Making Stuff

I’m sure most people are looking at the title of this post and thinking, “whatever”. But if you are in Texas and looking for fabric, then you need to know. I’m not sure if some of these are the biggest fabric stores in Texas, but they’ve got to be close. For years I’ve been stuck in the fabric desert of Austin. There are a few little quilt shops but if you’re looking for home decor fabric, especially, you’re plumb out of luck. There’s a great store called Cowgirls & Lace out in Dripping Springs where I bought my family room sofa. It’s the couch I knew in the preexistence. The store also sells quite a bit of fabric and accessories and is all-in-all a really awesome place. But it’s a 45 minute drive.

It’s now been over seven years since I bought that sofa. It’s slipcovered and the seat cushions and arms have gotten rather threadbare so I decided when my mom came to visit in December that we would make new slipcovers (and by “we” I mean “she”). I also bought two new chairs from the Pottery Barn outlet that needed matching slipcovers as well. The Carolina armchairs retail for $1000 each but I got two for $625. I am a very gifted shopper. I really love the colors in my family room so I didn’t want to change anything so much as just freshen everything up.

Because there is a dearth of home dec stores, I ended up getting most of my fabric online. That’s a real pain because you’ve got to wait for swatches to be sent, then you’ve got to wait for the fabric you’ve ordered to be sent. It would be a lot easier to just see everything in real life immediately.

If you do want to shop online–if you’ve got toddlers/live in the middle of nowhere/need something ultra specific–I’ve had the best luck with Decorative Fabrics Direct. They’ve got great prices and a gigantic selection. They also ship super fast. They’re in Atlanta but my fabric usually arrives within two or three days.

Here is what I wish I had known: there are a many really huge and amazing fabric stores in Dallas. I’ve heard that it’s a fabric-capital kind of place but that doesn’t really make sense. Nearly all fabric is imported* so if Dallas were a port city like LA or New York I would understand.  Whatever the reasons there are several massive fabric stores to be found. And since Dallas is only three hours away I headed up there yesterday. (You know you live in Texas when a three hour–each way!–drive is no bid deal.)

Most fabric shops are in a really sketchy part of town where Harry Hines Blvd and Perth Street intersect. Nearby are lots of strip clubs and Hispanic wholesale businesses. Charming! In a square block are 6-8 warehouse-type fabric shops. Some of these are Costco-sized.

Fabric WArehouse DAllas

 

Home Dec warehouse Dallas

Dallas Home Fabrics and Best Fabrics are entirely devoted to Home Decor. There is some crossover, though. Dallas Home Fabrics has a gigantic selection of Dupioni silk. You can use that for home dec or making a dress. There’s no real difference except for the width of the rolls. (Are you guys seeing all the rows? They just keep going and going!)

Rolls of silk Dallas

Or how about some pleather? If you need some, you’re all set. This is ALL fake leather. There was another aisle besides this one. I believe this was at Fabric Wherehouse.

Vinyl leather Dallas

My favorite place was a shop called Super Textiles. It’s owned by a guy named Steve who is the only friendly New Yorker in existence. He’ll show you all around and even give you the lowdown on the other fabric shops nearby. When you first walk in there is an anteroom of buttons. While I had heard about this before I went I was expecting a giant room with walls of buttons on little cards like at the fabric store. I seriously love buttons. Seriously. Unfortunately they were all boxed up. Not as exciting but you can find pretty much anything. (Although I didn’t see any super cool artisan buttons.) What they have is all dirt cheap.

Buttons Dallas

Speaking of dirt cheap, everything at Super Textiles is dirt cheap. I found some cute striped cotton for our Easter dresses/ties that I’d seen around town for $12/yard. Steve had it for $4/yd. I also got some really unusual rayon that has the loveliest blue and yellow bird motif for $3/yd. And invisible zippers for $1 each!  They’re $3.75 at JoAnn!   Needless to say I walked out with 15 of them.

Most of these stores are not your typical well-lit, nice fabric stores. You may have to pick thorough bolts and ask for prices because things can be a bit jumbled. But there are some crazy great deals and a lot of fabrics you simply won’t find anywhere else. Also don’t expect any customer service. Aside from Steve, pretty much nobody spoke to me the entire day.

Home Dec Crammed Dallas

Some shops are quite a bit more organized.

Rolls of home dec dallas

There is a shop called Golden D’Or (which means Golden of Gold. Allrighty then!) around the corner from these that has a lot of everything. Everything. Never have I seen so much spandex (are people making leotards or what?) or my mom’s favorite: cotton knits of every color and pattern. Racks of minky, bridal lace and everything in between. Need to make a prom dress?  Georgette and Organza of every color. There’s another shop on Perth that also sells nothing but special occasion fabrics. If you want to make a bridesmaid or Quinceneara dress, this is your place!

Special Occasion Fabric Dallas

 

Sparkly fabric Dallas

 

Also of note is another home decor store called Childress Fabrics. It’s closer to downtown (2512 Ferris St. Another super sketchy area. There are other locations throughout the Dallas area but this main shop is their biggest). Unlike the warehouse-type stores that I talked about above, this shop has many employees who are super helpful and asked a hundred times if I needed assistance with anything. Childress also has an online store. As a matter of fact I had ordered a pretty floral for my sofa from them. I’m still looking for more fabric to cover the pillows on the back of my sofa so I wanted to be sure to stop by Childress to see some things in real life that I had my eye on. Just look at these poor naked pillows!

