Things I’m Gifting, and My Picks While Online Shopping

November 27, 2016   //  Posted in: Holiday-Related Projects, Supporting Sponsors   //  By: Emily   //  Leave a comment

Not to brag, but I’m about 72% done with my holiday shopping and feeling pretty good about it. We bailed on the brick and mortar Black Friday shenanigans this year in favor of online browsing, and some of the deals have been just too good to pass up. Less time standing in store lines = more time to scour the ‘hood with the kids on a mission to find the most realistic Santa.

Anyways, the online shopping stuff. In addition to ordering our custom holiday cards, we’ve hand selected a few special things for our people this year, and I thought you might enjoy seeing a round-up of some of them (and other things I really liked too). Minted sponsored this post and allowed me to incorporate affiliate links, but the items I’m choosing to feature are my own, and many of which are things I actually bought. Happy shopping!

On the low end, $:

Stationary customized for a tween who loves science from Minted.

  • Custom clothing and name labels are great too – and I love gifts with purpose: These things stick to anything (jackets, backpacks, water bottles, foreheads). They withstand the washing machine, dishwasher, and are nice to have when you have items stored at daycare or camp. Minted has a LOT of design options for kids of all ages. The rainbow design I selected for our daughter, below, is by artist Shirley Lin Schneider.

Sticker labels for jackets, backpacks, water bottles, and all other school and daycare items. Label design from Minted.

In the middle, $$:

Man, I really love prints from Minted. At Minted you can find items in a broad range of cost and style. The size of your print is the main factor dictating the range in cost. The variety of independent artists featured means something suitable for everyone, but since it’s the holiday season and you’re probably searching for something just a little more personalized, I’m going to suggest you browse the section of the site dedicated to completely customized artwork.

From letterpress location maps created in a range of colors, to custom silhouettes created from your own photographs you can create your own art for Dad, Grandma, etc. You can buy the prints, or order it with a frame. My pick below? It’s a custom print from Sam’s 1-week photoshoot applied to the Circle Dots Art Print.

A customized photo from Minted.

Worth the splurge, $$$:

  • I might admit, with a bit of patience I could probably make something sort of like The Little Artist Shelf™, but for the cost and quality buying it would be a nice indulgence.
  • The Artful Shelf™ made of copper is really beautiful too, artistic in its own right. It’s something I definitely wouldn’t be able to construct myself, and I like that it (like all shelves) can be ordered in a variety of lengths.
  • Don’t tell the kids, but this teepee is going to be a gift to all three of them on Christmas morning. I had 30 minutes free earlier this week and assembled it lickity-split just to show you what it looked like. Kind of bummed that I had to take it down immediately before they got home from running errands, and looking forward to setting it back up for Christmas morning. They’re going to dig it, and I bet your kids will too. It’s SO TALL compared to a lot of the other play teepees I’ve seen sold (well over my own head), and while I picked one of the designs where the fabric options were pre-selected, you can also choose your own fabric options.

A tall kid's teepee from Minted as a Christmas surprise for our kids.

How I Made My Own Light Box

November 02, 2016   //  Posted in: Decor, DIY, For the Kids   //  By: Emily   //  one response

We moved the girls into a bedroom together a few months ago to make space for the new baby; they’re busy reveling in their new bunk bed, pretzel linens, rad useless throw pillows, soaking it all up. I’ve been working hard to make the room their space, and as excited as I am at our ability to have made a room suitable for both a toddler and a 10-year old, I’m putting on the breaks before oversharing it here; I think those days are over.

What I am thrilled to overshare is this little project I did for them, a marquee-style lightbox that offers them creativity, and a sweet little decorative glow that’s fun during the day and rocks as a nightlight at bedtime.

How to make a DIY lightbox using a shadowbox picture frame.

Truth be told, you can purchase a light box from the Heidi Swapp collection, and they’re not too pricy either. For $30-40 you can find them at Michael’s stores, and on Amazon too (that’s an affiliate link guys – and if you click it I promise I’ll use the pennies received towards more Heidi Swapp letters).

If and when you don’t want to buy one, here’s what I used to make mine:

  • a length of thin balsa wood
  • ruler
  • utility blade
  • hot glue (or clear silicone)
  • tape
  • LED string lights (white or rainbow, go crazy)
  • a piece of white paper
  • and most importantly, a kid’s artwork shadowbox frame (kind of like the L’il DaVinci®, but I found my 11×14 product at Target for $20). Any kind of shadowbox frame will work, obviously, but I do like the convenience of hinges.

A hinged kid's artwork shadowbox frame for a DIY light box.

First, remove any matting and line the inside of the glass with a piece of white paper, cut to size. That’s going to obscure the light produced by the bulbs. You might think that a matte contact paper would do the trick – I did – but it turns out I don’t have the patience for contact paper, and even though I did a pretty good job, there were lots of micro-air bubbles that made the end result look imperfect. Ordinary printer paper is unwaveringly simple.

Line the inside of the frame with a piece of paper to make a DIY lightbox.

Now it’s time to install the LED light strand. I used icicle lights because in general the strands are shorter, and the light bulbs are a bit more compacted.Less wire, more light, am I making that up? Maybe. Anyways, white wire promises to show less than black wire, and the little lights produce less heat than ordinary strand lights. Use some strong tape (I used white crafty duct tape) to attach the strands inside the back of the shadowbox frame. Use a hole saw (if you have one) or an utility blade to cut an opening in the back panel of the frame. It needs to be large enough for the plug to emerge.

Line the inside of the frame with LED lights to make a DIY lightbox.

