Monday, January 30, 2012

Craft Nook -- Organized Chaos

Someone asked me the other day where I do all the craft-y things in our tiny condo. The answer to that is: Pretty much anywhere there's a flat surface. This means that poor Alex has to function around works-in-progress that are scattered across the kitchen counters, and listen to me yelp when he moves the coffee table as I'm fabric-penning a baby onesie.

I finally decided that this wasn't fair to him and that it was making my OCD self crazy, what with clutter and the yelling about ruined baby onesies and not being able to find the double-stick tape I knew I'd just bought, etc. I had to do something with all the fiddly little bits of craft things I had, but this seemed to be an insurmountable storage task. In other bloggers' worlds (at least according to Pinterest), they turn to closets as the source of space for crafting storage, but I have no spare closets. I only have the one, and trust me, it's chock-full of clothes and definitely has no room for crafting ribbons and such. I am working on organizing it as well, but it's not done yet.

(In fact, let me go off on a slight tangent here and show you the new shoe boxes I just got from the Container Store -- soooo happy! Those of you who have known me since high school know that I have a Shoe Problem. I have gotten better in recent years, due in no small part to living in 750 square feet and having a husband scrutinizing my purchases, but I still have quite a few. I'd previously put little tags on all the boxes and stacked them up, but they were all different sizes and kept falling on my head and breaking apart and I HATED it. See below (please imagine that that empty column on the left is also full of stacked shoe boxes, I took them down before I remembered to take a picture):

Honestly, some shoe boxes from the store are great and some are just crappy and break down immediately, and this was a problem. So in the spirit of my organization blitz I've been on, I finally broke down and -- after much price-comparison online -- bought some sets from the Container Store. [Side note: That place simultaneously inspires and depresses me. Inspired to think of all the things I could do, and depressed because I have no space in which to do them.] So here is the after -- see?? So great!!

There will be more closet things in another blog post, but I know you now want tiny labeled clear shoe boxes, don't you??

[Full disclosure: This is not all my shoes. There are more on other shelves I didn't take pictures of. But they are now all in sparkly stackable clear shoe bins too!]

Tangent ended.)

Getting back to the craft nook. So, no space. I finally decided to sacrifice the desk area I'd built in the bedroom, which really had become more of a clutter catch-all than anything else. I figured I could still store the office-y stuff in amongst the craft things.

So I spent a few weeks perusing the inspirations online, and one of the main things I came up with was that tiny organizing boxes are expensive, but you can use things from your kitchen and just cover them in pretty paper or fabric (Hello, hot glue and spray adhesive! Welcome back. I'd say I missed you, but you never really leave me...). Thus began my campaign to Keep All Plastic, Metal and Glass Kitchen Items. This has single-handedly made Alex more anxious than anything else I've ever done, because he truly thought (as he came home one day to a stack of drying metal food cans) that I was suddenly turning into one of those people on "Hoarders." I finally convinced him that I really, really was planning to throw everything away that I didn't upcycle, but it took some fast talking. He is surprisingly distrustful of my habit of hanging onto things. No idea why (hi, Mom!) ....

Anyway, after a couple of weeks I had quite a few containers stored up (I cook at home a lot and go through a great deal of things like canned tomatoes and chicken broth), and I finally sat down to seriously sort out the mess that was the existing desk structure. I am SO EMBARRASSED to share this right now, but y'all, it was SO BAD and I want you all to know that it happens to even the OCD people out there. Between work and school, some days I can't manage to pick up more than the main living area, and where does all the extra stuff go that I don't have the energy/time to put away? That's right, onto the desk area that nobody can see. So here it is (please don't judge me):

*cringing* All those boxes and magazine containers were from an earlier attempt to tame the clutter, but obviously I had lost that battle.

So, I spent a solid weekend going through all the paper, the boxes, the bags, MORE paper (dear lord, I think I AM a hoarder, it is SO hard for me to let go of paper....), stacks of craft things, and finally, my (very) old Mac desktop. I offloaded all the files onto an external hard drive (which took forever due to many graphics files... it took me almost 26 hours to move all those files, but the space savings was definitely worth it), and then wiped it and donated it to the Salvation Army. I took a bunch of things to the storage unit. And that all took one whole weekend and then I had to break for a week and go to real work, during which time Alex looked dubiously at the (now sorted) stacks of clutter and the stacks of washed-out plastic containers all in that corner of the room and began to watch me suspiciously for the Next Sign of My Hoarding Addiction. (I mean, you know how when you go to sort things you have to make a bunch of stacks of things that go together, so for awhile it just looks much, much worse? That was this step, for a week.)

