What To Do With Family Photos?


As a photographer I get a lot of questions about what I do with all my personal photos. On any given year I take literally 100s (mostly of the kids) and the idea that I am going to hang up EVERY SINGLE ONE is insane and would honestly be pretty damn creepy. Back in the day I would print out 4x6s and then jimmy them into clunky albums with dirty little individual sleeves. Remember those? What a nightmare! One time I picked up an album and like 50 photos fell out the bottom onto the floor. It took me HOURS to figure out which sleeve all those damn photos fell out of. Hard pass.That was the day I vowed there had to be a better way and it couldn’t involve shoving the photos into a Rubbermaid bin in the basement.

Cue Shutterfly.

Professionally I was dubious of their album and image quality but I had heard a number of good things about the company and so I took a chance to check them out for myself with a test book. And man, talk about egg on my face.

Fast forward four years (and several albums) and I am (and will remain) a loyal customer. I print all of our yearly photo albums through Shutterfly and have found, over and over, that their picture quality and color is fantastic. And let’s be real, custom photo albums are EXPENSIVE but I found these to be pretty well priced. In fact, they regularly do 50% discounts throughout the year so I keep my eyes open for them and then place my order. I am a thrifty old miser at heart and I will probably never change. I usually end up getting our album made for about $60 bucks and that includes a number of the various upgrades.

I like that I design it online just by periodically uploading my photos and designing the pages as I have time without having to get out a bunch of STUFF. God bless you scrapbooking mamas. I don’t know how you do it!!!!! The online process is pretty good although - full transparency - there’s a few kinks that I don’t LOVE about the software, but it’s not a deal breaker for me. Mostly, I love the quality of the product and the slim design of the albums. It's like 1/5th the size of those old bulky albums. (I actually have dreams of working my way backward to the start of the kids being born so I can ditch those old albums. Although that’s probably ridiculously ambitious and naive). 

My most favorite thing though is when our new album shows up! Our family always sits around the the first night it arrives, we pull the old albums off the shelf and compare how much everyone has changed. The kids get to see photos from all our old trips when they were chubby babies and we reminisce about when they were little and we all had bad haircuts.

If you love photos but are finding yourself overwhelmed like I was then I would definitely recommend giving them a try!





Family Handprints

I had dreams of doing this project right after our 4th renegade joined the crew but then our 4th renegade joined the crew and life sorta veered off into crazy town for a bit. But better late than never! And by late I mean two years later...whatdoyado?

Let me preface this DIY with the strong disclaimer that I am not a skilled needleworker. Seriously. I know like two stitches and barely those. This is a project of imperfect love...not skill. So good news is you can totally do this even if you've never embroidered anything in your life!

Ok, let's do this. You will need:

1. Tea towel - I used a very basic plain white one
2. Embroidery hoop
3. Embroidery needle
4. Colored embroidery floss - 1 color for each family member
6. Plain paper
7. Sharpie marker



Carefully trace everyone's hands on separate pieces of paper using a dark colored sharpie marker. Make sure to do all the same hands, ie: all right handed or all left handed.


Starting with your youngest family member, copy their handprint onto the tea towel using the disappearing ink. I laid my towel over the paper handprint and traced from there. You could also hold it up to a window to see the dark lines better if need be. 

Once that's done stretch your tea towel onto your embroidery hoop. Interior hoop goes on the back of the cloth and the exterior hoop stretches over the top of the fabric.


Choose your colored floss and cut a long piece. I cut mine about 3 ft in length because I wanted to be able to do the entire handprint without stopping to reload thread. Floss comes with 6 threads together so I separate it into two 3 thread sections. Take one section to thread your needle and knot at one end.

Starting from the back of your project push your needle through at the starting point of your handprint. Pull your thread until the knot is tight against the back.


Push your needle back through about 1/4" further along the traced handprint and pull through. And BAM!!!! You have your first stitch!


For this project I'm using a Back Stitch. This is probably one of the easiest and most basic embroidery stitches. After you have your first stitch in (follow above directions) all you do is advance your needle another 1/4" along the design from the back of the cloth and push through. 


But now instead of going FORWARD along the design you're going to go BACK and push your needle through the hole from the previous stitch. Hence the BACK STITCH! Repeat these steps all the way around your handprint and then finish with a knot at the end.


