Tag Archives: DIY

iSpy Bag Tutorial

Update:The iSpy bag came out so freaking cute, but I ultimately decided it was too thick for the quiet book. I’ll be posting my redo of it tomorrow or Monday. But, I still plan to use the method blow to make iSpy games as fun, easy gifts!

I love iSpy games! They have all kinds of fun trinkets buried in beads/pellets/rice and you have to squish them around to find everything. It’s a little beyond Jax right now, but I wanted to make one and have it be able to attach to a page in his quiet book.

On the quiet book page

The page itself is simple. I took a piece of fancy felt (tie dye) and sewed down two strips of Velcro so the game would have a place to live when it wasn’t in use. This page will be thick, but most of mine are.

Here’s how you make an iSpy bag. They are fun to make even if you aren’t making a quiet book!

You’ll need:

  • fleece scraps (mine were two 6″ squares)
  • a scrap of clear vinyl (mine was about 5″)
  • poly pellets, beads or rice
  • ribbon (to attach your key card)
  • fun objects (buttons, trinkets, paperclips…)
  • print out of your objects (laminated or covered in clear packing tape)
  • sewing machine/thread/scissors
  • Velcro (if you are attaching it to a Quiet Book page

I started with two pieces of fleece that were about 6″ square. I sewed the other half of the Velcro strips to the back piece. I took the front piece and folded it in half. I took a square of scrap cardboard and folded that in half as well. I centered it over the fold of the fleece and cut it out to make the window hole.

I took a square of clear vinyl that was larger than my window and sewed it to the wrong side of the fleece, then trimmed it down to about 1/4″. I pinned the front and back pieces together, right sides facing, and added one end of a ribbon. (I sewed the ribbon into a side seam then pulled it up through the side I left open. I wanted it to be anchored into two seams.) I sewed around 3 sides then turned it right side out. I was going for rounded corners, so I didn’t clip mine before turning.

I took all my fun objects I’d collected and placed them in the bag. I mostly had decorative buttons I’d found for a great price at the craft store. They gave me a really good assortment of objects to search for. Then I filled the bag about 2/3 full of poly pellets. I folded in the open side and pinned it shut. I top stitched around the whole bag, going 2 times over the open side (and testing the seam by trying to pull it open afterwards. You don’t want pellets going everywhere!)

For my key card, I laid out my objects beforehand and took a photo of them on a white background. In Photoshop, I rearranged them a bit and added text. (You can download the font I used for free here. It is made from my handwriting.) I printed the 4″ square on 4″ x 6″ photo paper and trimmed it down. I don’t have and laminating pouches, so I took clear packing tape and covered both sides to make it waterproof and more stable. I expect I’ll need to replace it eventually if it gets too folded. I punched a hole in the top and tied it to the other end of the ribbon.

So fun! I’ve played with it a bit with Jax and he was excited when we found the “choo choo”! I think adults can have just as much fun as kids. I may do something with iSpy bags as gifts or party favors in the future. They take so little time to make!

Learning to Take Better Photos

I’ve had my Canon Rebel xti for years, but I still don’t understand how everything works. I am finally taking the time to read a book about photography basics and how to use my specific camera. I really need to take a family portrait (Jax just keeps growing!) but hiring someone is not in the budget.

I’ve made it halfway through my book but haven’t gotten a chance to practice much. I snapped about 20 quick shots on semi-auto to test out my remote control shutter. There were a couple keepers, but the toddler was in maniac mode. I only got a couple minutes to practice setting my aperture to create a nice depth-of-field before Jax demanded my attention.

Have you taught yourself to use an SLR camera? What resources did you use? I need tips!

And, am I totally crazy to try to DIY our family photos? (It’s probably a good thing I am amazing in Photoshop, hah!) Because, really, unless a photographer can donate their services, the only family portraits we’ll have will be the ones I take.

Thrift Store Play Kitchen Makeover

After a weekend of working hard, Jax has his shiny, new custom “retro” play kitchen! I was so lucky to find a wooden kitchen with great “bones” at our local thrift store. It had a lot of water damage, a broken shelf and faucet and a missing door, but the clean, simple lines were perfect. (To see more before pictures, view this post.)

I started the makeover by deciding what I wanted the kitchen to look like. I had already used apple red spray paint when I created Jax’s chalkboard, so I chose that for the main body. His table and chairs are aqua and lime (as well and the shelves I recently put in), so those became the accent colors. I had some leftover glitter paint from a Christmas ornament project, and I knew that would be perfect for hiding any water damage I couldn’t sand out. Here is my color plan.