Sofa unfinished cushions

Anyway, Childress did not disappoint. It’s also humongous, but arranged according to color. There is a lot of beige these days. Beige is the Lifetime Channel Movie of decorating. It is a meaningless color. But I still have beige carpet in my house. And several beige walls (I didn’t pick them out, obviously! And I’m not made of money so change is slow.) But there is plenty of fun and colorful stuff at Childress too.

There is also trim. Oh my goodness gracious Agnes. There is a whole huge room of fringe and cording and every other thing you could sew onto a piece of furniture. Nothing was exactly right for what I needed, though. I picked colors for my family room that don’t seem to be terribly popular right now. Which is partly frustrating and partly makes me happy that my house doesn’t look like everyone else’s.

Rooms of trim Dallas

 

If you happen to be in Texas and you know how to sew, a trip to Dallas is most certainly worth your time!

 

*Back when I was a little girl there was still a big fabric industry down South. We’d go to visit my grandparents who lived right on the border of North/South Carolina and sometimes I would get toted around to the fabric factory outlets. Those days are looong gone.

 Bottle and dropper

Have you been hearing about cleaning your face with oil yet? If not, you will soon. The Oil Cleansing Method is all the rage. If you’re new to the concept of cleaning your skin with oil this will sound like the most ludicrous, bizarre notion EVER. Because who puts oil on her face? Who??? Lots of people! Me, for one.  I am incredibly picky and vigilant about skincare. So when I say that my skin has never looked better since I started washing with oil, you’d better believe that it’s good stuff. We’re talking luminous angel skin. I haven’t cleaned my soap with soap in over a year.

You know your skin produces oil all the time, right? Oil isn’t bad. Oil is what keeps your skin looking dewy and fresh. But if the oil production goes into overdrive it can cause problems. It can combine with bacteria and dirt and cause zits and blackheads. But without oil you will start to look like a raisin. No girl wants to look like a raisin!

All the commercials and ads have convinced us that we must use cleansers to get rid of the oil! That only when all oil is gone will we have good skin. So we buy all these cleansers thinking that we must get our skin clean CLEAN CLEAN. But then our skin gets dried out. Skin doesn’t like to be dry, so it sends a signal that we must produce even more oil. So our face becomes oilier. And more oil attracts more grime.

Then we start throwing moisturizers in there because our skin is so dry after we wash it to death; moisturizers full of chemicals and all sorts of nasty things and pretty soon our faces are not happy. Our skin is a big fat mess. We need to find a happy medium.

That’s where oil comes in: oil actually cleans oil. Without getting too science-y, like dissolves like. We need nice, nourishing oils to get rid of the gross, dirty oils on our faces and to do it without stripping our skin bare.

I know you are feeling mighty skeptical right now but believe me when I tell you that washing with oil will make your skin look phenomenal. It will feel so lovely and healthy you won’t even be able to deal with it. I get compliments on my skin every single day. Not kidding. This is one of the big reasons why.

Here’s what you’ll need to do:

Get some washcloths. I like grey ones because I don’t want to have to worry about stains from my eye makeup.  Cleasing with oil will take every stitch of makeup off; even the most waterproof mascara ever. I bought a big stack of washcloths at Target for just a few dollars. You’ll only use them a couple of times before they need to be washed in very hot water. Don’t use fabric softener or dryer sheets.

Get some hot water. Let your faucet run til it’s nice and steamy or heat some up in the microwave. You want it hot but not hot enough to hurt you.

Make up your oil mixture.* You can’t just use any oil, silly! Most of the oils you’ll need can be bought at a health food store or maybe a grocery store with a fancy organic department. If you want to make it easy then just buy everything online (read the footnote below for more details).

The number one important oil to use is going to be castor oil. (When I make soap from scratch I always use castor oil because it makes nice big bubbles.) Castor oil has extra-great oil-removing properties and gets the yucky stuff from your pores. You’ll also need a companion oil. There are dozens of different kinds of oils: if you have oily skin jojoba, sunflower, and sweet almond are your best bets. Regular skin does well with grapeseed or Apricot Kernel Oil. Dry skin like mine prefers avocado or Extra-virgin Olive Oil (I’ve heard a lot of complaints about olive oil causing skin issues but I haven’t had any problems personally. If you have dry skin, try avocado oil first.) Tamanu oil is especially good if you’re prone to acne. It’s a spendy oil but is supposed to be fantastic.

Only mix a small amount at a time (maybe one ounce total). You might need to play around to find the right blend for your skin.

Get a little bottle; one of those travel sized bottles is perfect. Make sure it’s totally clean. A bunch of conditioner residue is not going to help. Depending on your skin type you’ll mix your oils up in various ratios depending on your skin type.

If your skin is oily, mix 2 parts castor oil with 1 part companion oil. For example: 2 Tablespoons of castor oil for 1 Tablespoon of almond oil.

If your skin is regular, mix castor oil and your companion oil in equal parts. For example: 2 Tablespoons of castor oil and 2 Tablespoons of apricot kernel oil.

