Brown Paper Packages

…tied up with strings, these ARE one of my favorite things.

brown kraft wrapping paper craft gift wrap project

Found vintage shelving paper finds another use as a decorative band, while remnants from a white canvas curtain are used to make a fabric ribbon and a whimsical rosette.  Finish it off with contrasting jute twine and you have one fabulous gift to give.

Here’s what you need:

brown kraft wrapping paper craft gift wrap project

  • Kraft packaging paper
  • decorative paper (I used vintage shelving paper that I found at a thrift store)
  • textural fabric scraps
  • jute twine
  • ruler and scissors
  • tape
  • hot glue gun and glue stick
  • mason jar lid (or anything with a roughly 3-inch circular shape, like a glass or round cookie cutter)
  • pencil
  • needle and thread

Here’s what you do:

  1. Wrap your package in kraft paper.
  2. Measure and cut a band of decorative paper to wrap around your box.  I used a 7-inch wide band for a shirt box.  Tape to box.
  3. Measure and cut a band of fabric to wrap around your box.  I used a 3-inch wide piece of heavy-weight home decorator cotton for the ribbon.  Snipping, then ripping the length of fabric creates the rough, feathery edge.  Use hot glue to secure ends of fabric band to decorative paper.
  4. Cut a long piece of jute twine and wrap around the box a few times and tie in a knot at the center front of the package. Snip ends.
  5. Use mason jar lid to trace 15 or so circles onto remaining cotton fabric. Cut out circles.
  6. Fold circles first in half, then in half again.  Use needle and thread to string folded pieces together tightly at the bottom corner, alternating direction of open edge with each addition to add dimension.
  7. Spread out and “fluff” rosette.  Use needle and thread to reinforce the final position by sewing through the bottom edge.  Use hot glue gun or safety pin to secure rosette to package.

brown kraft wrapping paper craft gift wrap project


Bake Your Heart Out

Necco Conversation Heart candies cookie valentine's day craft recipeNecco’s tiny pastel hearts with sayings of love on them serve as the perfect inspiration for a  holiday baking craft.  Last year, Martha’s team created these cute, techy cookie versions and more recently, I saw these in the winter Williams-Sonoma catalog, in a chocolate form.   What a festive, thoughtful and creative way to express your thanks and love to those around you this Valentine’s Day!  For the cookies below, I prefer to use a super easy lemon shortbread cookie with a basic, yet modified, royal icing recipe.  Letters are then piped on with store-bought red fondant icing to keep things simple.  These are definitely a labor of love, especially if you are mixing different colors of icing, but well worth the effort!

Shopping list:

  • flour
  • butter
  • sugar
  • salt
  • 2-3 lemons
  • powdered sugar
  • parchment paper
  • meringue powder
  • red fondant icing pen
  • food coloring (gel paste is best, but the liquid version works, too, and is cheaper)
  • heart-shaped cookie cutter

* The last 4 items on your list can be purchased from Michael’s, or other craft stores, with a baking section.

conversation heart cookie valentines day baking craft recipe

For the shortbread cookie (adapted from Sunset Magazine):

Makes ~ 2 dozen 3″ cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2  cups  flour
  • 1  cup  cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1/2  cup  granulated sugar
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • zest from one lemon

1. Preheat oven to 325°. Put flour, butter, granulated sugar, salt and lemon zest in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low speed until blended, then increase to medium and mix until dough is no longer crumbly and just comes together.

2. Form dough into a disk; chill 30 minutes.

3. On a lightly floured work surface, roll dough 1/4 in. thick. Cut dough into hearts with a heart-shaped cookie cutter. Arrange cookies on baking sheets and chill 15 minutes.

4. Bake until light golden brown, 15 minutes.  Allow to cool completely before icing.

conversation heart cookie valentines day baking craft recipe

For the icing (adapted from Martha Stewart):

Makes 2 1/3 cups

  • 1 box confectioners’ sugar (1 pound)
  • 5 tablespoons meringue powder
  • scant 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine sugar and meringue powder.

