Friday, December 28, 2012

DIY- Dr. Seuss Inspired Recycled Office or Art Organizer

Making an organizer from a variety of recycled paper products is a fun and earth friendly way to keep busy when it's cold outside. The project is very messy and the many short and simple steps are great for keeping the little ones occupied indoors.

You will need:
Paper Towel and Toilet Paper Tubes
Food Packaging Boxes in a variety of sizes (cereal, mac and cheese, Bisquick, etc.)
News Paper (If you want to use book pages or junk mail you may need to let the strips soak in the paste for a few minutes until they are soft and plaible)
Masking Tape
A Large Cookie Sheet
Aluminum Foil or Parchment Paper
Spray Paint or Sealer
Glitter/Stickers/Decorations Optional

Step 1:
Mix together 1 part flour to 2 parts water to make the paste. Pour the flour and water in a large bowl and stir it until it is mostly smooth. It should be about the consistency of white school glue. If you prefer a thinner or thicker paste, add more water or flour as necessary.  The flour gives it strength so try not to make it too runny, but this isn't an exacting endeavor and there is plenty of room for experimentation.  

Adding a dash of salt to the mix can help prevent mold in moist climates.

Keep your flour, salt, and water handy in case you need to mix more as you work. I worked in batches of about 2 cups of flour/4 cups water at a time and used about 2 bowls per organizer. You will use more or less depending on how many layers of paper you use and the size of the organizer you are making.

Step 2:
Cut your paper strips down to size. I prefer to work with strips that are about 1 inch wide and 6 to 10 inches long.

Step 3:

Cut up everything else!

Cut your boxes in half. (It is fine to make them taller or shorter if you want.)

Arrange your tubes inside one box segment. Use as many tubes as you can fit upright in the box without crushing any. If you need to cut away a section of box and refold it for a better fit you can.

Cut your paper towel and toilet paper tubes down to descending heights. (Mine are 5.25 inches, 3.75 inches, 2.75 inches, 1.75 inches, and 1 inch long.) I cut the tops of my tubes at angles to make it easier for little fingers to get stuff out.

 Step 4:
And now for some taping!
Individually tape all of you boxes firmly shut. This is mostly just for structure/strength.

 Step 5:
Call the Tetris theme song to mind. Then play a little modified game of cereal box Tetris. (In need some musical inspiration to help fit your boxes together? click here.)

After some playing around you should end up with something vaguely resembling:

Step 6:
Once you have the boxes together the way you would like them, tape away! Don't just tape around the outside! Remember to tape your tubes to the boxes, and tape the boxes in the middle as well.

You can cut and tape pieces of boxes to divide larger boxes or even put smaller boxes inside larger ones.

Step 7:
Cover the cookie sheet with foil or parchment paper.

Flip your box creation upside down on the sheet.

Dip your strips of newspaper into the flour paste and smooth them over the bottom of your box creation.  After covering the bottom with 2 layers of newspaper, flip the boxes back over on the cookie sheet and use this as your work space.

Now cover the entire surface area with 2-3 layers of newspaper being sure to smooth all of the edges.

For the tubes, saturate some strips of paper and roll them into a snake shape. Use your spoon or a pencil to press the snakes around the inner bottom edge of the tubes to seal them on the inside. The tubes may require a little extra time to make sure they are firmly affixed to the other boxes, each other, the inside, and that there are no remaining gaps. 

Push and pull a little so the boxes and tubes twist and turn like a Whoville Housing Project.

Step 8:

Take a dancing break. You have earned it

Step 9:
Put the oven rack on the lowest rung. Turn the oven to 200 degrees.

Place the cookie sheets inside. Bake until they are hard. 

Step 10:
Either  leave it rough or decorate it up. 

If you want to leave it rough, use a spray to seal and protect it from moisture.

