Tag Archives: crafts

Working On My Crafty Side (or Starting Off Halloween Season!)

I love Halloween. I don’t know if it started because of working at Halloween Horror Nights or the amazing Halloween parties that my friends have thrown, but I love Halloween time. I remember when I was growing up that my parents would get the Halloween box out of the garage and we would spend an afternoon decorating the outside of the house. Now that I’m in my house, I really don’t decorate the outside but I’ve tried to be better about decorating the inside. I’m not the most crafty person, but I’m good at shopping and have found some cute decorations that work in my house.

But my friend Anne is probably one of the most crafty people I know and is amazing at decorating! She decorates her house based on the season and changes out things seasonally so that everything reflects what she is decorating for! I met Anne when I went to the blogger event a few years ago about the Hard Rock Cafe 5K and we’ve stayed in touch ever since then. We don’t get to see each other that often, so when she invited me to a crafting party at her house, I immediately RSVPed yes!

The plan was to decorate styrofoam pumpkins and she would have all the crafting supplies for us. I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t know what to do with the pumpkin but I knew there would be so many creative people there that I could learn from and hopefully I would be inspired and could make something cute.

When I got to the party, Anne had all the crafting supplies out by the tables she set up. I was so impressed by everything that she had for us and even more impressed that this was all stuff that she already had in her house!

There were so many things on the table to use to decorate the pumpkins! I honestly didn’t know where to start. The only thing I knew I didn’t want to use was glitter because it gets everywhere and I try to not have glitter things in my house (I guess that proves I’m not into crafts since I don’t like glitter). But there were so many paint options, ribbons, gems, door knobs to use as stems, and other things to choose from so not using glitter wasn’t going to limit me.

Other people started to grab paint, glitter, and other things to decorate and I took a moment to observe and see what everyone else was doing. A lot of people were painting their pumpkins another color and then were going to work on decorating on top of that, but I knew that it wouldn’t be what I would do. So I took a look carefully at the supplies table and got inspired by some gem-type ribbon. Anne got a glue gun out for me so I could glue it down, I grabbed some gems to go with the ribbon, and I started working.

I covered the stem of the fake pumpkin with the ribbon and then wrapped it around and glued it down. Then I took some of the gems and put them randomly around the pumpkin. I was liking how it looked and decided that because I’m such a big Disney nerd that I needed to add a few hidden Mickeys to my pumpkin. And I was so happy with the end result!

It’s the perfect mix of Halloween and Disney and it will look so cute on my dining room table! And it’s simple enough that as I get more decorations that it should still work with everything. And because Anne had so many extra pumpkins, I took another one and took colored gems to create a pumpkin that was just Mickeys.

As expected, everyone else was so creative! The pumpkins looked like things you would buy in a store and we joked that we should create a shop to sell what we made. I wish I could be as creative and crafty as everyone else, but that’s just not a skill I have right now. I probably could be better if I worked on it, but I don’t have a lot of opportunity to do that.

And when everyone was all done, we had to get all the pumpkins together for a photo. That’s what happens when you are in a room of bloggers, social media specialists, and marketers.

I do feel like mine are the least fancy of the bunch, but I am still proud of what I made and that they did turn out cute. I was not competing with others to make the best pumpkin, I just wanted to do something that I could be proud of and that didn’t look ugly. I accomplished both of those goals.

I’m so glad that I went to the pumpkin party because I got to meet so many amazing people and I got to spend an afternoon being creative. Even though my creativity isn’t usually in crafting, any time I get to be creative is a good thing for me. And it helped me kick off Halloween season early so now I can take the rest of my Halloween decorations out and start getting my house into the Halloween spirit!

Adding Gadgets To My House (or Tools To Help Me Out)

While I’m trying to cut back on my spending and bringing more things into my house, sometimes you need to break that rule to make things better. It’s a hard balance to figure out because I’m sure I can justify spending for stuff I really don’t need. So I’m trying to be very picky and making sure that it’s something that I really need and not just something that I want. But there were two gadgets that fit into that rule that I ended up buying this week.

The first thing I got was a lamination machine for my house. Usually when I need to laminate stuff, I go to Staples and pay to get it done. I normally only need one thing or one page so it never seemed worth it to me to have my own lamination machine. But my mom has had one for a while and loved it, so when I was thinking about getting stuff laminated this week I looked into buying one for myself.

I did manage to find one that was heavily discounted on Amazon that would arrive that day at my house (thanks Amazon Prime)! And it was perfect because I have been working on my meal planning and wanted to create a nice reusable meal planning guide.

The machine I got is really easy to use and it came with a bunch of the laminating pages so I don’t need to buy any for a little bit. And I have been able to use the meal planning page I created each day (although I’m still trying to figure out how I can write on this without ruining it). And it’s small enough that it fits into a shelf on my desk so it is out of the way when I am not going to be using it.