Repeat these steps for all subsequent handprints using a different floss color. 

*TIP: make sure to slightly stagger each handprint so the finger lines don't line up exactly - otherwise your embroidery will be a jumbled mess.


Once you've completed all the handprints you gently run your project underwater to erase the ink. Let dry and frame. Happy stitching!!!


DIY Little Library

I've wanted to build this library ever since we moved into our little craftsman. Ahem, five years ago. Problem was I had never built anything before followed by the bigger problem of having NO IDEA how to build anything. So I didn't, because I was scared and overwhelmed with the lack of knowledge. 

And then I hit my mid thirties and I just decided that if I wanted to be a woodworker (which I always have) I needed to put on my big girl pants and just START. And so I did. And it turns out that woodworking is not nearly as insurmountable as I thought once you get ahold of some simple basics. Knowing how to use a power drill, miter saw and wood glue can take you a loooooong way. Plus, YOUTUBE. Repeat Youtube is your friend. I watched so many tutorials on basic woodworking and it helped a TON. 

So without ado, our community library and a personal Goliath for me that I had to overcome. And now that I have I feel like I can take on anything!


 





BOX BUILD

All materials were purchased from our local hardware box store. 1 sheet of 1" plywood was used to build the frame of the library. Leftover 1/4" paneling was cut down to make the "shaker siding" and shingle roof.
Wallpaper: WallsNeedLove
Green Paint: Dunn Edwards "Golf Day"


Measure your cuts. And take your time because you can't undo a bad cut.

Our dimensions were:
Front/Back: 15" x 26" at peak.
Sides: 12 x 21.5"


Measure 2" in from all four sides and cut your door opening. I used a jig for this step. To start your cut you need to drill a pilot hole large enough to get the jig blade through.


Lay it all out and do a rough assemble to double check your cuts before the REAL assemble. I do this several times because I am still learning and want to make sure I don't make a newbie mistake by rushing through.

        

When you feel confident in your rough assembly it's time for the REAL DEAL!!!!! I assembled ours using wood glue, a brad nailer, wood screws and clamps.


Also, I didn't photograph this part of the process but I did paint the interior sides of the box BEFORE I assembled. Same for the wallpaper back.


Next was installing the "shaker siding" front. I cut down individual little pieces and wood glued them to the top of the front panel. Start at the bottom level and then overlap your levels on the way to the top.


Make sure to paint underneath FIRST. Otherwise you'll have to use a TINY paintbrush to meticulously paint between the cracks and nobodies got time for that nonsense.


Paint the whole thing and then install the roof.


I used clear waterproof silicone LIBERALLY over the roof seam and nail holes as well as a waterproof tape. Probably overkill but I don't want to mess around with water leaking into this thing. Once dry I wood glued the shingles on in the same manner as the "shaker siding".



DOOR BUILD

The door was built using some spare 1x3s and joined together using a bead doweler and wood glue. And lots of clamps!!!




POST BASE BUILD

I wanted this to be portable but I also wanted it to be heavy enough to not blow over in any crazy Santa Ana winds. Plus it needs to be PRETTY! Soooo....I rigged together this flower planter base. I took a large galvanized basin and used Quik-crete to solidify an empty paint can in the center. I filled the basin about 2" deep and let it dry overnight. 


Once it had completely dried I leveled the post into the paint can and then used more Quik-crete to set it. After that was all done we moved the planter into it's final curbside home and filled the basin to the top with potting soil and low maintenence perennial plants.




I attached an additional square base to the bottom of the library using wood glue and 1" wood screws.



QUOTE INSTALL

The quote was cut on black permanent vinyl using the Cricut and then put onto the side of the library using transfer paper. Just make sure to double check your measurements to find the middle and keep your letters straight. TAKE YOUR TIME!!!! Nothing will drive you more nuts than to be stuck with crooked words on the side of your pretty library. Or maybe that's just me!




Geometric Terracotta Pot


Gift giving season is upon us now and so we're busting out some of our favorite DIY projects! This one is so fun and easy and is perfect for any plant people in your life. Plus it's totally customizeable to fit any decor style.

Start with a very basic terracotta pot that you can pick up from any garden center. This one is four inches but you can modify this DIY to fit whatever size you need.