This past weekend, I finally put up the rest of the oil drip pans (where the magnetic makeup frame came from) on the back wall of the desk so I had a magnetic surface, resurfaced many of the containers with pretty paper, and glued magnets onto everything I could lay my hands on. I sorted things and labeled things and threw out BAGS of things. And behold! The magic of organization:


I did buy some storage things, as you can tell -- those gray wire mesh bins and magazine racks were from the dollar section of Target. (I KNOW, RIGHT?) I wrote out labels for everything (partially for me and partially so that Alex won't call me during class and ask where the printer paper is) and spent forever sticking them on. I hung hooks for scissors (OMG that was the best part of it!!) and stacked pens into chicken broth containers that were the perfect size to cut up and hang on a backboard. Those little round things are cake icing containers, I just stuck magnets on the tops. I put the books that I didn't box up in the storage unit into those large boxes, which are just two copy paper boxes I got from work.

There's a lot of additional sorting you can't see that went into some of the containers and drawers as well. Overall, I'm pretty happy with it. I still have some tweaks left, but I can now find all my paint pens, tapes, glue guns, buttons and ribbon, plus my sewing machine got to get out from under the bed and live a real life on my desk. (I'm hoping that will motivate me to do some hemming and upcycle projects I keep putting off because I don't want to lug it out....)

The far right wall I stuck up corkboard, though it needs another layer to be thick enough for pushpins. Right now it has little shots from various online things that I thought were funny, but I will be adding useful stuff like inspiration photos as I go along.

Now I just need to throw away the extra containers I had left over, but I can't yet because I'm using some of them in my hall closet and pantry cleanups that will be happening next weekend. (Right now, they are sitting just out of the picture frame, still terrorizing Alex. ... On second thought, maybe I will just leave them there an extra week or two for the fun of it.....)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

DIY Magnetic Makeup Frame

So I don't know who to credit this to for creating it first, because it's been all over the Internets, but I made my very own magnetic makeup frame for the bathroom!

I will just let you bask for a moment in the amazingness that is hot glue and magnets.


So if you're like me and your bathroom is shoebox-sized, but you have a tiny bit of wall space, this is the perfect solution.

Allow me to explain. Part of my New Year's resolution was to spend more time prettying myself up in the mornings before work (and before you judge me on this and think I probably already spend too much time primping, let me first note that I was making it as far as a dot of concealer and a ponytail --  no mascara, no powder, no pretty hair; it took me 20 minutes MAX to get from my bed into the car in the mornings), since now they moved my office to where I see people on a daily basis. But it was always such a hassle to find real makeup in my purse or shoved inside the eensy bit of bathroom storage that we do have, and it took so much extra time when I could have been sleeping, so I kept putting it off... and now I have no excuse.

So! How do you do this? Well, I will tell you my way (which is almost guaranteed the lazy way -- do note the paint job up above), though there are about 800 tutorials on Pinterest that will give you additional instructions.

First, you will need:
- 1 picture frame (I used an old one I had that was the wrong color)
- Sheet metal (you can go to Lowe's and have them cut some to size -- just make sure it takes magnets and isn't stainless steel -- or you can buy a $9.99 2.5x5' Oil Drip Pan at Wal-Mart and cut it up yourself with tin snips [or, in a pinch, kitchen shears, though this is much harder. Just, you know, fyi. Not that I got impatient and did it this way or anything...], in which case you will have some left over and can use it for other projects that need magnetic boards. Like desk backsplashes. Which is a later blog post....)
- Pretty (thin!) fabric or paper
- Adhesive with which to attach said pretty fabric or paper (Mod Podge, spray adhesive, etc)
- Small magnets from Michaels/Joann's, etc.
- Hot glue gun
- Spray paint, if you want to paint the frame

So, paint the frame if you like. Then, you glue the (thin!) fabric or paper to the metal sheet, insert into picture frame (I do not recommend leaving the glass on in front, unfortunately, because I found out later that it minimizes the magnets' power and things will fall off ... on your head... scattering bobby pins everywhere...), and hang on the wall.

Now the fun part -- collect all your makeup, and hot glue those magnets to the back. Note: Be a fan of overkill on magnets here and don't skimp, because the last thing you want is some expensive compact crashing down and shattering on the floor. The magnetized compacts should stick firmly to the frame, but not so much that you have trouble removing them.