The other new gadget I got this week also has to do a bit with my challenge to work on meal planning. I’ve thought for a long time that my kitchen was perfectly set up for me to cook, but I’m aware that I set it up based on what most people need and not what I need. I’m a pretty decent cook and my knife skills are ok, but when I have to cut up a bunch of stuff I’m not so great at it. So I have been looking casually at ideas to make chopping stuff easier and decided I needed to invest in a new cooking gadget. So I went out and got the Vidalia Chop Wizard.

I got it yesterday and used it last night to cook dinner. I made meatloaf muffins and this was perfect for chopping the onions and mushrooms I use it in. It was so much easier than chopping things by hand and everything was uniform so I didn’t bit into a huge piece of onion while eating dinner. I know that this can be used for a ton of stuff and I have a feeling that I will be discovering ways to use it on a regular basis.

And besides the new stuff I bought this week, I’ve been rediscovering stuff in my kitchen to help me with my food goals. I’ve been using my slow cooker (and I found my slow cooker liners so I don’t have to do much cleanup) to make easy meals and I’ve found recipes that don’t require browning food or getting another pan dirty to make the meal (my slow cooker pet peeve). And I’ve been using my food processor regularly the last few weeks and have started to think that maybe I need to buy another food processor bowl and blade so it will be easier to use it multiple times a day.

I know that I can do a lot of the work I’ve been using these gadgets for by hand, but why should I? This is making cooking easier and seems like I could be more likely to keep things up in the long run. The only downside is that I do need to go through my kitchen now and figure out what I really want to keep and what I can give to others because my kitchen is super tiny and lacking storage space. I don’t know where to put everything just yet (there are things all over my house that could live in the kitchen if there was space), but that will be something else I need to work on with organizing my house.

But for now, I’m just so glad that I was ok spending a bit of money to try to make things better for me with figuring other things out in my life.

Chalkboard Placemats (or Successfully Being Crafty!)

Thanksgiving this year is being held in La Jolla. My parents are renting a house and hosting it there. Since my parents are hosting and they are driving to the location, I offered to try to help out with whatever I could.

I was able to go out and get the tablecloth for the adult table as well as get some of the food things that my mom needed. But I wanted to see if I could do something really awesome.

I’ve seen so many pins on Pinterest about what you can do with chalkboard paint. I’ve always wanted to try one, but I never knew what exactly I should do.

But then I saw an idea about making placemats with chalkboard paint. The ones I saw on Pinterest were made out of a fabric placemat where someone glued posterboard on it and covered the posterboard with the chalkboard paint. But since I had seen some other ideas about using the paint on fabric, I decided to try it but skip a step.

First, I went to Bed Bath and Beyond to get the placemats. While I knew it didn’t really matter what pattern I bought since one side would be covered with the paint and I thought that some of the paint might seep through to the other side, I still got the matching pattern to the tablecloth I bought.

Then I went to OSH and had a nice chat with the employee in the paint department. He was actually super helpful and said that as long as I did thick coats of paint on the placemats, the regular chalkboard paint would work and I wouldn’t have to do any fancy primers on it. I got the regular chalkboard paint and had it done in black since I didn’t know if I would want to do a coordinating color to the placemats.

Finally, it was time to attempt the project.


I got a bunch of ads from the mail and covered the concrete in front of my house with it. It’s really good that I did this step because I was a sloppy painter.


The first coat of paint went on pretty nicely. I did it really thick and used a lot more paint than I thought I would. But I wanted to make sure that I covered the entire thing and none of the colors were showing through.

I let it dry for a day and then went to work on the second coat of paint.


I didn’t have to do this one quite as thick, but I still wanted to make sure that there was good coverage over the entire placemat.

I let them dry for another day before I got out the chalk that I bought to see if these were a success.


And as you can tell from the happy face I drew that they were! They aren’t super easy to wipe off, but if you get a damp cloth it isn’t too bad.

I’m excited to see how the kids like these at the kid’s table at dinner. I’ll have to do an update when I do my Thanksgiving dinner recap!

But at least these were a Pinterest win and not a Pinterest fail!

Pinning And Not Doing (or The Hazards Of Pinterest)

I’ve been pretty active on my Pinterest page lately. I’ve been pinning a ton of recipes and craft ideas and I’m super inspired to do all of these ideas.

Except I’ve done none of them.

I went back through the recipes that I’ve pinned lately and they all look amazing to me. I want to make all of those meals now. Some of them are even slow cooker recipes so I can cook them while I work (but I don’t feel comfortable leaving my slow cooker on while I’m not home yet).

