Archive for May, 2012

Yesterday, I shared the garden markers I made from mason jar lids.  Today, I want to share the solar lanterns that made up the other half of my dad’s garden themed birthday gift.

There are a lot of tutorials out there on how to make these puppies, and since I didn’t photograph the whole process, I’m not going to give a full on tutorial.  But, here’s the basics…

I started by finding garden solar lights.  I had to shop around, because I remembered seeing some at The Dollar Tree, but when I went to The Dollar Tree to buy some, they were all sold out.  I asked the clerk if she could check some other stores and save me the trip, and she begrudgingly obliged.  Turns out, the previous weekend, the solar lights I was after had been the featured item in the Sunday ad, and all the stores were sold out.  I ended up finding them at Big Lot’s for about $2 each.  Not too bad.  The ones I found were like these, but obviously much cheaper.

Once I had the lights, I twisted of the top, and went shopping for mason jars.  I wanted to find jars that were small enough to really show all the light, but still had a big enough mouth for the light fixture to rest on.  I ended up getting wide mouth pint sized jars.

I removed the inner lid and only kept the rim.  I glued the top of the light to the screw on rim using my ultra awesome powerful glue, E-6000.  While these were drying, I got to coloring the insides of the jars.

To color the jars, I poured some high-gloss modge podge into a bowl.  Now the insides of these  jars shouldn’t be exposed to the elements in theory, but I wanted to use the weather resistant solution any way.  I mixed several drops of food coloring into the modge podge until it reached my desired color, then poured it into one of the jars.  I rolled the jar around until the entire insides were full coated, then I poured out any remaining mixture.

I repeated this step until all the jars were coated and then I moved them to the oven warmed up to about 350.  I imagine they could have just as easily dried at their own pace, but the oven allowed them to dry in a flash.  As the jars dried, the color went from a creamy opaque to a crystal clear.

When the jars and the lids were all dried, I screwed on the tops and wrapped around some wire to make a handle.  I used needle nosed pliers to twist the ends of the wire into cute little swirls.

And, they were ready to go.

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My dad retired last December and with his retirement, he decided to take up gardening.  Actually, he’s always been into gardening (I think).  I know he has always taken pride in keeping the yards very beautiful when I was growing up.  And remember helping in the vegetable garden when I was a kid.  So, I suppose he’s always enjoyed it.


But with his recent retirement, he now has a little more time to dedicate to gardening and he would tell DH and me about his evolving plans every time we went over to visit.  So, for his birthday in March, we thought something garden related would be a great gift.


We decided to make him garden markers and solar mason jar lanterns.  Since we were making both, I decided to keep the look and feel of them similar.   Hence the mason jar lids as markers.  I also wanted the markers to last more than one season, so I figured I shouldn’t use wood.


There are so many wonderful ideas for home made garden markers, and all of them were helpful in coming up with the ones I made for my dad.


I used a box of mason jar lids.  These can be found at the grocery store in packs of 12 for a couple bucks.  I then decided to go with really big nails for the steaks.  I found mine in the nail section at Lowes.  For the glue, I used E-6000, this is the super-est of all glues.  The clerk at the craft store where I bought might jokingly cautioned me not to glue my hands together while working with it.


I created a simple design that had a burlap-looking texture with the names of the plants and a picture of the plant.  Once I printed the labels, I cut them out into circles.  I used high-gloss modge podge to a hear the labels to the lids.  The reason I used high-gloss is because it’s the most weather proof of them all.


Once the labels dried, I used my super strong glue to attach the mega nails.  Once they dried, they were ready to be planted.

And look at that beautiful garden, too! 

Keep your eyes open for a separate post about the solar mason jar lanterns.

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I mentioned the Spotted PiG Collection Carnival we had for my job recently.  There were a lot of opportunities for me to do creative arts and craftsy type stuff.  This was a very fun departure from my usually number crunching and budget watching.


One of the projects was a cupcake tower.  We served Sprinkle’s Cupcakes at the event, and knew they simply had to be displayed in a fun colorful way.  Well, our events staff did a little research and found out that buying a big cupcake tower would cost us around $50.  That deosn’t exactly break the bank, but hey, who wants to pay for something we could make at a fraction of the price?


I happily volunteered to take on the task of building a cupcake tower.  I scoured Pinterest for ideas.  I had something in mind, but wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted.  I thought about working with glass, but didn’t like the chances of if shattering into pieces.  I thought about using plastic, too, but wasn’t thrilled with cheap look that might come of plastic.  I even had the idea to use cardboard and Styrofoam, but discovered that the materials for a tower the size I wanted would end up to be about the same price as buying one.


So, I settled on wood.  I went to Home Depot and bought two of the least expensive sheets of smooth pressed board that I could find.  It was quite thin, about ¼ of an inch thick, but totally smooth.  Each sheet cost about $3.50 and they were 28 inches by about 45 inches.  Then, I picked out a 4×4 beam, and found a worker to cut off about a dozen 3.5 inch pieces.  By the way, 4x4s are actually not 4 inches by 4 inches!  Because of the way the wood is processed, they are 3.5×3.5, hence the measurement I went with for my cuts.  I wanted to end up with perfectly square blocks.  The whole beam cost about $6 (the cuts were free this time, but sometimes they charge, I guess it depends on the mood of your worker).  Finally, I picked up two tubes of epoxy glue at about $4 each.  So, with all these materials, I spent $21.


I decided to go ahead and make the tower square.  For a few minutes, I considered making it round, but figured squares would be easier to cut.  Plus, I liked the idea of this cupcake tower looking a little different.  So many that I found were round and the few square ones I saw seemed to have so much more personality.


