DIY Inexpensive Wall Art – Personalized, Customized, and Absolutely Lovely!

I haven’t posted much about my decorating skills, because, uh… I have none. I’m seriously lacking in that department. I’m always amazed at the genius and creativity of all those bloggers out there who look at an object and say, “Sweet! I can make THAT out of THIS!”, when “THAT” has absolutely nothing in common with “THIS”, and the end result is always extraordinary. I am not that kinda girl. I look at “THAT” and see… well, THAT.

So as you can see, creativity is not one of my strengths. Not even close! And that, my friend, is why I am inordinately proud of this recent project I completed! Because you know what? I completed the project start-to-finish without consulting Pinterest or any of those creative types (unless you count my DH, who has a degree in graphic design, and whose opinion was invaluable when it came to choosing the colors and papers). And I think the end result is absolutely lovely!

Here’s how this project evolved: I started with two picture frames that my DH had given to me for Christmas some years ago; and although I had pointed them out to him as a potential gift item, I had absolutely no idea what to do with them, so they sat largely unused for… umm…. a while. (Let’s just leave it at that.) The biggest problem was that I didn’t have enough actual pictures of people that were oriented in the same way (all vertical or all horizontal), and I also couldn’t figure out the best way to hang the two frames together, and where to put them, yada yada yada. Too many little problems for my pea-pickin’ little non-decorator brain to figure out.

But in our new place, I was determined to use them somehow, because – despite the issues they presented – they were beautiful frames, and my DH had given them to me. Thankfully, finding the spot on the wall was easy this time around. They fit perfectly in the space  between the built-in media cabinet and the curtains and would totally finish out the little tableau I was creating there.

Unfortunately, figuring out what to put in those dumb frames was still an issue. I pondered over it for quite some time, mulling a variety of ideas before settling on creating some type of text-based graphic design myself. Then I pondered a little longer, trying to come up with two words that were 5 letters each, were meaningful to our family, and made sense. Faith and family would’ve been perfect except for the minor detail that “family” has 6 letters, not 5. Love and hope? Only four letters, and not necessarily words that personally meant a lot to us. Pretty words, but nothing that struck a chord in me.

Finally, I settled on using our initials. Not a perfect solution, I guess, because if our family grows, then we have to redo them! But for now, it works beautifully: they are both meaningful and personal, and the 3 characters balance nicely in the middle of the 5 slots.

I love the finished result, and these frames -inexpensive wall art that they are!- make me smile every time I see them. The colors complement the overall color scheme in our living area (gray, blue, brown with some black/white accents) and help to create a put-together look. But what I love best is that this art is personal to me! It’s not something I picked up on sale at Michaels’ or from the clearance rack at Marshall’s, and that makes all the difference in the world.

What I love second best is the price! I already had the frames on hand, and the paper cost less than $10. The whole project came together in one afternoon, and wasn’t that difficult at all. Actually, it was really quite easy!

DIY Inexpensive Wall Art

I used:

  • 2 frames with 5 openings, with matting included
  • 2 sheets of blue open scrollwork scrapbook paper
  • 2 sheets of black open scrollwork scrapbook paper
  • 4 sheets of sturdy silver scrapbook paper
  • 1 sheet of sturdy white linen scrapbook paper
  • 1 sheet of sturdy black linen scrapbook paper
  • tape
  • glue stick
  • craft knife

I measured and cut the scrollwork and silver papers to fit the openings in the mat, then I taped them to the back of the mat (scrollwork paper first, then the silver background). I alternated the blue and the black scrollwork papers to create a balanced but varied design.

Then I drew the letters freehand  (my DH actually drew the ampersand template for me because my ampersands kept coming out like “S”‘s, lol) onto a piece of paper that was cut the size of the mat opening, making sure the letter filled the space but was neither too large nor too small. Then, using scissors and the craft knife, I cut the letters out to create templates, which I used to cut out the actual letters on the sturdy linen paper. Again, I used black for one set of initials and white for another to kind of balance out the look but keep things fresh.

Then I just used my glue stick to carefully adhere the letters to the scrollwork paper through the opening in the mat. Once they dried, I put the mat back into the frame, put the backing on the frame, and secured it. Then my DH hung it on the wall, and… DONE!