I purchased and used this pack of letters for my project; be prepared to purchase 2 if you want to be able to spell anything that’s beyond the annoyingly motivational “dream love laugh.” To the developer who comes up with an app that helps you make phrases out of limited 50 letters, there’s your million dollar opportunity.

Depending on the size of your frame, you may be able to stack 3-4 rows of text. You should also know that the letters are super easy to trim, say, if you need to take 1/8″ off either end. Don’t expect that the Heidi Swapp letters designed for the coordinating light box will fit perfectly in your DIY model.

Cutting Heidi Swapp light box letters to size.

I chose and used a thin piece of balsa wood for the next part of the project, putting division barriers in place so that the letters had grooves in which to sit. Balsa wood is super easy to work with – I used a straight edge and an utility knife to cut 3 little strips.

Cutting balsa wood to serve as dividers for letters in a DIY light box.

I painted the strips white, allowed it to dry, and then measured out the spacing. Determining where the wooden strips need to fit is pretty simple. The height of the glass divided by 3 or 4, depending on how many rows you’re vying to create. I applied a piece of clear tape up and down the left and right sides of the frame, and then used a marker atop the tape to mark my spacing. For goodness sake, do a dry run to make sure the fit and measurements are right on with your letters.

Testing positioning of wood spacers in a DIY light box.

Hot glue is an easy way to adhere the strips to the glass, although in complete honesty I might recommend you try a bead of clear silicone, which doesn’t harden quite as fast as hot glue. Slow down and do it right. You’ll need the piece of balsa to sit at least a millimeter off of the glass because the letters need to “wedge” behind them to remain upright and in position, and either hot glue or silicone would remain a bit thick, as opposed to falling flat under the pressures of gravity.

How to make a DIY lightbox.

Once it’s assembled, it’s as easy as positioning your phrase and plugging it in. (This phrase, I should note, was scribed by my cousin on a sticky note and taped to the back of Julia’s door a few years ago. We left it there, a little reminder of her happiness and positivity. Thanks Becky!)

How I made a DIY light box for our kid's room.

Plug it in, and get creative with those messages, kiddos.

How to make a DIY lightbox using a shadowbox picture frame.

A 21st Century Fridge In a 1950’s Kitchen

October 20, 2016   //  Posted in: DIY, Kitchen   //  By: Emily   //  Leave a comment

Agree with me on this: There are really only just a few moments in life that render as much satisfaction as buying a new refrigerator. One with no one else’s grimy gook (or your own gook) strewn about inside, one that you can organize… from scratch.

Of course, it’s not a special thing when your kitchen fridge goes on the fritz out of the blue at 3am, making a whole lot of food questionable in quality. And it’s not a special time when you have to decidedly live out of a mini-fridge like you did in college, but that’s what we’ve been doing this month.

It was nothing to whine about; I’ve been willing our old, almond fridge to kick the bucket since June 2013 when we moved in (it’s dead!), and we get a shiny new appliance out of the deal.

Part of us hoped that the old refrigerator would hold out until we were ready to remodel the kitchen, but it’s cool, we’ll make it work. And while we knew that a quick $600 would have gotten us a modest replacement identical to the old unit (fridge on bottom, freezer up top, zero bells-and-whistles), given the opportunity, we wanted one with the works, bigger capacity, and mostly, a real ice maker. Somewhere in between the $600 easy replacement and the $6,000 fridge with the giant LED screen, camera, and its own app store that Julia was heart-eyeing at Lowe’s, we found the LG LSXS26386S, which is a very spiffy upgrade, but still modestly priced at about ~$1,700.

Jumping right to it, here it is!

Our new LG fridge, and how we updated the cabinets to make it fit.

(Shiny, right? Door-in-door action!)

The problem we faced in ordering a fridge larger than our old model is that our 1950’s kitchen wasn’t designed to accomodate such monstrosities. As you can see in this older photo, there were three smaller cabinets atop the old fridge, and they all had to be reconfigured. I’m fairly sure this is the only photo that exists of this angle of the kitchen; it was taken before I painted all of the cabinets, and time stamped February 2014. Back then, the fridge never felt ‘camera-ready’ (and still, never does).

Kitchen cabinets, before repainting, before removal.

Our original plan of attack was unnecessarily complicated, now that we reflect back on it. Remove all three doors, cut and re-route the edges and make them half the height. Adjust the height of the corresponding base cabinet, and bam, we’ve got three new little pint-size cabinets. Good for storing what? I don’t know, these were tiny cabinets already. And at the rate we DIY with a newborn in the house, it would have taken us weeks and weeks to make that happen.

Our slightly simplified approach involved removing all three doors completely, and lifting the base of the shelf up 7″ to accomodate the height of the new refrigerator. Zero-point-zero-zero dollars to complete, since we were able to reuse all of the same trim and had a bit of paint left over from the original job, and finished in just a day.

Removing upper cabinets to make space for a new fridge.

A little attention to detail and a new coat of paint, and it looks like this open shelf has been there all along.

We only had to relocate a few items that had been tucked away in those enclosed cabinets, but in turn made space for some larger cookware that isn’t used often, assorted books, and a few of our kid’s handmade ceramic vases.

Open shelving above the refrigerator.

Speaking of kitchen upgrades, I know I’ve been talking for a long time about the big renovation we intend to undertake; it’s getting a lot closer, with real plans and money and commitment to living in a mess for several weeks/months while it all happens. Next spring? Next fall? Looking forward to being able to share some behind the scenes stuff soon.

If you’re just joining, and you’d like a peek at the work I’ve already done in the kitchen, refer to these posts: