or love notes in every day. I hope the boxes fit little chocolate covered cherries-those were my Dad's favorite.

Here is the completed board in mid-countdown!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Crafting in 2012

Happy New Year to you!

I have big plans in the crafting department for 2012. Especially about posting to my blog. See, I actually do a whole lot of projects that I do not blog about. I have quite a few on my camera that I never uploaded, etc.

So I am making a resolution for 2012: at least two tutorial posts a month. So this post doesn't count. (Unless you interpret it as a tutorial on how NOT to do something, see my Christmas rant, below.)

I know, I know, two per month doesn't sound like a lot. But I figure if I set my goals low, I will accomplish them. And I already have many of my projects mapped out.

This year, I plan to do at least one home decor project and one Christmas project per month. Why Christmas? Because I hated, HATED my Christmas decor this year. This was my tree:

Pitiful. We go out to our friend's property and cut our own tree every year, so they are not the variety sold at the stores. They are very natural and extremely imperfect. Not that imperfect is bad, but I don't think I did a very good job in working with the natural look.

And color: drab.

 I tried to spruce it up with a turquoise and orange theme, but that didn't really work out. I mean, can you even SEE that theme in these pictures, other than my wall paint? Don't answer.

So my goal this year is to plan and execute my Christmas decor projects throughout the year, so I don't get so overwhelmed come November by the amount of projects I would like to do. So if you are a fan of Christmas, stay tuned!

I also plan to up the content of my Etsy store, Retro Fresh Vintage. I have been taking thrift store finds and transforming them into useful modern decor. While I will not post tutorials for these projects, I will provide a link an updates on this site. If you follow me on Pinterest, you will see these projects there, too.

Time to get crafting. And blogging!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Fun playroom pillows

Warning: this is not a tutorial. Why not? The process to make these fun playroom pillows became so long and drawn out they I became frustrated and stopped taking photographs. I changed my mind (part of the design process) too many times and there were too many problems* that I ran into while making these pillows to keep track of the real steps.

I guess I made them sound hard, but actually, these pillows were fairly easy to make, and turned out much better than I originally expected. I designed them to be fun and kid-like, since they will live in the "playroom." But they are also sophisticated and chic enough since that room is also our family room, and where we watch TV and hang out.

Here's a quick rundown:
  • make pillow fronts by using some sort of patchwork pattern in several coordinating fabrics (I made my own pattern)
  • find images you would like to applique to the pillows, re size if necessary
  • cut them out of a coordinating felt fabric and applique them to the pillow front
  • find some coordinating trim for the edges, and sew it all together when you put the backs on the pillows

I used an envelope closure on the back of my pillows, so they are really pillow "slipcovers" and can be removed very easily. There are no buttons or a zipper, just overlapping fabric.

So here they all are! I chose animal images for the pillows. Elephant, lion, rhino and giraffe. I hope  Wyatt has fun learning all the animal noises later, although I must admit that I have no idea what sound a giraffe makes, if any!

*So, not to dwell on it, but here is a list of "problems" I encountered during the two-month(!!!) process of making these pillows:
  • chose fabric and made 3 of the 4 patchwork pillow fronts
  • decided I hated them because they looked too country-crafty
  • got upset that I had spent money on fabric that I now hated
  • abandoned the project, while still dwelling on it
  • solved the "country-crafty" problem by coming up with the idea of the chic silhouettes a la a Christmas Anthropologie pillow I remember seeing
  • bought felt for the appliques and chose my images
  • decided to take one of the 3 completed pillow fronts with me to the paint store to choose a new coordinating paint color for the family room, apparently losing the pillow front in the process
  • spent 2 weeks looking for the missing pillow front and/or waiting for it to reappear
  • decided to just go buy more fabric since I didn't have enough to complete a total of 4 fronts
  • saw that my favorite fabric store (and the only one in town that sells these prints) was sold out of some of the fabrics
  • sulked for 2 more weeks
  • was in the parking lot of a TJMaxx Homegoods store and saw what looked like a new quilting store
  • went into quilting store on apparently their 4th day open and thought I had stepped into heaven, bought additional coordinating fabric that I loved more than the original fabrics
  • sewed the pillow fronts and appliqued the animals
  • went to the store to get ric-rac trim to match the felt animals
  • discovered neither JoAnn's nor my favorite local place sells ric rac that color
  • decided to make coordinating piping myself, bought all the supplies
  • got home and could not find my zipper foot (an essential tool in making piping)
  • discovered that JoAnn's also does not sell zipper feet
  • had to find a little Vac & Sew place to get a new zipper foot
  • about 3 feet into making the piping, ran out of matching thread
  • got matching thread and finally finished

But I love them so much and I am so proud of them, that I think all the trouble was worth it!