If you want to paint it, do a base coat of spray paint. It may take several coats to cover the news print.  If you add your glitter while the paint is still wet, it will stick perfectly with the least amount of effort.  Once the paint has dried, you can paint on windows, add stickers, decoupage images from your favorite books, etc. Enjoy!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Decorating a 2 Liter Planter with Recycled Paper

In a previous post I did a DIY demonstration on how to turn a 2 Liter soda bottle into a draining planter. This is how to decorate it using recycled wrapping tissue.

You will need:
Decoupage Glue (I prefer mod podge, but feel free to select you own brand of glue)
1 2 liter bottle planter
1 paint brush you don't mind losing
Leftover wrapping paper
Acrylic Paint
Water Resistant Finishing Spray
Marbles or Pebbles

Step 1:
Follow the instructions to turn your 2 liter into a planter Recycled Soda Bottle Planter.
(Cut your 2 liter into 3 pieces separating the center from the top and base. Push the bottom segment into the body segment and then turn the top upside down and press it into the body segment as well.) 

Step 2:
Crumple your recycled tissue for texture and then tear it into small sections about 1 inch by 1 inch or so.  Paint a thin coat of glue onto a small section of your planter. Attach a piece of tissue to the glued section. Dip the brush in the glue and smooth the paper down to the plastic. Continue until the entire piece is covered in smoothed tissue.  Allow to dry.

Step 3:
When your tissue covering has dried, tape your stencil to the planter.  

paint over the stencil in your desired colors.

Step 4:
Once the paint has dried, remove the stencil and coat with water resistant clear coat spray.

Step 5: 
Fill the bottom with marbles or pebbles or stones for proper drainage. Then cover with soil and plant whatever you like. 

I tend to continuously plant cuttings of philodendrons, pothos, and begonia as gifts.  They are easy to grow as they require little attention or water for happiness.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Today I wrote the Huffington Post

And today, I made a post on facebook about how angry media coverage of such tragic events as Columbine, Aurora, and Newton make me.

Dear News, 
Please get out of the faces of those poor kids and their families. You can talk about these things from a distance. Outside the churches and community centers where they are gathering for support. An 8 year old's face immortalized in sorrow because you shoved your camera there to sensationalize their pain . . . It doesn't make me interested in your news. It makes me hate your actions, it makes me hate your media scare tactics, your insensitivity, your desperate need for popularity, fame, money, ratings. 

And. . . 

Dear America, 
Please stop telling the news this is what you want. Shut off your t.v. and tell news reporters you don't want to see tears streaming down the faces of children that should be alone with their families who love and support them. Staring mindlessly with your back side on your couch 500 miles away is not going to make that little girl feel any better. It is not going to help anyone, you aren't going to learn any thing new. You know it was awful. You already know those kids were terrified. Don't buy the products advertised on news programs that are invading the space of grief stricken children. Complain to your station. Write the AP.

So today, I sent this letter to the Huffington Post:

I understand people want drama, media scare tactics get ratings, images of suffering children pull viewers. I know you do what Average Joe tells you to do. I just want you to know that I came to your page to donate to this cause and what I found was pictures of suffering children better left alone, sensationalizing the sorrow and fear of innocents. Reports can happen from outside of schools and community centers and churches. These children and families are going through enough right now and asking them to publicly recount the tragedy. Photographing their pain. It disgusts me.  So in response, I will not be purchasing anything advertised on any page with close up images of these children and their families.  Not from any website, not from any news show.  I will not look to you for news coverage of this event or any other major tragedy. Thank you for your time

And it felt great.

I plan to do more of this, and I ask that as a human being, a mother, a father, you think about how you would feel if your child was in that building and came out to a heard of reporters snapping pictures and asking questions. How you would feel if you were trying to console your child to be interrupted by strangers. How you would feel if your child's face became the image to sadden the world into doing what? Giving higher ratings to a News Company. They are not there for the families, they are not there to tell you what happened, they are not there because they care. They are there because they are paid to be. They are there to shock, delight, and amaze.  Don't support it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Salt Dough - Inexpensive Holiday Projects for Kids

This time of year, my daughter tends to get heavily into the spirit of giving.  It is important for a child's self esteem to be able to take pride in a gift they have given to someone they love.  She gets so excited about being able to make something for someone. So excited to share her fantastic glittery ornaments.  Her eyes light up when someone opens a gift she has laboriously sculpted, painted, and wrapped.