If your skin is dry, mix 1 part castor oil to 2 parts carrier oil. For example: 1 Tablespoon castor oil to 2 Tablespoons avocado oil.

This is how to wash your face using oils: The first part will be the weirdest. You will take some of your oil mixture (about a quarter-sized amount) and rub it all over your dry face. No need to get your face wet first because we aren’t using soap. Just massage the oil all over your face for a minute or two. Make sure to rub your eyelashes because it will get rid of any trace of eye makeup in a snap. (Eye makeup remover is ancient history!)

Soak your washcloth in hot water (don’t burn yourself, for Pete’s sake!), wring it out, tip your head back slightly and lay the washcloth on your face. Leave it here until it starts to cool down. This is going to open up your pores and cut through the grime. Then gently wipe the oil from your face. I usually wipe my face off once, but you can do it again if you feel like it. Make sure to wipe under your eyes to get rid of any mascara, but be gentle!

Apply your moisturizer as soon as you’ve finished. I am still madly in love with my night-time syrum that I make with olive squalane (among other things). Yes, I wash my face with oil then apply more oil! My skin has never looked better. That’s saying a lot considering I’m 42. I also use the oil cleaning method every single solitary night. It truly pays off. Remember that your face is your calling card; treat it well!

Your skin might freak out a little during the first 1-2 weeks. Remember that it’s gotten used to having oil stripped away and has made your oil-producing factory wig out. Let your face have a week or two to settle down and get used to the new oil regimen. Just stick with it and try to resist using your old cleanser for a while. I think you’re really going to fall in love with your new glowing, velvet-y skin. Give it a try and tell me how you like it!

 

*So where do you get these oils? If you have a natural grocery store, that will probably be your best bet. My local H.E.B. has a big aisle that sells natural/health products and I can get most everything there. Sometimes sunflower seed and avocado oil can be found in the baking aisle by the vegetable oils (My local Costco carries Avocado oil in the baking aisle and it’s priced wonderfully.) Quite often you’ll find castor oil in the pharmacy department near stomach medicine. It is a big-time laxative (I drank a couple of spoonfuls of it once when I was enormously pregnant and trying to get labor started. Hoo-boy was that a crazy night in the bathroom!).
If you live in the middle of nowhere or just don’t feel like searching high and low, there are lots of places online that carry oils. I used to buy everything at Texas Natural Supply but they’ve been real jerks lately; Horrible, condescending customer service. Also, they wanted to charge me more for shipping than Brambleberry (which is located in Seattle) even though I only live 20 minutes away from them. So I recommend Brambleberry–my other favorite supplier.  I’ve been getting stuff from Brambleberry for almost ten years–their quality is excellent and their prices are reasonable.

This is one of my most popular posts and I like to repost it every year in case you’ve got a houseful of bored (hence, annoying) kids and need to know how to keep them occupied without relying on TVs/vieogames/ipads to babysit them. This is a great way to keep everyone in the house quiet and entertained. It’s really the best thing that’s happened to our summers! We’ve added a few changes to the system as our kids have gotten older. I’ll mention those at the end of the post.

My kids started driving me crazy the day after school got out. There was the constant squabbling, playfighting, and watching each other play video games for hours on end ( I loathe that, but it’s just so peaceful while they do it, that it’s hard to crack down and turn it off). Some people go cold turkey and turn off all screens during the summer, but I think it should still be a fun time of year (especially since we really limit TV and video games during the school year). I just needed to figure out some sort of system.

My friend Amy and I escaped for lunch a few weeks ago. She told me about the system she uses in her house and a giant light bulb went off over my head. I took her idea and ran with it, expanding on it to fit our family’s needs.

This is how it works:

–Our house is divided into six stations (Art, Reading, Computer, Puzzles, Academics, and TV).

–Each station is in a different part of the house (or in separate parts of the same room) so there is very little annoying and teasing of siblings going on.

–Stations last for 45 minutes each (sometimes if we have other plans for the day we’ll only do stations for 20-30 minutes a piece). Then the kids rotate to the next station. Each child goes to all of the six stations every day, Monday through Friday. We usually begin in the late morning after everyone has done their chores. Since we live in Texas which is HOT in the summer, we usually spend the mornings playing outside (after chores!) and don’t waste precious cool time indoors.

–Everyone gets a chance to choose which station they would like to start with. Yes, they will all have a chance at every station, but you know how much siblings like to compete with each other. Currently we are picking popsicle sticks labelled with the kids’ names. I draw one and that child picks where they’d like to begin.

–It’s helpful to have a list of activities available at Academics and art. We have things listed like “work on handwriting”. The kids all tell me they want to improve their handwriting but they forget. Their are workbooks for the littles but the older kids can do it on their own; they just need a reminder. Some of the art things we have are kept in my craft closet and the kids tend to forget about them. Having all the choices on a list makes a good reminder.

Here are the details:

Art (at the kitchen table):
Everyone has a sketch book, so there are minimal amounts of loose paper floating around. All coloring and watercolor go on sketchbook pages. We also have Shrinky Dinks, pipe cleaners, Sculpey clay (for the older kids), Play-Doh (for the younger ones), and brand new sets of watercolors, crayons and markers. I stocked up on the fabulous coloring books that Dover Publishing carries. We also have an assortment of drawing “how-to” books and creativity-building exercises.