2. Mixing on low speed, mix in lemon juice until desired thickness is achieved. For a thinner consistency, usually used for flooding, add some water. A thicker consistency is generally used for outlining and adding details. Mix until icing holds a ribbonlike trail on the surface of the mixture for 5 seconds when you raise the paddle.

3. First outline, then flood your cookies.  Allow to dry completely prior to using your fondant pen for writing.

conversation heart cookie valentines day baking craft recipe

Bring them to your office on a tray for all to enjoy or wrap them in pairs in cellophane bags and tie off with red ribbon for a more personal touch.


Feel Like Makin’ Love Wreaths?

Williams-Sonoma Lavender Heart Wreath

I’ve never been a huge fan of Valentine’s Day, nor anything heart-shaped for that matter, but when I saw this gorgeous Lavender Heart Wreath in the winter Williams-Sonoma catalog, my opinion softened a little.  While the scent of a lavender wreath would be fabulous, the $60 price tag makes my purse strings want to snap.  Using this beautiful wreath for inspiration, I scoured my favorite discount and craft stores to create a more affordable, homemade version.

Tuesday Morning had lilac-colored dried phalaris for $1.49 a bunch – I purchased six bunches to cover the 12-inch grapevine heart wreath I picked up at Michael’s.

Here’s what you need:

heart shaped wreath valentine's craft

  • heart-shaped grapevine wreath
  • decorative foliage (I used dried phalaris  – a type of grass)
  • hot glue gun and glue sticks
  • twill ribbon tape
  • scissors

Here’s what you do:

heart shaped wreath valentine's craftheart shaped wreath valentine's craft

  1. Use scissors to snip your decorative foliage as needed – my phalaris came on long stems, so I clipped the buds from the stems.
  2. Apply hot glue to the underside of your decoration and attach to wreath in a tightly woven, slightly overlapping fashion.  I started from the center and worked my way around the wreath (see picture) to ensure uniformity.
  3. Once wreath is covered, flip over and thread your twill ribbon through the grapevine branches, as shown.
  4. Use the ribbon to make a bow approximately 6 inches above the top of wreath.  Clip ends of ribbon tape on the diagonal so that the tips just brush the top of the wreath.  Hang and enjoy!

heart shaped wreath valentine's craft

Tips: Use your 40% off Michael’s coupon for the wreath if it isn’t already on sale.  The twill ribbon tape I used was free from J Crew when I purchased a gift for someone and requested a box.  Always keep things that could be of use to you later, even if you’re not sure what you’d use them for immediately!  Save-on-Crafts has dried lavender for $8.50 for a bunch of 60 stems if you want to try to replicate the WS wreath, though you’re on your own for how much you’d need to order!

Cost: $12!


got milk glass?

milk glass vase thrifty cheap decoration  decor flowers

Decorating with the pristine, pure white of milk glass is a refreshingly simple way to add some brightness to your home in the new year.  And the best part?  The vintage pieces are readily found at second-hand stores, which makes for a very thrifty decoration, indeed!  Cheery florals, like bright pink mini carnations clustered en masse,  provide a striking contrast with the chalky white and are a favorite of mine for bringing a splash of color into the home.

milk glass vase thrifty cheap decoration flowers decor

Hosting tip: Use this combination for a more modern twist on an upcoming bridal or baby shower, utilizing other brights like orange tulips, yellow ranunculus and lime green mums – each color in a different vessel – for a striking, yet simple, look.


O (tabletop) Christmas Tree

This time of year holiday catalogs fill our mailboxes.  Unfortunately for a lot of us, decking the house for the holidays with gorgeous items from Pottery Barn, West Elm, Crate & Barrel and Williams- Sonoma just isn’t feasible.  What I try to do every year is browse through the catalogs and get inspired to create my own decorations and replicate the store’s classic style for much less than retail!

west elm david stark twine wrapped tree craft

Twine Wrapped Tree


If you browse through my other posts, you’ll see that I love to decorate with twine by wrapping it around things.  I love the texture it creates and the organic look of it.  Recently, I was flipping through a West Elm catalog and saw these modern trees (above) and thought, what a great thrifty craft!  And can be made for SO much less than the sticker price!