Not bad for ten bucks, eh?

A Simple Christmas Tip #17 – Wrap Gifts in Brown Paper

If you want more information, click here or on the graphic itself to take you to a full-length post on the topic. Click here to see all the posts in this series.

Come back tomorrow for another quick tip to help you simplify your Christmas by focusing less on spending and more on celebrating.

Upcycle an Oatmeal Canister

I love turning trash into treasures. Egg containers, coffee cans, empty jars and bottles… none of them are safe from me! I love figuring out new ways to use them instead of just throwing them all away. Join me at Homemaker’s Challenge today where I show you how to turn an empty oatmeal canister into a toilet paper dispenser that will beautify your bathroom (really!).

Sharing at Frugal Days Sustainable Ways

Happy Valentine’s Day: Make Your Reservations at Home!

dining in Happy Valentine’s Day!

One of the trends I’ve noticed – and loved – this year is dining in for Valentine’s Day. Due to budget and time constraints, my husband and I have been ahead of the game for a while now. Dining in is one of our favorite ways to celebrate a special holiday – or even just to spend time together.

I’m over at Intentional by Grace today, sharing how you, too, can turn your dining room into a dining destination and enjoy a gourmet meal together on a budget.

You don’t have to be a gourmet chef to re-create a fine dining experience from your very own kitchen. All you need is a little creativity, a little planning ahead, and a little extra effort to turn the moment into a special occasion.

Pick a night when you can afford to stay up late (on the weekend, maybe) and mark it down on your calendar. When the day comes, send the kids to bed (a wee bit early if necessary) and then get busy turning your dining room into a dining destination!

So go ahead: celebrate Valentine’s Day by dining in!

Works for Me Wednessday

An UNO Birthday – The Decor

Benjamin bday collage

Last weekend was my Baby Boy’s first birthday, can you believe it? An entire year has passed since he was born! And as you can imagine, planning a birthday in the midst of all the holiday mayhem was, to say the least, challenging.

My friend Leigh Ann of Intentional by Grace came to my rescue with a simple but fun first birthday theme that she had come across on Pinterest for her own child’s first birthday. The idea was so charming, I had to steal it (my apologies to Leigh Ann, who had the idea first!). And many thanks to the awesomely creative people who come up with these ideas in the first place. I am totally in your all’s debt! (And so are my kids, because Mommy could never come up with such cool stuff from her own head!)

The birthday theme idea, of course, was based on the game UNO. You know, for the number one. (In case you were unaware, “uno” means one in Spanish. Just in case you needed to know that.) As it happened, I had an old box of UNO that was missing quite a few cards (not to mention that someone put a new box of UNO in my stocking!), so I took that as a heaven-sent serendipitous sign that the UNO party was just meant to be.

One thing I LOVE (L-O-V-E!) about this theme is that the decorations are so terrifically cheap (a good thing considering the state of our bank account right after Christmas!). I used random supplies I had around the house to throw together some fun decor that was bright and cheerful and just screamed “party!”. All the decorations were made with that same a-few-cards-short-of-a-full-set! Add to that non-investment, 2 paper plates, a long string of curling ribbon, a stick of hot glue, and some random pieces of tissue paper (oh, and 2 pieces of felt), and you have the sum total of the items needed for UNO party decor.

The other thing I love is that it has a built-in color scheme: red, blue, green and yellow (plus a little black). Easy peasy. No thinking necessary.

Oh, and by the way, this party theme is not just for one-year-olds! Any kid, or even adult, who loves games or numbers would have a blast with this party theme!

UNO wreath

This UNO wreath was a last minute inspiration that I literally whipped up in 2 minutes. And then I still had a ton of UNO cards, so I whipped up another one in a couple more minutes. This one’s a no-brainer, people. Take a large sturdy paper plate, and fold it in half. Cut out the inner circle, leaving the outer ring to form your wreath shape. Knot a ribbon around the top, then tie it into a bow. Lay the plate flat on a table, and use hot glue to attach UNO cards to the plate to form the wreath. I tried to match up the top left corner of each card to the top right corner of the previous card, slanting each one at a slight angle.

tissue paper pompom cluster I made these tissue paper pom-poms using up some tissue paper languishing in my present-wrapping-box. I will spare you my own garbled attempt to explain how to make them, and direct you to this great picture tutorial instead. I used the colors from the UNO theme – red, blue, green and yellow. Black would be a nice addition, but I didn’t have black. I could have hung these up individually, but my DH and I decided to hang them together in a cluster above the birthday cake to draw attention there. It was a great choice! The cluster had more impact than individual pom-poms would have, I think.