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Puzzles (on a card table set up in the Mudroom): I bought ten new puzzles of all different skill levels. I also got one of those roll-up puzzle savers so the older kids can work on the same puzzle day after day. We also have Sudoko, crossword, and word-search books of different skill levels. My friend Amy and I will be swapping puzzles after a while to keep things fresh.

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Academics (on the coffee table in the family room):
There is a real variety here since Jasper barely knows his letters and India is taking AP classes. Probably our favorite item is the Flashmaster. It’s a fantastic gizmo that quizzes kids on their addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts. They can be timed or not timed, and the computer remembers which problems they got wrong. It’s been wonderful since my younger kids have never been required to learn their math facts very well. You can get Flashmaster on Amazon for $50.

We also have a Geography Globe from Oregon Scientific, the Phonics Firefly (perfect for helping the younger kids learn their letters and sounds), and some educational Leap Pad sets.

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In this category we also have workbooks (the great kind sold at Costco that are full of worksheets), handwriting practice sheets and spelling word quizzes. I try to get items that the kids can do on their own so I don’t have to sit there all day. The older kids are working on assignments they were given at school to complete over the summer.

 


Reading
(in the Living Room which is where our bookcases are):
This is read-alone time. Every few days I rotate the supply of kids’ books so they always have something new to look at. Library books stay in here too. The older kids usually have a novel they’re reading. This is a perfect time for teens to work on their summer reading assignments for school.


Computer
(playroom):
The kids can play whatever they want without someone claiming that “she took my turn!”; I don’t really care what it is, whether it’s Webkinz or something educational (Finn has been doing a teach-yourself-German program). This is their entire computer time for the day. This would probably include Nintendo DS time, if you have those at your house.

TV (in the playroom where our only TV is):
This includes video games and DVDs. Whatever takes place on a TV, this is the time to do it. The best part of this system is that you don’t have children sitting around watching their siblings play games (one of my major pet peeves). Occasionally we’ll watch a movie as a family in the evening, but for the most part this is their entire allotment of video games and shows.

You could tailor the stations to suit your family better. If you all play instruments, you could do music time, for example. Or you could do an outdoor station. With our blazing summer temps, though, the kids stay indoors most of the day but we spend evenings playing outside or swimming. This system would work with a smaller family, too. For the last week India and York have been visiting their grandparents in Oregon and we’ve been rotating four kids around the six stations. It’s been fine.

We have been doing Stations for a couple of weeks now and it has been phenomenal! The kids never complain about being bored and they bug each other so much less. My house is actually quiet during the day! It’s a miracle!

Jasper doing summer stations

UPDATE: now that our kids are getting older, we’ve made a few changes. We’ve combined academics with spiritual stuff. The kids all have goal programs that they’ve been working on at church and this is a great time to accomplish the tasks they’ve set for themselves. We’ve also made a reading plan to for the scriptures this summer and having time during a station for this works a lot better than expecting tired kids to read at night.

We are accumulating a lot of instruments around our house, my new harp being the most popular. So now along with puzzles, we have the option to play an instrument during that station. Not all of the kids are interested in this, though, which is why I didn’t just add another station. My children are finally old enough to use the instruments unsupervised. I would never have done this when I had preschoolers. It would have caused way too much trouble.

Back in the early 80′s when I was an awkward pre-teen I fell in love with some animals. They weren’t real animals, they were much better than that; they were Critter Sitters. These were soft, adorable illustrations of animals dressed up all cutesy doing things that animals clearly aren’t meant to do: why would a koala rake leaves or talk on the phone? I never asked myself that question once. (Who decided there was anything cute about raking leaves anyway?) None of that mattered. I was madly in love with Critter Sitters.

I managed to get a few critter sitter folders since they were cheap and easy to find.

I also got a nightshirt that I wore to all slumber parties and sleepovers. I felt so attractive in it; like I was actually as adorable as the animals printed on the front. The holy grail of Critter Sitter items was, in my mind, panties. I saw a pack of panties with Critter Sitter characters on them and my heart nearly stopped. Now this was back in the day when everything came plain and you had to pay extra for cartoon characters. Nowadays it’s the opposite and I have to search high and low for plain, non-character clothing. Most of the underwear my mom bought for me was waist-high briefs printed with tiny rose buds. There was a pair with pink roses, a pair with blue roses and the most disdained: the pair with yellow roses.  I don’t know why I didn’t just spend my allowance and buy some critter sitter underwear, but that wasn’t even in the realm of possibility in my feeble 10-year-old brain. So I decided the next best option would be to paint Critter Sitters onto my own underwear. I was born uttering the phrase, “I’m sure I could do that. How hard can it be?” Now that I’m an adult, that viewpoint has really come in handy. But preteens are not so good at doing stuff.

I got out a pair of silky white granny panties and the only paints I owned–watercolors–and set to work. Within a couple of minutes it became clear that, as brilliant an artist as I was, I would not be able to recreate the Critter Sitter artwork in any way. Instead of shrugging my shoulders and tossing the panties in the sink to rinse them out, I had that furtive sense of guilt that kids always seem to have. My only option seemed to be to throw the underwear into the woods behind my house.

It was a wet, muddy morning but I slipped out the siding door in my socks and flung the underpants into the trees as far as I could. (Knowing me, that was about three feet.) I thought I was home free until I noticed my little brother Ben watching me. He was old enough to know something odd was going on but young enough to not be able to speak intelligently. That kid sat next to the sliding door pointing and making babbly toddler noises until finally my dad decided to go check out what was out there in the woods that Ben was so fascinated with.

My father came back inside a few minutes later holding a dripping pair of panties. “I don’t know what Ben was so interested in, but here’s some underwear I found outside,” he said, tossing them to me.  I froze and looked down. Instead of wondering why my underwear had painted stick figures all over them, my dad had only seen a pair of panties that had been rinsed out in the rain. I nearly fainted with relief. The idea that someone might find out that I had tried to paint my own underwear seemed beyond foolish and absurd; buying them at the store suddenly made perfect sense.

Now to come up with a plan to ride my bike on the freeway to the mall . . . . (oh yeah. It happened.)



Picking strawberries in an annual tradition in our family. It’s one of my favorite things to do not only because it makes me feel like a farmer, but I just flat out love strawberries. There’s a u-pick farm near Austin that we go to every Spring. Well, “near” meaning an hour away in a lackluster town called Marble Falls. We travel to Sweet Berry Farm to pick strawberries first thing in the morning, then head over afterwards to Peete Mesquite, a really excellent hole-in-the-wall BBQ joint (Texas has a jillion of those).

Yes, the boys picked strawberries too. But they don’t like to stick near their mom. Especially when there are pet goats nearby.

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We aim to pick about 14 lbs of berries. I’m an avid jam-maker and this will make between 25-30 jars of jam. That’s enough to last us all year.

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The kids are put to good use. Ada’s especially good at hulling strawberries.

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It takes me about a million years to chop everything up and make the jam, but eventually I get these jewels all ready to be put up in the pantry. I don’t do freezer jam for a few reasons: it’s kind of watery and I don’t care for the texture; freezer space is at a premium in my house. I can’t waste the square footage on jam!; the preparedness person in me insists on something self-stable.

 

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These jars are made by a German company called Weck. They’re a little spendier than the ho-hum jars available at the grocery store but look how crazy cute they are! I’ve had these for about eight years and I’ve totally gotten my money’s worth out of them. I do a few Mason jars too, for giving away to friends/teachers. I’m not about to part with my Weck jars! You can get Weck jars from the company website here –which is the cheapest option. (I use the 1/5 litre Deco jars. If you buy Weck jars, they work a little differently than regular canning jars. You’ll need rubber gaskets instead of flat lids and and metal clips instead of screw-on rings.I happen to think Weck jars are superior to Ball or Kerr brands. And not just because they’re European!)

 

I’m wild about polka dots. I love them always, on everything. Polka dot nail art was the first thing I wanted to learn how to do when I started getting more into nail design a couple of years ago. I would read all these nail blogs and wonder how in the world the nail artists could make such perfect and uniform dots. It’s pretty impossible to do with a brush. And then I found the secret: dotting tools. These are plastic sticks, kind of like shortish pencils. On each end is a metal ball. There are different sized balls depending on how big you want your dots to be. They almost always come in a set of five with graduated sizes of tips

All you have to do is put a tiny bit of nail polish or acrylic paint on a palette or plate, then dip the dotting tool into the paint and tap it on your nail. It makes a perfectly round circle instantly. There is no swirling, no trying to match up both sides of the circle to make it look right. Just dip the tool in polish, then touch it to the nail. Really, that’s all there is to it. If it’s not the right size, just wipe it off and try again.

It really couldn’t be easier. It takes a smidge of practice to figure out what size dot you want and how to get consistent results, but honestly an eight-year-old could do this. It’s that simple.

All you have to do is make sure that you apply at least one layer of a topcoat when you’ve finished your dots.

A variation on the dot is an outline of a circle, which is what I’ve done on the pink nails in the photo collage above. It isn’t actually an outline of a circle at all, it just looks that way. I made a large dot, then added a smaller dot in the center of the main background nail polish. It only appears to be an outline; it’s actually a dot sandwich.

So the big question is where to buy your own set of dotting tools. I have some good news and some bad news: The good news is that there are a million sellers on ebay who offer sets of these for $2-3 (shipping included!). The bad news is that they’re mostly in China so it takes about two weeks to get them. That’s where I got mine and have been perfectly happy with them. Just search for “dotting tools” on ebay.

Dotting tools are really wonderful and can be used for all sorts of art projects where small polka dots are needed, not just on nails. I have an odd little hobby of painting teensy peg dolls and dotting tools are perfect for the details.

For such a cheap price, it’s a great idea to have a set of these in your drawer.

 

It’s currently 9 am and I have been up for four hours already. Instead of finishing India’s pioneer skirt way ahead of time like a good girl, I was up hemming it at 5:00 this morning. But I made good time and got the apron done too. I even had time to add pockets. Everything was finished on time and we made it out of the house at the appointed time at 6:45. I really would have liked to sleep in today. I have ward council at 7:30 am tomorrow so no sleeping in for another week. Blech. It’s my own fault, I guess.

Honestly I don’t know why I didn’t make the skirt months ago. Or even a week ago. Why do I always wait until the last second? The same thing happened on Valentine’s Day. I planned the kids valentines and ordered the supplies a whole month in advance. But I waited to make them until the night before. And of course I was so tired that I figured I’d finish them the next morning–forgetting that the kids hand out Valentine’s first thing.

Sometimes doing things early does backfire. I finished a few Valentines and Ada put them in a box on the table (each one had a homemade chocolate chip cookie. Texas is totally cool with homemade food being brought to school. I really like the idea of the kids getting at least one treat that isn’t chock full o’ chemicals.)  Of course Margaret, my dog frenemy, pushed a chair out so she could climb up and ate several cookies.  So sometimes doing things early is not so great. But I should know better than to keep edible things where the dog can reach them.

Here I am 41 years old and I swear I’m still as bad a procrastinator as I was when I was 21. When will I learn? Are you a procrastinator? Were you ever? I seriously need to learn how to motivate myself not to put things off. I’m driving myself batty!

Here are the valentines. They turned out really cute even though I waited til the last minute to put them together. I am, as ever, a Valentine’s Day overachiever.

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A couple of weeks ago one of my readers,Tiffny, pointed out that my blog has been really gross lately; weevils, lice, rats . . . Yep, I’m most definitely guilty.  It’s a strange thing when you blog; there is the group of bloggers who feel like they should present a really lovely, wonderful life because it inspires people (or maybe they’re simply insecure. Not sure how to tell the difference). Those blogs are terrifically popular and people just eat them up. I, however, tend do dislike those blogs because they make me feel inferior and terribly jealous. Even though I know those bloggers have bad things in their lives too. It just doesn’t seem like it. And I read them and start feeling the hate roil within me. I turn into a massive green-eyed monster. I’m not exaggerating.

And then there is the group of bloggers, like me, who say “don’t feel bad about the crap in your life! Look at the crap in my life and let’s feel bad together!”   I have always, since I was a child, felt the need to be myself. If some people don’t like it, it doesn’t bother me at all. So this blog is one part, “look at my crummy life”. It’s also one part, “some of my life might be crappy, but I also happen to know how to do a lot of stuff too.”

The hard part of blogging for me is finding out how to balance the nice things and the things I know how to do (without seeming like a big, braggy know-it-all) with all of the unpleasantries and funny stuff.

Obviously, I’ve been slipping in the pleasant things as Tiffny pointed out. One of the biggest reasons is that I still don’t have a computer with Photoshop and I’ll be darned if I’m going to put unretouched pictures up on my blog! But I’ll just have to figure something out. I’ve got about a dozen tutorials that have been sitting around waiting to be edited. I want to be honest, but I don’t want my stuff to look crappy! I do have a teensy bit of self-respect.

To make up for all the ugliness I’ll put up a bunch of pictures from Instagram. I forget that not everybody looks at that. Here are lots of nice and pleasant pictures to see you through until I do some nice posts again (which will not happen until Christmas because I am swamped like you wouldn’t believe.)

Here’s some stuff I made:

Arabella’s Halloween Costume (some sort of Marie-Antoinette type thing)

About a million rolls for Thanksgiving. I couldn’t get them all in one picture. They got eaten in the first round of Thanksgiving, even though there were only 14 people at dinner.

And several pies: two Apple, one Lemon Truffle, and a Tin Roof. The crust this year was a new recipe that I made with half butter and half leaf lard (not the gross grocery store kind of lard) and it was so fantastic it almost made my brain explode.  Here’s my ode to Texas:

I also crocheted a monkey for my friend’s baby. I’m not so great at crocheting. The ear was particularly difficult. My brilliantly crafty friend, Cheryl, helped me crochet one ear and then I did the other all by myself. Guess which one I made!

Oh whoops! I wasn’t supposed to show you anything goofy! Here’e the monkey all finished (I only had to make eight ears before I figured it out!) I tried to make it to match the nursery which was “Dr. Seuss colors”.

The knitting is going lots better. I’ve been working on a scarf for the last couple months. It’s supposed to be the sort of thing that takes two nights to do, but when it’s been 80º for months there’s not quite the motivation to get a scarf finished. But it has been lovely sitting on the front porch knitting in the warm afternoon sun.

You see, there have been some lovely and productive things happening in my life. It just seems like I live in a vile house of pestilence and filth. Now if you’ll excuse me I have a toilet to unclog and eight more batches of gingerbread to bake.

 

PomsCeilingTitle, Tissue Paper Pom Pom Flower Tutorial
Tissue paper poms are my absolute favorite party decoration. They are cheap and big and make a lot of impact. Unlike helium balloons, these can be made weeks ahead of time. I thought everyone knew how to make tissue paper poms but I’ve had person after person ask me how to make them so I figured a tutorial is in order. The poms I’m making are with paper that is 20″ wide. Once the edges have been trimmed and they’re fluffed up, they’re about 16 inches wide. These are frightfully easy. Like, elementary school easy.