What you need:

  • craft spray glue
  • newspaper
  • styrofoam tree form
  • jute twine
  • hot glue gun

west elm twine wrapped tree christmas craft

Here’s what you do:

  1. Create a workspace with newspaper.
  2. Secure twine to the top of tree with a spot of hot glue.
  3. Apply spray glue in 2-3 inch sections and wrap twine around form of tree, making sure twine is taut and avoiding gaps between wraps.
  4. Finish by securing twine to bottom edge with hot glue.

Note: It is important to start wrapping from the top of the tree, as wrapping from a larger to smaller diameter direction can be frustrating – the twine will want to roll toward the smaller diameter area.  So, start from the top!

west elm twine wrapped tree christmas craft

Cost: $5! Twine was purchased from the 99 cent store and the styrofoam tree was purchased at Michael’s with a 40% off coupon for $4.  That’s a savings of $45 from the West Elm retail!

Red Berry Tree Topiaries

red berry tree tabletop tree topiary craft

Decorating with red berries during the holidays is one of my favorite looks.  Unfortunately, good quality topiaries can be hard to find, especially if you like to shop the after Christmas sales for your holiday decorations – oftentimes, berries are missing, chipped or scratched. Here’s a way to have a beautiful topiary, on the cheap, with little effort! Comparable topiaries (like the one on the left) can be found at Target for up to $29 per tree!

What you need:

  • wire cutters
  • tree topiaries
  • red berry picks
  • silver (or gold) spray paint
  • bright green reindeer moss
  • terra cotta pots
  • hot glue gun and glue sticks

red berry christmas tree topiary craftred berry christmas tree topiary craft

Here’s what you do:

  1. Use wire cutters to remove berries from their stems. Make sure to save one berry with a 3/4 inch of stem for the top of the tree.
  2. Place sole berry with stem in top of tree, leaving 1/3-1/2 of an inch visible.
  3. Secure first layer of berries below top berry with hot glue, making sure to place them as close together as possible, eliminating as much of the background as you can.
  4. In sections, starting at the edge of your most recently placed berries and working outward, cover rest of the tree with berries.
  5. Spread newspaper to create a large workspace.
  6. Use spray paint to coat terra cotta pots, using short strokes and spraying another layer (after first coat dries) until pot has a uniform coating.  Make sure to flip the pots after waiting for them to dry and spray the upper rim.
  7. Place berried topiary in newly painted, dry pot.
  8. Attach reindeer moss with hot glue in sections to exposed areas of base.
  9. Display and enjoy!

Cost: less than $10 per tree,  not bad! AND you have leftover silver spray paint for other holiday projects!

red berry christmas tree topiary craft

Tip: Michaels has wonderful sales throughout the month of December – most things holiday are often 40 -60% off!  I purchased my red berries at a 50% off sale, so each pick was only $0.49 (I used 17 picks total for two trees).  Spray paint and pots were cheapest at Home Depot – only $5 for everything.  An even less expensive, and less time consuming, way to do it would be to find silver pots that you like at discount stores like the Dollar Tree or 99 cent store.  And don’t forget your 40% off mailer coupons at Michaels for things that aren’t on sale!  My reindeer moss (which is the same color and look of the stuff they’re selling at Pottery Barn for $14 per bag!) was only $3 with my coupon.  Thrift and discount stores (like Tuesday Morning) are also wonderful places to find craft materials for pennies on the dollar – I actually found my topiaries at a thrift store for $1.99 each!


Deck Your Halls with Simple Crafts!

apothecray jar glass ornaments craft

If you check out my Fall crafts posting, you’ll see that I love decorating with this apothecary jar!  It is such a great vessel for displaying pretty things and decorating with it is so simple! No instructions needed, simply fill and display!

What you’ll need:

  • glass apothecary jar
  • small, shiny, glass ornaments

Cost: $3 (+ cost of your reusable, versatile jar – mine was purchased at Ross for ~$8)

pinecones in glass bowl decorating craft

Everyone should have some type of decorative glass bowl in their decorating armamentarium.  Like the apothecray jar craft above, there is nothing easier than filling the vessel with simple and pretty things, like pinecones during the holidays.  Try to look for bags of pinecones in which some are spray painted gold or silver (or do it yourself!) for a more festive touch.