Her gifts are sweet and adorable and reflect her exuberant spirit. They bring smiles and hugs. . .
And here is some honesty from a mom: a child's art is so full of life and energy, and creativity, and loud colors, and . . . umm . . . bright splotchy paint jobs. So every year, we find a new craft project to make some fun little ornaments for the family. Something that can be packed away with the season and brought out again later for the nostalgia with no hurt feelings.  We shoot for holiday or seasonal themes and usually just small Christmas ornaments. This year, our cookie cutters were on the larger side for our ornaments, but fun all the same.

You will need:
cookie sheets and an oven
acrylic paint
anything your kids like to use to decorate (glitter, paint, pipecleaners, puff balls, ribbon)

This is a project best spread out over a couple days to hold their attention.

First we made our salt dough:
4 cups flour
1 cup salt
1 1/2 cups warm water

Mix the flour and salt together. Then gradually add the water mixing then kneading as necessary.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Roll the dough out to 1/8 inch and use your cookie cutters.  (You may want to  keep a spray bottle with a little water handy as this dries out very very quickly.  )  We grabbed all of our Play-Doh accessories and went to town. We used our cookie cutters, but we also shaped and sculpted a few pieces. One batch was just right for 2 little girls, one mommy, and a quick appearance from Dad.  We  mixed up a second batch when the first ran out, but lost the attention of the wee ones.

Don't forget to poke holes in the tops with a toothpick.  If you want to make ornaments, you'll need to be able to run the ribbon through a hole at the top.   As you cut out your ornaments, have the cookie sheet ready. There is no need to grease it.

The recipe I found said to bake them at 325 for an hour, but after an hour ours were still a bit soft. We had better results baking ours for about an hour and a half. Until they were nice and hard and some were turning golden brown.  It was bed time by the time the ornaments came out of the oven.

After everything had cooled down, I packed our ornaments to paint later.

After a couple days, the ornaments had plenty of time to dry and harden.  We took them down to the craft room and broke out the acrylic paints.

One brilliantly painted Glow in the Dark Snowman with a Glitter Scarf and Pink Buttons!

The last step is to coat everything with a good sealant.  Even after baking, the dough is very susceptible to moisture. A good sealant will prevent molding etc.  If you are feeling extra craft, break out some ribbons for the scarves, some extra glitter for the stars, let the kids have a field day.  My daughter just wanted to use paint and sparkles, so this is our final result.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

DIY Bottle Cap Earrings

How to Make Spinning Bottle Cap Earrings:

You will need:

-A Well Ventilated Work Space
-2 Bottle Caps Removed From the Bottle Without Damaging the Cap (using a bottle opener will destroy the                  cap and unused caps will not spin)
-Antibacterial Soap
-Several Sheets of Paper Towel
-White Spray Paint/Primer. (I've tried many different kinds and the cheapest of the available spray paints and  primers tends to work best.  The really expensive metal specific primers tend to chip off fastest)
-A Smooth Quarter Inch Paintbrush That You Don't Expect To Keep
-Photoshop or Other Photo Editing Program
-Picture You Want to Use
-Regular Printer Paper
-1 inch Circle Paper Punch
-Bottle of Decoupage
-Metal Punch for creating 1mm hole
-Can of Clear Water Resistant Spray Craft Sealant 
-Large, Medium, and Small Beads (I recommend seed beads for small and medium and something fun for the large beads)
-French Wire Hooks
-2  2inch Eye Pins
-4  2inch Head Pins
-Looping Pliers
-Flat Pliers
-Wire Cutter/Cutting Pliers/Dykes whatever you prefer to call them.

1.) Wash and disinfect your bottle caps. Allow them to dry thoroughly.