UNO garland To make an UNO garland, you’ll need to start with a tremendously long piece of curling ribbon (I used red because it’s what I had.). To secure the cards to the ribbon, you’ll want to tie a knot on each one. To do this, start with a long piece of curling ribbon. Punch a hole in the top of an UNO card, and thread the ribbon through it, leaving about 6″ or so on the left for hanging. Tie a knot and pull it taut just above the card. Then thread another card through the ribbon, once again tying a knot. Keep adding the cards one at a time, tying the knot for each one, until you come to the other end of the ribbon, once again leaving about 6″ or so for hanging. Voila! An UNO garland!

another UNO garland

Even the birthday boy was part of the decor! Check out his designer onesie:

UNO onesie I used two pieces of felt (Warning: do not try to use peel’n’stick felt. It doesn’t stick. Just so you know.), one blue and one white (you couldn’t tell that yourself, could you?!). I cut a rectangle to fit the front of his onesie out of the blue felt and attached it via the adhesive on the back of the peel’n’stick felt. Bad decision. I should have hot-glued it on, because it wouldn’t stay put once we got to the party. Lesson learned! Thankfully, the white felt was not peel’n’stick! I cut out a slanted oval to fit in the center of my blue rectangle and attached it with hot glue (And it stuck. Like glue.) I also cut out some mini little “1”s from the white felt and glued them to the top right and bottom right corners. Then I cut  a larger “1” (all of them attempting to replicate the UNO font) out of the blue felt and stuck it to the white oval. To this day, I do not know where it is. *Sigh* If you want a more permanent onesie, of course, you can skip all the gluing, and use iron-on backing and/or sewing it to secure around the edges. I was just going for the effect that day, so it wasn’t a really big deal that it wasn’t a permanent design.

Ain’t he a cute little model?!

UNO model

Not shown (because I don’t have a picture) are the table decorations, which consisted mostly of black plastic table cloth, scattered with all my leftover UNO cards (yes, I still had more!). I considered running the UNO cards through our shredder to make confetti, but I ran out of time. It made more impact anyway, I think, leaving them whole.

scrapbooking Because, of course, there is no way Baby Boy will remember his first birthday years from now, we (all the guests at the party) made a scrapbook for him. Each person decorated one page and wrote a personal note to him for his birthday. The pages all have an empty spot where I can insert pictures from the party (I predict I will finish this in time for his 21st birthday party). I did the same thing for My Certain Little Someone’s first birthday, and I wanted Baby Boy to have the same special scrapbook.

Each piece of UNO decor was awfully QUICK, I can tell you that! The tissue pom-poms were the hardest part, but once I figured out how to make them, the process went more quickly. I made the garland while watching TV one night, and it was done before the show was over, so it didn’t take all that long.

Everything was super EASY, I assure you. OK, a slight learning curve on the pom-poms, but easier than other things I have done.

We’ve already covered how CHEAP these decorations were.

And HEALTHY as long as you don’t try to eat them.

Read the Rest of An Uno Birthday Series:

Another Christmas Tree Tray – Veggies This Time!

Here’s yet another last-minute Christmas tray to bring to any festivities this weekend. Yesterday, I brought you a Christmas tree fruit tray. Today, it’s a Christmas tree veggie tray! Same concept, different produce.

Easy peasy. 

This one I also found on Pinterest (naturally), originally from the Betty Crocker website. Here’s another Christmas tree veggie tray, also from Betty Crocker, if you’d like something a bit different, or if you have different tastes in veggies. And if you’re looking for yet another creative Christmas-tree-shaped appetizer tray, try this cheese cube Christmas tree from Cabot.