Cut multiple sized triangles using some Con-Tact paper. They shouldn't be perfect triangles. Definitely get your isosceles on. Layer them on one at a time making sure that you cover all the way to the bottom. You could also use this effect for the top of the pot as well. Whatever you prefer.


Once you've gone all the way around the pot you're ready to paint. Right before I paint I run my finger nail along all the Con-Tact edges to make sure they're stuck to the pot really well. Pick your favorite color of spray paint and get painting. I try to do 2-3 very light coats and make sure you let them dry in between.


After the pot is completely dry I slowly peel away the Con-Tact paper triangles one at a time.


And if you did it right you'll reveal the terracotta negative space!


Add your favorite succulent or cactus and get your gift giving on.



Happy projecting!!!!!!

Felt Christmas Tree

After many Christmas seasons of decorating the top half of a tree I finally got a little creative and made the kids their own tree. This simple DIY has been such a fun addition to our holiday decorating and the kids love it. And I love it because I can have a fully decorated tree and don't have to worry so much about tiny digits destroying all the ornaments.

And it only requires felt, some sharp scissors and a little bit of time. EASY and CHEAP!!!!!!


Swing by your local fabric store and pick up a yard of dark green felt from a bolt. This is the only large piece you will need. The rest of the felt can just be those cheap little 8x10 pieces in various colors. 

Here's the list that I used:

1 yard dark green - this is the tree
3 8x10 sheets yellow
2 8x10 sheets dark blue, light blue, green, dark purple, light purple, orange, pink, red and white


From there I cut out a few circles of various sizes by tracing canned goods from our pantry, some bulb shapes and finally candy canes from the white fabric. I used the leftover scraps of felt to make the candy cane stripes and fun details for a few of the ornaments. Then glued everything together using a hot glue gun. Just don't go crazy with the glue or it will soak through the felt. Think less is more here. And don't forget a beautiful star for the top!


I hang the tree directly on the wall using double stick tape. And that's it! Kids can decorate and redecorate all season long!!!!!!!

Once Christmas is over I just gently fold the tree up and store in a gallon size Ziplock bag with all the ornaments until next year.

Happy projecting and let me know if you have any questions!

DIY Christmas Wreath for Thrifty People

In our home, the day after Thanksgiving is where we open the floodgates and allow Christmas to finally explode its festivities all over our house!!! And just like my bangs in the 80s... I like to go BIG. Music, cookies, cocoa, garland, trees, stockings, wreaths. You name it. I'm dragging it out of a dusty box in my attic. Sorry, I’m pointing to the attic and explaining to my husband where the box is because… you know. Spiders.

Most of my collection consists of little tchotchkes I've collected over the years...tree included. But I insist on having live garland and wreaths. There's just no beating that delicious evergreen smell. And while I love me some doTERRA Holiday Joy pumping in my diffuser...it's just not the same as the real deal.



....................

I'm head long into a barrel of pre-made wreaths at our local hardware boxstore when, much to my dismay, I see that inflation has apparently skyrocketed in the evergreen business. $50 for a pre-made wreath?!?!?!?! Gasp. An internal war is waging between my desire for a deliciously scented seasonal home and my incessant cheap thrifty heart. As is typical of life, the heart wins out. I grew up in a trailer park, I know the difference between a want and a need and $50 bucks for some glorified dead sticks is just ridiculous.

But like my momma always said, "There's more than one way to skin a cat." *

So I grabbed a few fistfuls from the "free clippings" bin and headed home to get my DIY on.

*Side note: that is a terrifying saying and must beg the question, "Why are you skinning a cat AT ALL?!?!?!” How about, “There’s more than one way to skin a potato!” or, “There’s more than one way to (insert literally anything here that is NOT skinning a cat.)"


Grab an old wreath back or something similar, some gardening shears and floral wire. I used the gardening shears and trimmed the big branches down into smaller twig-like branches. Think kindling size.


Anchor your floral wire to the wreath back by twisting it around itself a few times. No need to get fancy with your knots. This ain’t Boy Scouts of America or the Official Knot Makers Club.


Start with a few twigs and loop the wire around the bottom two inches of the sticks, securing it to the wreath frame.