I started by scrubbing out the dirt and mulch in the cabinets then cleaning, sanding and priming the whole thing. I took the back two pieces off, as well as two knobs, but many screws were stripped on the rest of it. I ended up breaking off the knob discs to paint them separately from the dowels they were attached on. They were glued on crooked anyway, so I was able to fix that too.

I used a wooden J to replace the faucet

I used 2.5 cans of apple red glossy spray paint (and I ended up needing to get a mini can for a little more coverage where the clock had been.) For all the silver parts I used a mini can of silver spray paint, then a coat of silver craft paint and glossy varnish. The knobs got several coats of craft paint and glossy varnish.

I needed to replace the broken faucet, so I bought a large wooden J and attached it with a wood screw and E-6000 glue. Looks perfect! For the backsplash, I bought smaller letters to spell out his name. Those were attached with the E-6000 glue. My husband glued a small chalkboard I’d painted to the side with Gorilla glue.

The shelf was detached when I bought it, and it wasn’t hard to see why… It just had 3 tiny screw holes. A super nice Home Depot employee helped me pick out the right size screws, as well as which L brackets would work best to fortify the shelf. I chose to leave the brackets unpainted to match the rest of the silver.

The counter top got two coats of aqua craft paint, then 10,000 (or so) coats of my favorite glitter paint (which is more of a glue with lots of glitter). The burners were painted black, then got a very thick coat of black glittery paint (and a clear coat.)

I adore it! It looks perfect in the room, and Jax loves it already. I started him off with Melissa & Doug Wooden Pantry Products and the KidKraft Metal Accessories Set which comes with 3 pots/pans, a lid, 2 utensils and some wooden food. I’m really happy with both purchases. I wish the pantry products had labels on both sides, but they are nice, sturdy wood toys. The pots are holding up great so far, and Jax is enjoying the bonus food items: a chicken leg, fried egg, two carrots and two broccoli florets.

This was such a fun project! I’m already looking ahead to the next playroom DIY… a reading nook!


Sweet Edible Playdough

Sweet is an understatement!

I wanted to introduce Jax to playdough, but I wasn’t sure if he would try to eat it. I looked online, and most edible recipes involved peanut butter – something we haven’t added to his diet yet. I finally found one made with powdered sugar. Way more sugar than I’d want him to eat, but I planned to teach him to keep it out of his mouth.

Turns out, he thinks it is way too sweet to eat anyway! We had fun playing with it, but it gets a little sticky in warm toddler hands after a while.

Here’s the process:

Glass Instagram Photo Magnets

As soon as I got my iPhone, I started using Instagram. It’s fun, free and lets you make your less-than-exciting cell phone photos interesting with filters. But what do you do with the tiny square photos it saves? While I always have mine set to save the original hi-res photos, I wanted to do something with the processed images. So I thought of the magnets I’ve made as gifts for years.

little tins are great for gift sets


  • Clear glass floral marbles (shaped like flattened globes) – avoid the iridescent kind, they are hard to see through.
  • Strong, round craft magnets. I find these in the craft store in various sizes.
  • Your Instagram photos (or magazine clippings, pretty paper, etc…) printed to fit your chosen size of marbles.
  • E-6000 glue
  • Scissors (and I sometimes use a circle punch the size of my magnets, but it’s currently lost.)
  • Toothpicks for glue spreading.
  • Optional: metal tin for giving your magnets as a gift set (found in craft stores.)

Recycled Starbucks Card Earring Tutorial

Inspired by my search around the internet for Starbucks-themed crafts, I put together a the first in a series of Starbucks tutorials.

Everyone knows I am a huge Starbucks fan, so I often get their cards as gifts. They are so cute and I can’t seem to throw them out when they are empty. When I saw it was possible to turn them into jewelry, I had to give it a try!

These will make a great gift for our favorite barista. I’ll be making more styles, but this tutorial features Starbucks logo from the upper corner of two cards.

What you need: 2 Starbucks cards, scissors, emory board or sandpaper, something to punch a small hole (I used a corn cob holder!), beads and earring findings (I used two silver french hooks, 2 head pins, 2 large seed beads and two round beads) and jewelry-making tools.