Serve your Christmas tree with a bowl of homemade dip on the side. Unfortunately, I have no specific dip recipe for you (I was in too much of a hurry to take measurements), but I can tell you how I made my Ranch-like version of dip: I dumped equal parts cream/yogurt cheese (homemade from yogurt) and plain yogurt in a bowl and mashed it together well until it was creamy. Then I stirred in garlic powder, freshly ground black pepper, dill, parsley, chives, and a bit of salt until it tasted right. Then I refrigerated it for a couple of hours before serving.

Just as QUICK as any other vegetable tray!

And just as EASY, but with so much more presentation!

It’s CHEAPer than the fruit tray, because these veggies are cheaper than those fruits.

And it’s very HEALTHY, too, nothing but veggies! (Well, except the pretzel sticks, which I don’t normally buy, but didn’t have time to come up with anything more creative. Carrot sticks? Celery sticks? Right shape, wrong color. Let me know if you come up with something!)

Sharing with Real Food Wednesday, and…
day2day joys

Festive Holiday Fruit Tray

Christmas tree fruit tray

I’m loving Pinterest this Christmas season! It’s given me some great ideas for Christmas presents, Christmas decorating, Christmas wrapping, Christmas baking, Christmas cooking… and Christmas celebrating.

Some of these ideas take a little more work, which makes me question if it’s a good thing or not. Or at any rate, it makes my DH question! Me? I love all the holiday craziness. Bring it on, people!

But if you’re really frazzled, and don’t have the wits or time to come up with a dish for the holiday party this weekend, I’ve got your back. This particular Pinterest-inspired fruit tray is dead easy and perfectly brainless. A little on the pricey side this time of year, but whatever. Totally worth it.

For an extra touch, you can use a star cookie cutter to cut a star shape out of a pineapple wedge, or piece of cantaloupe. If you have a large enough pear or apple, and a metal cutter, you could use that as well. Place that at the top of the tree. (I just went without.)

This is so QUICK to put together. I washed all my fruit and sliced the apples at home, then brought it all to the function I was attending (my piano students’ Christmas recital). I formed the tree probably in 5 minutes or less.

Such an EASY, yet festive and creative, fruit tray to bring to any holiday function! Party-goers will love it, and you will have put very little effort into it (yeah, baby, that’s what I’m talkin’ about!).

It is NOT CHEAP this time of year! Unless maybe if you live in Florida or California. The apples aren’t expensive, but the grapes and berries. Oh my! I never pay that much for those fruits, since I usually only buy them in season. Oh well, totally worth it for a Christmas splurge.

It is very HEALTHY, though. Nothing but fruit!

Growing Home

Have a Cupcake: Birthday Celebration Menu & Decor

cupcake birthday

You know what’s really kind of cool? My mother-in-law and my sister-in-law both have their birthdays on the same day! Since I am the only other adult female on this side of the family, it falls to me to plan their birthday celebrations, something I enjoy very much every year. In the past, I’ve had the whole family over for a meal, complete with cake and ice cream of course, but our current dining room is simply not large enough to accommodate everyone comfortably. The past few years I’ve had to get creative in finding ways to celebrate their birthdays, some years with more success than others.

My challenge this year was to:

  • create an easy but delicious menu
  • decorate simply but beautifully
  • find a fun excursion/activity that was inexpensive and enjoyable to both birthday girls
  • spend $30 or less! (I hope they’re not reading this. If you are, it’s not because I’m cheap, I swear! Just trying to stay in the birthday budget!)

I hope I can say without boasting that I do believe I was mostly successful in achieving all my objectives, and that both ladies enjoyed themselves, and hopefully felt special on their birthdays. Just in case you want some ideas to help you plan a birthday celebration, my next few posts this week will detail the celebration, including recipes, of course!
vegetable tray

First off, the menu, a breezy, springy, lightly spicy affair:

  1. Crunchy Chicken Salad with Cilantro Dressing
  2. Fruit Salad with Honey Lime Dressing
  3. Parmesan Crisps
  4. Vegetables with Dip
  5. Sweet Tea
  6. Lemonade

There was no dessert on the menu… more on that later!

Most of the food – the chicken, dressing ingredients, parmesan and fruit – I either had on hand or purchased with my grocery budget money. I did spend about $5 extra on some of the vegetables, the limes and the lemonade, bringing my overall spending to about $35 for the whole birthday event.