Lay a new twig on top of the previous one making sure to overlap the ends to hide the wire. Continue the process working your way around the wreath frame until you get back to the start.


Anchor the wire by twisting it back onto itself like you did in the first step.


Add a ribbon and finished!!!!! Now inhale deeply through your nose-holes. Does it still look pretty and smell like heaven? Yep!!!! Did it cost less than $50 bucks? You bet. Cost almost nothing but a little time and some nimble fingers.

Happy projecting!

Dining Room Built-In Reveal

The built-ins were a major selling point for me on this beautiful little craftsman home! I love love love the charming history of a good built-in! But sadly they were a big dark spot in the already teeny tiny dining room. Really made the space feel much darker and even smaller. I knew a delicious fresh coat of white would really brighten the space and open it up.

Not going to lie, I did hedge on the sin of painting original wood but ultimately decided that this is our house now and we need to make it ours. The future owners can curse us when we're dead.

Also wanted to swap out the hardware to restore a bit more of the 1920 character.




We used Valspar Cabinet Enamel paint in white and ended up doing about four coats to really get complete coverage over that dark wood.




Hardware pulls and handles both came from Amazon.



We're thrilled with how this DIY turned out and are even more thrilled that it only cost $55.

Happy projecting!!!!!

Mint Watermelon


Today we’re rolling on a two-fer-one project. The plan was to start by making these really cool watermelon based Jell-O molds and then use the leftover fruit bits to create a yummy mint salad.
Then shit went bust.
Check out below for the win and the lose.

THE WIN
1. Cut your melon in half and scoop it out. We’re using a melon baller but really anything with a scoop will work. See also spoonsmall measuring cup or, if you’re in a real pinch, you can claw it out blindly with your fingers. Don’t be shy. Those are the O.G. eating utensils.


2. Dump all those pieces into a big bowl. Plop.



3. You’re going to need some fresh mint. Get it at the store or you could grow some in a window sill. When our daughter plucks the leaves she says that it “smells like happiness”, which is stupidly adorable.
You’ll need around 1/4 cup, which is less than it sounds. Chop it up as finely as you can and sprinkle it onto the balled melon bowl (no offense to bald people).


4. 1/2 lime. Squeeze that shit and pour the juice over the whole mess. This gives the sweetness a little zing.



5. Mix, chill and eat. You can use a fork or your fingers.

This is an incredibly simple snack that takes very little preparation, tastes amazing and is, obviously, crazy healthy. You can easily knock this out in under fifteen minutes. Show up at a party with this treat and you will be Betty f-ing Crocker.

THE LOSE

Alright. SO… what do you do with the two empty watermelon halves from above? Well, the plan was to make some really fun Jell-O watermelon slices. Check it out...

1. Take the empty watermelon halves and place them in a container to prop them up. We don’t want them tipping over.

2. Make some Jell-O. If you don’t know how, the directions are on the side of the box. You got this!

3. Pour the liquid Jell-O mixture into the empty watermelon, filling it about a third to half way. Put the watermelon in the fridge and let it cool and firm up. This is going to take a couple hours. Upwards of four to be safe.



4. Make a SECOND box of Jell-O (different color) and pour that on top of the current Jell-O once firm. Repeat as many times as you’d like. We asked our kids what their favorite colors were but you can do anything you want because you are an adult!



5. Once complete, cut the watermelon up into slices as you would a normal watermelon and your children can eat Jell-o in a fun way!….. because eating regular Jell-O is apparently not quite fun enough...



6. Hate yourself because you messed everything up and couldn’t even make Jell-O correctly, you freaking idiot. #nailedit



THE TAKE-AWAY

I think we jumped the gun on pouring on the second layer of Jell-O. We SHOULD have allowed the second layer to cool for longer. Instead of a red/blue split we have a purple gradient.

While cooling in the fridge, remember to place up high enough where prying fingers can't roam. Our oldest walked into the living room a number of times, licking her fingers and proclaiming that she thought the Jell-O was almost ready.

Cuts on the watermelon should be kept small. Think acute triangles instead of half circles.

Finally, the biggest mistake we made is that we didn’t add vodka.

Great news, though! Children DO NOT CARE what shape Jell-O comes in and they'll just grab a spoon and go to town! So, even if you lose, you win.