The first and most important thing you need is tissue paper. I buy mine in bulk from Nashville Wraps. They have every color imaginable and it’s really fantastic quality at a good price. But most people don’t want to go to that much trouble. You can use any tissue paper you like but keep in mind that most tissue paper is pretty chintzy, flimsy and small. You’ll need more sheets of the cheap stuff to achieve the same look.  Just how much? The tissue from Nashville Wraps is 20″x30″. Since those are pretty big, thick sheets you’ll need less. I can get away with 9-10 sheets per pom. The average tissue paper you can buy at the store (say a 99¢ pack of eight sheets from Party City) is smaller (20×24″) and thinner. So you’ll need about 12 sheets to get the same effect.  You don’t have to use that much, but if you don’t your poms will look a little anemic and lackluster. If it’s a party full of screaming 4-year olds then maybe you don’t care so much. But if it’s for a wedding or a party where there will be actual people who will notice, you might want to splurge. It averages out to about 1.5 packs per pom. Honestly it’s not going to break the bank.

You’ll also need floral wire (I use 26 gauge but pretty much any thin wire will do), clear fishing line and clear push pins.

Tissue paper pom materials

 

Your first step will be to lay the tissue paper out with the corners nice and even.  Lay the paper out so it’s portrait style (not landscape), meaning the long edges are on the sides and the short edge is nearest to you.  You’re going to make accordion folds starting at the side closest to you and as you make each fold the paper will get shorter, not narrower.

First fold the paper one way, then flip the whole stack over and fold the other way. I’m sure everyone knows how to do this. If you don’t, well, maybe throwing a party is not your biggest concern.  The important thing is to make the folds about 1.5-2 inches wide. Not any wider than this. Trust me, OK?

Tissue Paper pom folding

 

If you get to the end and there’s not quite enough to make another complete fold, just bend it underneath anyway. It will look fine. When you’re done, you’ll have an accordion-ish thing like this. If your original paper measured 20″ x 30″, you will have a fat strip that is about 2″ x 20″.

Tissue Paper accordion

 

Once it’s folded you’ll trim both sides. I prefer cutting mine to a point but you can also cut the edges so that they’re rounded. Rounded edges look a little more flowery and feminine. Points are a bit more dramatic. The tissue will probably be too thick to cut all at once so just cut a few sheets at a time. There is no need to be all perfect and OCD about this. Once the poms are fluffed up and hanging from the ceiling nobody will notice any details.

Tissue Paper pointy

 

Now grab a floral wire. You don’t need the wires to be super long, so I usually cut mine in half so they’re 9-10″. Bend the piece of wire in half.

Tissue pom wire

 

Slide the wire onto your folded tissue paper right in the center.

Tissue Pom folded

 

Now twist the edges of the wire together. You don’t want to make the wire too snug around the paper. It should be a bit loose; the puffball will be easier to fluff that way.

Tissue pom twisted wire

 

Now you’ll bend the wire over to make a loop. Take the loose ends and wrap them around the bottom to secure the loop. You’ll be hanging the pom from this.

Tissue pom loop

 

The easiest time to attach the fishing line for hanging is while the pom is still folded up. So take a piece of fishing line that’s about 10′ long and put it through the wire loop. Unless your ceilings are outrageously high, this will be plenty long. Better to cut the line too long than not long enough.

Tissue fishing line

 

Once the fishing line is through the loop, hold both ends together and tie them in a knot. This will keep the line from squiggling out at some point. Finding the wire loop again is a total pain once your pom is fluffed up, so make sure it’s a nice tight knot.

Tissue Pom knot

 

Now it’s fluffing time! Just a reminder that tissue paper is incredibly easy to rip. No duh, right? But I guarantee that at some point you will tear the paper. Just take it slow and easy. Start by gently lifting the top sheet of paper away from the others.

Tissue pom fluffing

 

The first piece or two should go straight up. The easiest way to do this without ripping the paper is to put your pointy and middle fingers on each side of a fold. Slide them along the fold from the outside of the pom towards the middle.

Tissue pom finger slide

 

Do this with about four layers of paper on both sides of the loop.

Fluffing tissue paper pom

 

Then flip the pom over and repeat until the whole thing is a big fluffy ball. Puff it up until it looks full and gorgeous.

Tissue Paper Pom Flower Tutorial

When you’re ready to hang your poms, it’s as simple as dragging a ladder around and sticking pushpins in the ceiling. I usually stick the pushpin in the ceiling and then tie the fishing line on. It’s ever so helpful to have someone on the ground telling you if the poms are hanging at the right height. There actually is no “right height”. If they’re too low, you’re merely inviting all small children to try to jump up and hit them. I think about about 7 feet off the ground is nice so that tall fellows don’t get bopped in the head.

Tie the fishing line from each pom onto the pushpins and you’re all set. I bet you’ll be so thrilled you’ll consider leaving the poms up long after the party has ended.

*The colors I used here are Lime Green (Citrus Green is almost identical, by the way. I tried them both), Turquoise and Oxford Blue. Oxford Blue is a pale turquoise (think Tiffany Blue) all from Nashville Wraps in the 24 sheet fold mini-pack.

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It’s How-To Tuesday! Today I’ll be showing you how to make a fantastic cork board jewelry display. Like most girls I love jewelry. But there were lots of pieces that I rarely wore because they were in a giant jumble in my jewellery box.  I tried to find some way to organize all my necklaces and bracelets and earrings in an easy-to-see way, but I have a lot of stuff and there just wasn’t anything that really fit my needs.