2.) When the caps are completely dry, spray paint the tops white, careful to hit all the edges, all the way around. Spraying in short bursts in most effective. Allow to dry and apply a second coat in accordance with your spray paint's instructions for multiple coats.

3.) Soak your paintbrush in water for a bit so it is flexible and soft when it is time for gluing

4.)While everything is soaking and drying, load your image into your photo editing program.  I do these in bulk, so I tend to set an 8.5x11 blank canvas to work with with a medium to high resolution.  You want to choose an image without too much detail as you will be scaling it down to 1 inch in size and printing on non photo paper. 

  • a.) Go to the "View" tab and select view "grid" and "snap to" both "grid" & "guides"
  • b.) If your photo is on a white back ground, this will be much easier and you can skip this step.  Click on your image in the editing work space and remove the image from the background. You can use the back ground eraser,  the selection tools etc, whatever you are most comfortable with. When you have the back ground erased, select your image, and right click to feather the edges until the image appears smooth.
  • c.) If your image is already on a white background, use the elliptical or rectangular marquee tool to select your image.  
  • d.) Ctrl+C to pick up your image, select your blank canvas and ctrl-V to paste the image onto the blank page. Now scale your image up or down until it fits within one of the one inch grid boxes.  
  • e.) Use the eyedropper tool to select a color from within your image
  • f.) Go to Custom Shape Tool and select the circle shape with the thin outline. Starting in the top left corner of your one inch grid square, drag your cursor to the bottom right. Your circle should surround your image completely.  
  • g.) Flatten your image when you are satisfied then use the marquee tool to totally surround your image circle and all. Ctrl+C to copy and and ctrl-V to paste. Move the copied image and place it so that it doesn't interfere with the original image.
  • h.) When you are satisfied, print on regular photo paper, being sure not to scale the item to fit etc.  Then use you 1 inch hole punch to cut the image out.

5.) When the spray paint has dried thoroughly on your bottle caps (usually 24 hours) Dry your paintbrush as thoroughly as possible on a paper towel. If it is wet, it will smear the image on your bottle cap.  Paint a thin coat of decoupage onto your cap, place the image, and paint another coat of decoupage over the top. Be sure to decoupage all around the edges as well.  More coats help prevent the paint from scratching.

6.)Use your metal hole punch to place holes in either end exactly opposite each other to turn your bottle cap into a bead.

7.) Coat your new bead in spray sealant and allow to dry completely.

8.) Place one medium bead onto the eye pin, then slide the bottle cap on through only the bottom hole.  Place the beads onto the eye pin inside the bottle cap, then very carefully slide the cap up and insert the eye pin through the second hole.  Place a matching medium bead on the opposite side. Use your looping pliers to make an eye loop on the top.

9.)Use your flat pliers to attach your french wire hooks.  Do this for both bottle caps and eye pins.

10.)  Slide a small bead onto your head pin. Next use a medium, then a large. Use your looping pliers to bend an eye at the top of the head pin. Do this for all 4 head pins.  Trim the excess.  Attach 2 of your decorated head pins to the bottom of each eye pin.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Recycled Soda Bottle Planter

I have two terribly mischievous kitties. And often my kitchen floor looks something like this:

They are indiscriminate plant killers. So far my cats have destroyed  dieffenbachia, dracaena, pothos, philodendron, schefflera, peace lily,  african violet, geraniums, and spider plants without remorse. This image is my poor begonia.  We have been having a 3 year battle over the life of my poor little palm. Sometimes they eat them, sometimes they sleep in them, sometimes they bat them apart, but most often, they just lay down next to the pot, knocking it off the table. I am not completely sure, but I do think they put forth their best feline efforts at maximizing the inconvenience factor.   They seem to wait until I have finally gotten my daughter to bed and just as she drifts off . . . SMASH!  Too late to make a quick dash to the store, I scramble to save the poor helpless broken root systems. 