For the size of each tier, I started with four inches for the smallest.  This gave the slightest lip of the top tier over the top block.  And then, I added six inches to the next square.  This allowed for three inches all around and I figured that would be enough for a row of cupcakes all around.  That means, the sizes of the tiers were 4×4, 10×10, 16×16, 22×22 and 28×28.


Once I drew out the squares that needed to be cut using a ruler and a pencil, I borrowd my dad’s jigsaw and got cutting.  It was actually incredibly easy and super fast.  But, something to keep in mind if you are ever doing a project that requires exact measurements, the jigsaw loses about an 8th of an inch where your cuts are.  I didn’t anticipate this, but it also didn’t matter that much for this project.  Also, it creates a ton of dust!  Don’t do this project in flip flops on a warm day, your feet will be itchy until you take a shower!


Once I had all my pieces cut to size, I used some white house paint I had left over from a different project.  I guess this technically could make the total price of the project higher, but I don’t count it because I think so many people have leftover paint laying around their garage.


I painted my boards with two even coats.  Then, I used the epoxy glue and went nuts.  I really laid it on thick, a nice big gob between each block and board.  You can see from the picks that I pretty much just eyeballed the placement.  I don’t mind how it turned out.  But I guess you can measure if you want to be particular.

Once the tower had dried, I added a bit of green and orange ribbon with a hot glue gun.  I figure if I ever want a different color, I can use either a hair drier or even an iron to warm it up enough to remove the ribbon, and then I can add something else.

The tower was finally finished.  Of course, it wasn’t truly complete until it was covered in Sprinkles Cupcakes!  And keep your eyes open, you’ll see it again soon.  One of the ladies in my office is graduating with a masters degree next weekend and she has hired me to make the celebratory cake.  We are doing cupcakes and this tower will be put to work displaying them.


And here’s a bonus shot of the cupcakes still in the box.  I must say, these are amongst the best cupcakes I have ever had!  So good.



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Let me start off by saying that my husband is totally awesome.  He pretty much lets me do whatever I want to our house when it comes to decorating and design.  AND, he even helps when ever I ask… even if I can’t really explain what the end product is going to be. He helps and goes with the flow and sits back and lets me make all the decisions.  I can’t tell you how much I appreciate him.  All that being said, he is about as pleased with our office redo as I am!


My final project for this office is going to be an over the door gift wrapping organizer.  I’ve seen what I want at The Container Store, so the next time I go to Pasadena or Costa Mesa, I will be making a special stop!  In the mean time, that Oriental Trading Co box that you can see under the desk there is going to have to store my rolls of wrapping paper.  I can’t complain, though.  This office is so much better!

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Okay, I’m proud to say the office is done!  A couple weeks ago, I showed some in-progress shots of the office re-do and asked or help.  Well, I went with the Ikea shelf I had been leaning towards and let me tell you, that thing fits like a glove!  Last weekend, we worked our buns off to finish the office.  Here are a few before and after pics…  (drum roll, please)








Alright, I’ll concede.  Its not just a matter of fresh paint and rearranged furniture.  We had some serious organizing, sorting and throwing-away to do.  And we did it!  Hurray.  The office is so much cleaner and more user friendly.  I am embarrassed at how messy it had gotten, but am so proud of the finished product.  Yay for us.  More pics to come in a later post.

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Last week, my program hosted an event for the campus community. It went really well (I’m working on a blog entry featuring some of the crafty aspects of the event). And this event was very staff intense. We relied on several staff members from UA to come out and help. So, my colleague Susan and I wanted to say thanks in a special way.

So, we gave out a cute little bag with two biscotti, a Starbucks instant coffee, and a not that says, “Thanks a latte.” They went over really well. Even my husband, who doesn’t drink coffee, and who has free access to a bucket half full of biscotti left over, told me as I left for work on Monday morning, “bring me home one if you have any left over!”

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Part of my job as a fundraiser sometimes includes being involved in really fun events.  One campaign that I get to be responsible for is our student education/giving campaign that teaches current students about the role private support has in their education.  We have a very cute and clever campaign called the Spotted PiG.  Each student is given a cute plastic piggy bank that they are encouraged to “feed” regularly.  Then, twice a year, we have Piggy Round-Up party or collection carnival.  It’s a fun, festive, celebratory event.

This week, we are having a Spring Collection Carnival.  And we are stepping up this event.  There will be game booths, specialty popcorn, Sprinkles Cupcakes, and a Piggy Pageant.  Its become a tradition for students to decorate their pigs and enter them in a pageant.  Guests get to vote for their favorite.  Since we are doing more of a carnival theme this time, I wanted to have festive ribbons that resemble those awarded to a prize pig at a fair.

While I wanted big blue ribbons, we didn’t want to spend too much money on them.  Not only are we trying to raise money instead of spend it, but we are also very careful with the student campaign. We don’t want to give the impression that we’re squandering the University’s resources on unnecessary decorations.  Our students work very hard and pay a good amount of tuition, since we are asking them to donate, too, we want to make sure they know that their gifts make a difference.

So now, to the making of the prize ribbons.  I started out by making the medallions and strips on the computer.  Since we have branded the campaign, I didn’t want to draw out these parts by hand, but I might have if it were a different occasions.  After printing out the images, I cut them out.

For the rippled piece, I simply I cut an 8.5×11 piece of paper in half long ways then accordion folded it.  Once it was accordion folded, I pinched the middle and fanned out the sides.  I used a glue gun to attach the end pieces.

Once the round fan was made I added a nice big glop of glue to the middle.  This glue keeps the ripple part nice and tight and it is what the round medallion adheres to.

With a couple dabs of glue, I adhered the strips to the back of the ribbon.  And then you could be done there.  But, I decided to also add a piece of  paper to the back to give it a more finished look.

And that’s it.  Now all we have to do is decide which pig will take home the blue ribbon.

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