Lampshade makeover

How cute is this lamp? It's little shade is like a fun dress. Or maybe more like a fancy hat since it's on top.

This is what this little gem looked like a few days ago.

I had been looking for something to makeover for a task light to fit under my upper cabinets in my craft area. When I saw this at the thrift store, I knew it was prefect for the kind of makeover I had in mind.

First, I spray painted the base glossy white, just like my other lamp.

Then I got to work on the shade.

Using scraps of fabric, I tore strips (yes, tore) about an inch and a half wide. I tore them so they would have little frayed edges. To do this, you just need to make a little scissor cut in the fabric, and rip away! It should tear right on the grain line.

Then I took my pile of strips to my sewing machine. Using a medium length stitch, I pushed the pedal slowly and in little spurts, so I could manually gather the pieces into ruffles by pushing the fabric under the presser foot as I went. They did not need to be perfect, so there was no way I was going to spend a lot of time doing ruffles the traditional way (sewing a long stitch, then pulling the bobbin thread to gather the fabric).

I also did not gather each piece individually. I connected one piece to the next into one long running stitch.

When I had a good long pile of ruffled strips....

I got out the hot glue gun. First, I used dots of glue to cover the bottom and top edges of the shade with some packaged seam binding I had on hand. If you have a plain shade, you can skip this step. Also, if I had been working with fabric in shades of blue I would have skipped this step as well. This pic is a little bleached out, but you can see at the bottom that I used light yellow binding.

While I don't have a picture of the next step, it's pretty self-explanatory. Starting at the bottom, use dots of hot glue to attach the ruffles to the shade. Wrap around and around, covering the top of the row below, until the shade is totally covered!

Here's the final result!

It fits perfectly under my upper cabinets, and gives me some great task light for when I'm sewing or working on other projects.

Oh the cost? The lamp and shade together were $4.99 at the Goodwill. I used the same spray paint from another lamp project, and the fabric strips were leftovers from a pillow project.

Wait a minute... the lamp itself was actually free. I had used a Goodwill gift certificate to pay for it (I got the gift certificate by attending a benefit for Goodwill where I got to meet Mondo from Project Runway). How cute is Mondo?

I guess we both like to turn patterned fabric into pretty things!

Thrift store find lamp trash to treasure

You know when you see something in a store and you are so obsessed with it that when you do not buy it right away, you just cannot stop kicking yourself in the pants for not getting it right then and there.

That's how I felt about this lamp when I saw it. I was completely transfixed by this...

Do you think I'm crazy? Wait til you see what I did to it! But first, the story.

One of my favorite fabric stores in Denver is in a pretty urban area, so parking is hard to come by. Rather than park a block or two away or driving around for a while looking for the best alternative, I park in the Goodwill parking lot instead and walk through their store on the chance that I may find something awesome.

The other day I walked through the Goodwill, saw nothing of note, then went to the fabric store. On my way back to my car, I thought I saw something amazing poking out of the donation bin. I literally stopped in my tracks. One of the cars driving through the lot waved at me to pass in front of him. His window was down, so I said "Oh no-you go on. I just saw something that caught my eye. Um, did you just donate an owl lamp?"

"Yes, I did," he replied.

That's when I became obsessed.

I know for a fact that Goodwill will not let you take anything out of the donation bin, even if you want to buy it right away and do not care abut the price. I probably would have paid $30 for this lamp right then and there. But no,  they have to "process" it-a process that can take a few hours or a few days. I was determined to drive there immediately the next morning, hoping that someone else did not snap it up first.

When I got there the next day, it was nowhere to be found. But I asked a nice volunteer about it (odd, he knew the EXACT lamp I was talking about ha!) and he went to the back room, priced it ($5.99), and let me take it!

And after quite a few coats of white glossy spray paint. Here it is:

The chic-est cheapest lamp ever!