So here are some of my late night potting solutions:

You will need
 an empty 1 or 2 liter bottle
a pair of scissors
a knife
5 minutes

The bottom of a 2 liter makes for an excellent plant saucer:

If you need a whole pot, start by unwrapping an empty 2 liter.  I marked in sharpie where I usually cut to make a pot.  

Cut it into 3 pieces.  The top with the spout, the middle body, and the bottom saucer.  Be sure you do not leave any sharp spots or rough edges. 

 Flip the top upside down into the body.

Slide the bottom saucer into the body underneath the drain spout. 

You now have a makeshift flower pot.  The body cylinder stabilizes the unit and prevents tipping while the pour spout allows the soil to drain and the saucer collects run off.  If you are up to it, you can decorate the outside body of the flower pot with decoupage or paper mache for a more permanent potting solution.

OR. . .

 If you have a 1liter of Mountain Dew, cut the bottle again into 3 parts, but this time, the center is disposable.  

Just flip the top upside down into the bottom saucer again, but you don't need the center cylinder to stabilize the Mountain Dew bottle because it is designed a little differently and is stable enough like this.

For a Pepsi brand pot, I wrapped the 2 liter pot back up in it's original wrapper to shade the roots.  I recommend other forms of decoration, unless bachelor chic is all the rage where you live. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

DIY Upcycled Keepsakes Button Necklace

When my great grandmother passed away, almost 20 years ago, she left me a collection of antique and vintage buttons.  Since then the collection has grown, but I could never quite figure out what to do with hundreds of slightly mismatched buttons.  I kept threatening to throw them away, but they were just too pretty. So I hung onto them hoping and hoping to find a use for all these fantastic buttons. I finally figured it out.

All you really need is that old jar of buttons, a pair of scissors, a safety pin, and 2 long stands  of different colored hemp cut to about 60-65 inches in length.  If you don't already have a spare buttons jar, there are many great places to pick them up very inexpensively.  Local craft shows, antique stores, antique malls, etc.  If you live near Lansing, Michigan you should check out the Little Red School House for vintage crafting supplies, buttons, and odds and ends.

Step 1
 Lay the strands of hemp out side by side and fold it in half. Tie a knot in the strands of hemp so they are held together  forming a loop at the end.   You want the loop to fit a four hole button in your collection. This will be half of your button hole clasp. Using your index finger to gauge the width usually works pretty well for me.

Step 2
Use the safety pin to secure the your hemp strands to something steady. 

Step 3
 I wrote this in giant blue letters so you can refer back to it as needed. 
1.) Fold the left strand (red) over the base strands and under the right strand (blue). Bring the right strand (blue) under the base strands  and then up and over the left strand (red). Tighten the knot.
2.)Then fold the right strand (blue) over the base strands and under the left strand (red). Bring the left strand (red) under the base strands and then up and over the right strand (blue). Tighten the second knot.

(If these images are too hard to follow, Beadage has some pretty easy to follow illustrations.)

Step 4
Now reverse your colors. Bring the outside over the base strands into the center.

Step 5
Repeat the knots from above using your new outside color.  Use a pen or pencil to space your knots so they create a loose weave. Put the pen against the last set of knots and pull your new knots tight against it. Then switch your inside/outside strands again.  

Step 6
After your third pair of knots,  string a button onto your base strands (which will be the original outside color). And repeat the process again using a pen to space your knots and reversing colors each time. Every third pair of knots, add another button. Continue knotting and stringing until your necklace is the desired length.  I left mine at about 15 inches for a choker length.  

Step 7
Like any good craft show, after 5 minutes of work I happen to pull out an already finished necklace, leaving this with a deceptively quick and simple appeal. You keep going while I stand here and talk about something completely unrelated . . .suddenly skip to the end. . . No really, I'm waiting for you. . .

String all four strands through a medium sized (1.5 cm should work very well if you used your index finger as a guide for the hole size) four hole button. Make sure your button fits through your loops easily enough to do it once you knot the end.  Draw all four strands together and tie off the end.  

The original necklace can be viewed at