I was browsing at the Container Store a few months ago for–get this–a container. I needed someplace to stash my knitting supplies, but instead I found a really cute magnetic bulletin board. There was a necklace hanging from one of the pegs and the wheels in my brain started to spin. I considered buying the magnet board to store my jewelry on but it was $50 and the magnet pins were $12 for 8 of them. Way too expensive.

After wandering around my second favorite store, Hobby Lobby, (my favorite, in case you had to ask, is Target. Duh.) I decided to do a corkboard jewelry display, using an empty picture frame.

The great thing about a corkboard holder is that it can be completely customized to whatever your jewelry needs are. Using push pins makes it possible to change your storage as your jewelry collection changes. Have a lot of long necklaces? No problem. Suddenly get obsessed with bracelets? Just add  a bunch of pushpins and you’re all set.

This is an incredibly easy project. It requires zero artistic ability. Things can get a little spendy if you go out and buy a brand new frame (use that 40% off coupon that most stores offer online!). There are lots of frames at thrift stores or you might have some ugly art around your house that can be tossed while still using the frame. All the materials you’ll need (besides the frame) will cost about $20. Considering how much jewelry boxes and displays are, that’s a real bargain!

I originally made my corkboard from a pre-made frame that I got at Hobby Lobby. But I also made a corkboard for my daughter, India, and used a hundred-year-old frame that that my grandma gave me which had an ugly, faded print in it.

The important thing is to consider your jewelry collection. Think about how many necklaces you have and how long they are. What about bracelets? And earrings? Do you mostly wear post earrings or danglies? You’ll want to consider how much square footage you’ll need. You don’t want to make too small a corkboard. Remember that bigger is better since it’s likely that you’ll be accumulating more jewelry through the years.

Another thing to consider is where you’ll put this thing. Mine ended up being 28 inches x 32 inches and that’s not exactly a size of frame that can be stuck just anywhere. I wanted mine kind of near my closet but not out in broad daylight for my kids to pull stuff off of. I ended up putting it in what I fondly call, “the poop room” (the little room in my master bath with the toilet in it).   It works for me.

These are the items you’ll need to make this:

Picture frame. It doesn’t need to have glass or a backing. Just the square frame.

Thick foam mounting board. This can be cut to size at any craft store or picture framing shop.

Roll of cork. This can be found in most craft shops.

Spray Glue.

Pushpins. India opted to make some cute pushpins but I prefer clear.

Ribbon for dangly earrings (optional). I used thicker ribbon to make it easier to see the earrings, but any width of ribbon is fine.

Utility Knife.

You may also need a heavy-duty staple gun for the backing.

I highly recommend using the thickest mounting board that will fit in your frame. The cork is actually pretty thin, it’s the foam board that will do most of the actual holding of your jewelry.

If you’re using a frame that has something else in it, pay attention to how the print and glass are held into the frame. Sometimes there are little nails called brads. These can either be removed or simply bent out of the way with a flathead screwdriver.

Before you start assembling your project make sure your mounting board actually fits in the frame. This is especially important if you had it cut at a store. If it’s too big, use a utility knife and a ruler to cut it shorter. Once it’s the right size it’s time to stick the cork to the backing board.

Cork is very brittle. It’s incredibly easy to break it or even stick a finger through. It’s best to roll it out on the ground and not lift it.  If your frame is big, it’s nice to have an extra set of hands helping out. The cork board we’re making today is for India’s room, so I’m having her do most of the work. Teach a man to fish, right?

Roll your cork out on the ground using something (or someone) to keep it unrolled. Some heavy cans of food will work.

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Spray both the cork and the foam board according to the directions on the glue. It’s sticky, smelly and messy. You should absolutely do this outside!

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Place your foam mounting board onto the cork and press it down thoroughly. If the edges aren’t attached well,  spray them again.

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Once the glue is dry (it should only take a couple of minutes), use a utility knife to cut off the extra cork.

 

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If you want to do a ribbon across the cork board to hang your earrings on, this is when you’ll do it. I put mine along the bottom, but you can do it wherever you like. India wants to use hers as a bulletin board so she didn’t want a ribbon at all. If you do want an earring hanger, hot glue one side to the back of the board. Once it’s cooled down and is very secure (at least five minutes), pull the other side of the ribbon extremely tight. The ribbon will eventually sag if it’s not as tight as possible. Even so I put a few pushpins in the ribbon to keep it from drooping in the middle.

 

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Once your ribbon is all finished, you can flip the board over and place it in the frame. Hopefully yours already has a wire for hanging. If not, you’ll need to install some hooks and wire.  You can figure that out because you’re smart. And good looking!

 

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If you used a frame that previously had artwork in it, you’ll hopefully be able to use the clips or brads that were there before. India pulled the brads out of our antique frame and hammered them back in so they were nice and secure (are you totally digging my pink hammer? I have a pink drill too!)

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Once you’ve gotten your cork board all put together it’s time to hang it up on the wall.The final (and funnest) step is to stick your pushpins in and hang up your jewelry! It will feel so wonderful to have everything organized and right at your fingertips!

 

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