I added a cup for my makeup brushes (everyone who knows me just said, "YOU have makeup brushes???" in utter astonishment, and I don't blame them. YES, I do. I bought them last week at Target. So there!), a little box for bobby pins, and a hook thingy for my hair elastics. The box and the cup are just recycled plastic containers covered in pretty paper.

And that's it! How easy, right??

(I know, it needs another coat of paint on the frame, but it's been raining nonstop here and I had to bring it in right away last time I tried to spray-paint some more on the fire escape. Also, yes, I know I totally need to stop taking crappy pictures with my cell phone, but I have -- again -- misplaced the charger for my camera battery so you will just have to bear with me for now. Also, you will possibly notice the very high-up toilet paper roll thing. This is because our cat Pixel likes to shred TP rolls, and I got tired of waking up to find that it had "snowed" in our apartment. Ignore it.)

I cannot tell you how much more awesome this makes getting ready in the morning.

Monday, January 16, 2012


I made these this weekend for my friend Sarah's baby shower. She is a huge Dr. Seuss fan, and is using that as the theme for the baby's room. I had seen the cupcakes for Thing 1 and Thing 2 online, but I wanted to do the Cat in the Hat's hat. I spent a loooong time lurking in the candy aisle in the grocery store trying to figure out how to manage the hat part. My main issue was, I could do lifesavers but the flavors wouldn't be right (Winterfresh on a chocolate cupcake? No, thank you!), and I wanted the toppers to be not just EDIBLE, but something people would actually EAT.

What I ended up going with? Marshmallows, mushed slightly to be more column-shaped, and red and white candy melts. (There are not pictures of this in-process because I was in a rush at the time.) It was pretty simple, albeit time-consuming. I just dipped the marshmallows in the candy melts, alternating between red and white and placing on waxed paper. (You have to let each layer dry before you do the next one.) On the last layer, I over-dipped the white candy melts and let them pool around the bottom to form the "brim" of the hat.

The cupcakes are the amazing recipe found here at Lick the Bowl Good. It's meant to be a bundt cake but it sounded AMAZING for cupcakes, and it was. I will warn you here, however, that while most cake recipes make 24 cupcakes, this one made 48. Just, you know, fyi in case you're making cupcakes at midnight and think you only  have one set to go through the oven.....

The cupcakes are in ruffled liners from Joann's, although I disagree with their interpretation of "teal." I mixed up some basic vanilla frosting (the recipe is in a book at home or I'd link to it here), and then colored one half red and the other teal, so I could do alternating icing. Then I sprinkled little sugar sprinkles over the tops to be pretty (because I got lazy making hats out of marshmallows that had to be dipped and then dried, so I only made 12). As always,  I cannot recommend enough the trick with parchment bags and the 1M cake tip for making those beautiful, professional-looking swirled tops. It is WAY faster and looks so much better than "buttering" the cupcakes!

Sorry for the lack of pictures, I promise to document faithfully next post. :)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Score One(sies)!

So we have some friends who are having their first baby (hi, Abbie and Brandon!) and they are our big tailgating buddies in Tuscaloosa for game day. Brandon and his family always host an amazing, incredibly complicated and intense tailgate, which is great when (like Alex and I) you don't have season tickets but you want to hang out near the stadium and feel like you're a part of the experience. Along with a ton of other wonderful people who help set up and take down and grill and put up insane TV setups and about 80 bajillion foldable canvas chairs, Brandon's family makes it possible for us to pretend we're still in college during the fall. So when they announced they were having a little boy, Alex wanted to get them a bunch of football-related onesies. I was all for it until I saw how expensive they can be, at least the ones with the cute sayings. So we compromised and I bought blank onesies to decorate.

I went to go buy puff paint (my only real experience with fabric paint until now), and here is where I found the wonderful world of fabric PENS. Like paint pens, except for clothes!

I cannot EVEN EXPLAIN how excited this made me! It meant I could do little detailed things by hand, which opened up a world of possibilities. So anyway, now that I am the proud owner of entirely too many fabric pens (Michael's had a sale, and Joann's had coupons. Don't judge me.), I can show you my first attempts at baby onesies. I did a few football ones, and then a bib that I ran into online that I just thought was really funny:

Close-up of the elephant, which was the hardest (I painted the houndstooth on with puff paint because the fabric pen didn't get dark enough at the time. I now have a new, blacker paint pen that would have worked, but in the meantime that was what I had to work with):

Aren't they cute? And now I want to fabric pen EVERYTHING.