But then I look at the ingredients and realize that I have to do a shopping trip just to get those things. I don’t keep a very stocked fridge or pantry, but I feel like  I have to do that so I don’t go crazy with food. So I can’t just “throw something together” because I don’t have the something to throw together.

I’m trying to do some planning about maybe going to get the ingredients on a day that I can make the dish, but then when I get to the store, I’m just motivated to get the things I usually eat (lots of salad ingredients and frozen chicken).

I’m not sure if my lack of motivation is due to not wanting to make the food or the cleanup involved afterwards. It’s also not motivating when I’m just cooking for myself. When I have company, I’m happy to cook.

Crafty ideas I’m getting a bit better about. I saw a pin about cute placemats for Thanksgiving. I went out and got all the things needed to make them and I’ll be working on them on the weekend (it involves multiple coats of paint so I want a day that I’m free to work on this). I’m much more willing to fail with crafty ideas than I am with food.

Everything looks so beautiful on Pinterest and not necessarily achievable by “normal” people. There are even websites devoted to Pinterest fail. I understand that with many things that are pinned on there, failure is almost inevitable because many pins are done by professionals.

I just have to get over myself and take the risk at making these foods I’ve pinned and maybe I can become a Pinterest success story!

Dot Art Mugs (or A Pinterest Win!)

I haven’t had the best luck with being able to create things I see on Pinterest. And the things I’m able to do aren’t necessarily the most impressive things (when I was sick, I combined an empty tissue box with a full one to have a trash can in easy reach).

But when I saw this blog pinned on Pinterest, I thought that maybe I could do the dot art mug. And I’m happy to say that it was a success!

It’s a super easy craft, but I think it look pretty impressive, as you’ll see at the bottom of this post. And you don’t need too much to do it.


First, you need a plain mug. I bought this one at a kitchen supply store, but I think I’m going to look at IKEA for more. You also need a sticker to create the negative space. And finally you need an oil-based Sharpie (you can buy these at craft stores, just look for the marker to say “oil-based”).

To start, I put the “J” sticker on the mug where I wanted the plain space to be.


Then using the oil-based Sharpie, I put dots all over the sticker, putting more dots closer to the sticker and putting them farther apart the farther I got from the sticker.


I then let the marker dry for about an hour before removing the sticker. I would recommend waiting longer as my dots got a little smudged.


The final step (which I haven’t done yet) it to put the mug in a cold over, turn it on to 350, and letting it bake for 30 minutes. I’m going to do a few more mugs before I bake them (might as well be energy-efficient!).

I did a second mug after my “J” one and I think the heart looks even better!


I’m thinking of maybe making some of these for anniversary gifts (sorry to spoil the surprise for anyone who might get one from me).

And if you don’t want to do dot art, you can still follow all the same steps to make a custom mug/plate/bowl/serving dish. The possibilities are endless!

And now I have something crafty to keep me busy while I’m out of work!

Happy Birthday Dad! (or Just Like Mom, I Promise Not To Reveal Your Age)

Today is my dad’s birthday! So, Dad, if you are reading this on the 16th, Happy Birthday!

My dad has been an awesome support this past year for me, my brother, and my mom. He’s the one spending every day making sure that my mom is ok (and she’s still kicking butt on chemo and only has 2 treatments left). My dad is also the one who has to deal with my phone calls when I’m worried about my mom. So many of the things that my mom tells me about I don’t understand (I’m the only one in the family who hasn’t worked in the medical field). So instead of consulting Google, I consult my dad a lot. And he’s pretty willing to put up with me through all of this.

Every time my dad comes to visit me, he helps me do projects around the house (isn’t that what dads are for?). The last time my dad was here, he brought me something that he made for my house.


The bark planter is something that my dad is known for making. I have one outside my house, but this one he made especially for inside. He also made the wine bottle and bark candle holders. While my dad was here, he helped me pick out some silk flowers to put inside the planter. It’s still on my dining room table and everyone compliments me on it when they see it.

My dad has also pushed me this past year. He, along with my Aunt Cindy, got me to go into an ocean for the first time in over a decade. I have such a horrible fear of oceans (or more specifically, a fear of being attacked by creature that live in the ocean). But with my dad’s encouragement, not only did I make it into the ocean, I lasted over an hour out there. The only reason I went back to the beach when I did was because my dad got tired (and it’s a good thing we got out then because even wearing SPF 50 did not protect my back from getting a horrible sunburn).


He’s also pushed me with my 5Ks. Even when I’m stressed out about doing them, he reminds me that it’s not important how fast or slow I am, as long as I complete the race.

And I have to say that my dad is one of the best challengers I have in Words With Friends (my username is thejenlevin if anyone wants to challenge me). He pretty much beats me in every game. And when I win, he’ll say I’m cheating. If I take too long to play my turn, sometimes he’ll send me a message in the game saying “suck it up and play”. And when I place my tiles on a space that he wanted, he’ll joke that he had reserved that space a few turns ago and ask me politely to move my tiles.