Build an Easy Party Photo Booth

I fell in love with the photo booth at my brother-in-law’s wedding. It was so much fun! I knew I had to figure out how to do my own. This post goes over how I’ve made mine for several parties. Hopefully you can get some useful ideas should you try this too!

The most important part of my photo booths has been my MacBook Pro with a built-in camera. For software, I installed Mugshot Machine and turned on kiosk mode when it was time for the party (this hides the rest of your computer and sends the photos to the printer without your guest having to deal with print options.) It isn’t the prettiest program, but it’s free and lets you use a custom logo on the printouts. The biggest disadvantage to it is that you can’t save a digital copy and print a photo at the same time. Most guests were happy to let me scan their photos and give them back the next day. There are pay software options out there as well.

You need a way to print the photos, unless you are only saving them to disk. I have an HP photo printer I’ve had for years. It uses 4×6 paper that I stock up on at dollar stores and clearance aisles.

To build my booth, I start with a sturdy tv tray, and cover it with an upside-down box to make the surface area larger. I placed it in a corner so that I only had to make the walls on two sides. To build the walls, I used foam core board I got on sale that just happened to be the same blue as my walls. I think I used about 6 sheets (I didn’t bother with the ceiling.) I left a space for the door in the side of the booth. Behind the laptop, I left a ledge of the box and a cutout for the printer (so your photo comes out when it’s done printing.) It’s dark in there, so I always put a desk lamp in for better lighting.

For the door, I use a sheer black curtain hung on a string that is taped up inside the booth. I decorate the whole booth with wrapping paper. It’s inexpensive and I can change it based on the theme of the party. For my friend’s money themed party I used gold and taped play money all over it. I also got a party “scene setter” backdrop that time and decorated the inside. At my birthday party, I taped large paper clips to the outside of the booth so everyone could display their photos during the party.

You don’t even really need a booth… When I was pregnant and hosting a Halloween party, I decided to just set up the corner with a backdrop. Everyone still loved it!

I save all the main pieces of the booth in sections down in the basement and I’ve been able to reuse them again and again. So much fun!

DIY Coloring Tablecloth

Here’s a very simple party craft that doubles as a decoration. A custom coloring table covering! All you need is a printer, some sticker paper sheets and a roll of paper.

I used a dollar store roll of white wrapping paper. It was the perfect width for my table and the length had a few inches to spare on each end (good for taping it down.) You can use the less shiny side of the paper to have it take markers better. Of course, you could use rolls of butcher or drawing paper if you have that. The sticker paper I bought from Amazon. I liked how clear it printed and the fact that the back peels off in strips.

The first step is to find or make your coloring pages. You can find a bunch here or here (or just do a Google image search). I used mostly pictures I found online, but I’ve drawn custom ones by tracing photos. I laid them out in Photoshop so that I could make use of every inch of each sheet of sticker paper.

Once they are all printed out, I cut them out and arrange them on the paper. Having the images face the edges of paper lets everyone have something to draw where they are sitting. Then just peel off the backings and stick the images down!

I put cups of markers and crayons out of the table so everyone knows what it is for! If you try this project, let me know!

The coloring sheet I saved from my birthday in 2008.

Adorable Rainbow Cupcakes

To celebrate my birthday week, I am going to feature some fun party ideas I’ve tried in the past. I love planning parties and always do it on a small budget. I hope you enjoy these projects! Let me know if you try them!

A couple years ago I had a party for my birthday with no real theme other than cutesy, girly things. Being a summer baby growing up with just a dad, my birthday parties usually failed miserably (like two guests would show up, but my rocket scientist dad would let us play maze games on the Apple II. Ah, the ’80’s!)

This party would indulge all the childish whims I missed out on… Crafts! Twister! Balloons! Pink and blue puppy plates! And cupcakes…

Rainbow cupcakes, to be exact! And, these adorable cupcakes couldn’t be easier.

Here’s what I did:
I baked two kinds of cupcake for variety so guests could choose chocolate or yellow (both vegan to accommodate a guest). If you want to go all the way rainbow, try this recipe for a colorful surprise when your guests take a bite! Because my favorite cake is yellow with chocolate frosting, I used both chocolate and white frosting. Obviously your rainbows will look more realistic on white clouds, but chocolate clouds are oh so tasty!

To ice my cupcakes, I put the frosting in a icing gun (mine is a cheap dollar store version) with a star tip. I swirled and swooshed till my hand ached to make fluffy clouds. Then I used plenty of sprinkles: blue sanding sugar, rainbow nonpareils and little stars!