I always feel that dressing the table is an easy way to make guests feel special, although I’ve learned not to go overboard because sometimes, for some reason, it just makes some people uncomfortable. (If the table is overdressed, they feel like they are underdressed.)

I kept it pretty and elegant but simple by using a pretty lacy white table cloth (which I should have ironed!), light green cloth napkins, my fine china, and drinking glasses. For an extra special touch, I accordion-folded the napkins, then arranged them in a circle on the plates and topped them with the salad bowl.  spring birthday party table setting

The center piece was equally simple, yet elegant: a unique silver tray (which I left unpolished on purpose because I liked the slightly tarnished look), 3 simple glass tealight holders filled with different colored tealights, set on another light green napkin, with some accordion folds on either side.

candle silver centerpiece

I added a fun element to the whole display with these adorable little paper cupcakes, inspired by Keri of Pressed Down Shaken Together. She calls them “popcakes”, which is just perfect and oh-so-cute!


I didn’t spend a dime on any of the party decor, because everything I used came from a closet or cupboard in my house.

Check out my cupcake-themed gift idea!

Find more ideas for entertaining here:


Guest Post: A Veggie Flower Garden

Even though it’s early March and the weather still hasn’t officially decided yet if it would rather be winter or spring, my thoughts have already turned to gardening. My garden consists of pots on my balcony, but still. It’s my garden! I can’t wait to try my hand again at planting some veggies and herbs in the pots. I was only partially successful last year, but I have high hopes for this year’s harvest!

You don’t have to wait for the official spring, though, to enjoy some vegetables and flowers. My friend Sheila, from Alice and the Mock Turtle, shares with us how to make some gorgeous flowers out of … vegetables! Sheila is a wonderful real life friend that I’ve been privileged to know for quite a few years now. I used to work at the school that she and her husband started, and I was always in awe of her creativity as a teacher, as well as her mothering skills. You’ll catch a glimpse of both these qualities in the post below: I can’t wait to try these with my Certain Little Someone (*mentally putting peppers and spinach on the shopping list*).

That’s enough from me. Here’s Sheila, with her Veggie Flower Garden


My children enjoy eating fruits and veggies, sometimes. When we plan for parties though, they often expect ‘tasty’ food. I have found if I disguise veggies in fun, they think it’s party food any day.

I also enjoy playing with food and don’t necessarily discourage my children from doing the same. I think this helps them not only to enjoy it more but also be more willing to try something they may not have otherwise.

So my suggestion to get kids to eat more of their veggies and even try new foods is to have fun with ingredients and have them help. Here is a quick and easy, cheap and healthy idea for a kids snack or party food~ a Veggie Flower Garden. You can do the prep and have your child help with the building.

Veggie Flower Garden
bell peppers
baby spinach
fresh herbs (recommend parsley, cilantro, chives and/or mint)
green peas

Rinse and dry peppers. Slice from bottom of bell into rings, thin or thick. If you want to build more elaborate flowers, use thin slices.

Working on serving platter (a butcher block works well, or cover a piece of cardboard with blue wrapping paper and then protect with plastic wrap for a bright ‘sky’ backdrop), make a cross with spinach leaves, snapping off long stems as working. Over lap four more leaves just inside two intersecting leaves. Lay pepper ring on top of spinach leaves. Add a few green peas to middle to represent seeds.

Or add another smaller pepper ring before placing peas. If you have a few rings stacked, you could put a small piece from the bottom of the pepper in the middle to hold a the peas together and up higher.

Select a few stems of fresh herbs (I used parsley) and place to look like flower stalks.

Finish off the bottom of the platter with short pieces of chives to resemble grass. Also, use some of the pieces from the bottom of the bell to place as fallen flower petals. Use the top of a bell pepper (after removing seeds) to serve dip in.

Here are a few ideas for more fun food~

Ants on a Stump
An apple, sliced into rings, then cored; dip in lemon juice to keep from browning. Drizzle a bit of honey around the top {sap, of course}, then add some craisins.

Celery stick with four mini heart-shaped pretzels attached with spray cheese (I don’t know what it is really called).

Frogs’ Eggs Salad
Green peas mixes with ranch dressing over shredded lettuce.

Frogs on a Log
Celery with cream cheese and green olive halves.

What are some of your favorite fun kid foods?