So those are some awesome things about my dad that I wanted you all to know. Of course, there’s a ton more awesome things about him, but I’ll have to save those for future birthday blog posts about my dad.

Happy Birthday Dad! I hope that you have a great day today (maybe including a bike ride). And in case you read this before I call you to wish you a happy birthday, I’ll give you one hint about your birthday present: it has to do with the Disneyland trip that you, Mom, and I are doing in the spring.

My Pinterest Fail (or Now What Will I Wear On Saturday?)

If you have been on Pinterest, I’m sure you’ve seen a pin about turning a t-shirt into a cute workout tank top (like this). I’ve seen it a ton of times, and have been looking for a good excuse to try it.

I was going to do it with my race shirt I got for the Hollywood Half 5K, but that ended up being a nice technical shirt, so I didn’t want to cut it up.

But next Saturday, I have the Revlon Run/Walk and I knew that the shirt would be a cotton one and perfect for trying this pin out.

I picked up my shirt after my work shift this past Saturday.


No lines when I got there, so I was in and out!

As soon as I got home, I grabbed a couple of old junky shirts and tried out the tank top instructions. My first shirt was a disaster, but the second and third one came out ok (the shirts were a bit small for me, so I don’t have pictures of them).

After testing it out, I decided I was ready to do my race shirt.

I put the shirt out on my bed.


I cut off the collar.


I cut off the first sleeve.


I took the cut off sleeve and used it as a pattern for the other sleeve (so they’d be even).


(it was way more even than the picture looks)

Next, I flipped the shirt around so the bottom was toward me and cut off the bottom hem.


I don’t have a picture of this next part, but I cut the stitching away from the bottom hem that I cut off (so all I had left was a strip of shirt with no thread). Then I stretched it out to make a long shirt string.

Next, I flipped the shirt over so I could cut a v shape out of the back.


Then I wrapped the shirt string around the v in the back to make it a racer back top.


So far so good, right? Wrong.

I try on the shirt and it looks like this.

IMG_1773 IMG_1771

The sides were cut away too much and the back was cut way too low. I couldn’t figure out how I made such a mistake!

Finally, I realized it. All the shirts I used before fit me snuggly. So when I cut the sleeves off to make the arm holes, I followed the stitching on the sleeves. But since this shirt was big on me (I probably should have gotten it a size smaller), the sleeves were big and cutting around the stitching made the holes way too big.

I could still get away with wearing this shirt with a tank top underneath, but I don’t like how the back fits at all. Maybe I could sew it a bit so it doesn’t hang so low.

But I’m probably not going to wear this shirt to the event now. In the past, I always wore my race shirt on race day, but lately, I’ve been having a bit more fun with my race outfits.

I might wear the Superman shirt I wore for my last 5K, or maybe just a pink tank top. But after this crafting fail, I really don’t want to have to wear this shirt and have people who don’t read this blog see how badly I did!

Pinning Freak (or I’m Going To Turn Myself Into Someone Crafty)

I’m totally addicted to Pinterest. I know a lot of people who are as well.

I’m always pinning awesome recipes, beauty ideas, organizational tips, book suggestions, and even ideas for the future like wedding or baby things. I’m hooked.

I love seeing all the cute baby things that my friends with babies are pinning. And my future sister-in-law is now on Pinterest pinning ideas for their wedding.

A lot of the time, I’ll email my dad some of the things that I’m looking at since he is very crafty. And we have done some projects that we found on Pinterest. One of the big ones is cutting the bottom off of wine bottles so you can put candles underneath. Cutting off the bottom of the wine bottle is pretty tough. I believe my dad has been able to successfully do it 2 or 3 times. I don’t have a great photo of what the wine bottle candle holder looks like, but you can see it behind my birthday bouquet in this photo.


I wish I was crafty enough to do most of the things I see. Just today, I saw a pin on how to make your own glitter tights (perfect for New Years Eve!). If I made them, the tights would probably get glued together and somehow I’d get glitter glued to various surfaces in my house (even if I did the project outside).

So I’m going to start small with my crafty projects from Pinterest. There are a bunch of recipes that I’m going to try soon (and I just got a CrockPot so that’s pretty awesome!). And I found directions on how to make your own dry shampoo for dark hair. I could probably do that without too much craziness.

I know that I’ll probably never been as crafty as the ideas I see, but I’m going to take some baby steps and maybe one day I’ll get close to that. In the meantime, I’m excited to pin silly things like travel ideas, quotes that I like, blogs that I like, and ideas for a dream home in the future.

Oh, and if you want to follow me on Pinterest, you can do so here.