And now the fun part… Buy a few packs of Airheads Extreme Rainbow Belts, cut them to size and stick them in the frosting to create your rainbow!

Because I had a vegan guest, I also make a few cupcakes without the sprinkles and candy (which tends not to be vegan). I also filled some cupcake papers with jellybeans and stuck them in my cupcake stand for pops of color.

Let me know if you try this out!


Super Easy DIY Chalkboard

I’ve been wanting some sort of chalkboard in Jackson’s playroom for some time now. I just wasn’t sure what would work. The room was built to be a living room and has outlets everywhere. We have the baby proofed, but their placement blocked me from being able to just paint a chalkboard onto the walls.

When I discovered they make chalkboard spray paint, I knew just what I wanted to do. I measured out the wall where the chalkboard would be to find out how wide I’d need to make it so it could both be centered and cover the outlet. Three feet wide was just perfect.

In the clearance aisle of the craft store, I purchased a 2’x3′ frame that was 50% off. It was a tacky gold that wasn’t my style at all, so I also grabbed some spray paint. At the hardware store, I had them cut down a 2’x4′ piece of chipboard (I brought my frame and tested it after he cut 12″ off the board. Good thing I did – it was too short because the board hadn’t been 2’x4′ after all!) I also grabbed the chalkboard spray paint there. Here is the full list:

I started by sanding the frame so it was no longer shiny and sanding one side of the chipboard to rough it up. Then I set up a drop cloth outside and laid out both pieces. I did three light coats of spray paint on the frame, waiting 15 minutes or so in between. I did about 4 light coats on the board with the chalkboard paint. (Quick tip: I thought my paint was clogged, but it turned out my too-big gloves were blocking part of the spray and causing spatter!)

The hard part comes next: waiting! When everything was dry, I brought it inside to cure. Resist the urge to try the chalkboard for 24 hours. Easier said than done!

24 hours later, it was time to prime the chalkboard with a layer of chalk. I found that the spray paint left a layer of black sooty dust after it dried, so I covered the whole thing in chalk as directed, then used paper towels to get all the chalk and black dust up.

All that was left was to put the frame back together (minus the glass it came with) and hang it up! My frame came with one teeny tiny picture hook so I got a picture hanging kit rated for up to 50 lbs. It looks great under his art gallery! I chose a frame that had a perfect dip in the molding to hold our chalk.

What do you think of our little project? It was so fast and easy, and Jax was super excited when I hung it up!

He was so excited, he couldn't stand still!

(Check out my Friday Follow-Up about this project!)

Colorful Playroom Art Gallery

Our playroom has been a blank canvas since before we even became parents. I love color and painted in a rich blue despite the fact we had now furniture for it. It became the craft room whenever I’d host a party. The room has seen: painting, coloring, photo booths of various themes and even tie-dye (with a tarp down on a hot, stormy day).

When Jax became mobile, it was clear he needed a safe place of his own to play – free from hazards and dogs who steal baby toys (and shred them into 10,000 tiny pieces. Don’t ask.) So we put up some great wide gates (that double as travel gates when we rent a beach house) and got a soft, brown rug from Ikea.

Fast forward to now… The playroom is Jax’s favorite place (besides my breastaurant! Hah!) and he runs to the gate, begging to “pway”. He’s getting old enough to start taking interest in different activities, so as a part of introducing him to art, I wanted to introduce art to his playroom. Back to Ikea we went (with the long drive perfectly timed during nap) where we chose a table a chair set for him to play and make artwork at.

My other reason for going was the great, inexpensive frames they carry. I chose four large frames and four small ones in bright colors. Back at home, I laid them out on the dining room table, along with his first painting and two blank canvas he’ll paint on soon. When I was happy with the collage of frames, I put them up on the wall, eye-balling it, as I wasn’t feeling too particular about placement. I have a feeling the gallery will grow and change with time anyway.

For now, the plan is to rotate his paper artwork in the frames and hang all his canvas art up as well. As you can see, his first painting currently holds a place of honor. I painted over the edges to hide the staples using one of the colors we had used. The bottom half of that wall is going to become a chalkboard eventually. I might have more fun with that than Jax!

How do you display your child’s artwork? I’d love more ideas, as I know I’m going to have a hard time letting go of any of it!