What you’ll need:

  • decorative glass bowl
  • cinnamon scented pinecones

Cost: $2! (+ cost of your reusable, decorative glass bowl – ours was a wedding gift and is from Crate and Barrel)

tree cuttings vase filler craft

Any vase of flowers can have a lovely holiday feel by adding one simple flourish – cuttings from your newly purchased Christmas tree!  Don’t throw those extra branches away when you trim your tree!

What you’ll need:

  • flowers
  • vase
  • cuttings from your tree

Cost: Free! (+ cost of your fresh flowers, of course!)

carnation bouquet christmas craft vellum wrapped vase

I saw a similar vellum-wrapped vase a few years ago in a Martha Stewart Magazine.  While she used gorgeous amaryllis to fill her vase, I opted for a flower that is less expensive and easier to find.   Here, I clustered mini white carnations and large red ones to create a lush focal point for my end table.

What you’ll need:

  • red & white flowers
  • tall, cylindrical glass vase
  • 1 sheet of 12×12 white vellum
  • red embroidery thread
  • vellum tape

Here’s what you do:

  1. Stand vellum paper against vase to determine proper height.  Cut.
  2. Apply vellum tape to one edge of vellum paper and secure to glass, wrap vellum around vase, and secure free edge with vellum tape, overlapping edges slightly.
  3. Find middle of string and, starting from the base of the vase,  wrap string around and up the vase, keeping thread taut and criss-crossing as pictured.  Use vellum tape to secure free edges of thread at lip of vase.
  4. Arrange cut flowers in vase and enjoy!


Fall in Love with Fall

pottery barn vase filler craft projects

Its that time of year again when everywhere you look, the rich colors of autumn abound….if you live anywhere but Southern California, that is!  Unfortunately for us, palm trees stay green and lawns aren’t littered with gorgeous crimson,  rust or gold falling leaves.  So, what’s a girl to do to bring in the fall season?  Get crafting, that’s what!

After last holiday season, I picked up some clearance items from Pottery Barn in preparation for decorating this year.  Among my finds were life-like acorns and preserved leaves in gorgeous hues for only $2.97 a box!  There is so much you can do with these simple vase fillers!  Here are a couple of easy projects to get those creative cogs turning.

Leaf Coasters


photo coaster project pottery barn vase filler leaves

What you need:

  • a set of photo coasters
  • preserved, or artificial, leaves
  • tweezers
  • scotch tape

Here’s what you do:

photo coaster project pottery barn vase filler leavesphoto coaster project pottery barn vase filler leaves

  1. Choose  four different leaf shapes in four different colors, selecting leaves that are comparable in size to that of your photo coaster insert.
  2. Lay your selected leaf on the cardstock insert to position.  If your leaves extend beyond the edges of the cardstock, use scotch tape to wrap the tips around and secure to the backside.
  3. Using tweezers, gently slide the cardstock into the plastic insert, being careful not to wrinkle or damage the secured leaf.

Photo coasters can be found at many stores.  These have a very simple design and were given to us as a wedding gift.  They can be found at Crate and Barrel for $20 for a set of four.

Cost: $3 (with lots of leftover leaves for other projects)!

Golden Wheat and Leaf Wreath

golden wheat grapevine wreath leaf craft

What you need:

  • grapevine wreath
  • dried wheat stems
  • preserved, or artificial, leaves
  • fall foliage craft stems for colorful accents
  • hot glue gun
  • glue sticks

golden wheat grapevine wreath leaf craft

Here’s what you do:

  1. Pre-arrange wheat and leaves to ensure full coverage of your wreath
  2. Hot glue 10-12 leaves on wreath in a scattered, yet deliberate, way, as if they fell on the wreath naturally.  You still want some of the grapevine wreath peeking through between leaves.
  3. Cut your wheat stems to half their original length for ease of insertion.
  4. Insert wheat stems into grapevine wreath horizontally, as close to 180 degrees as you can.  This ensures the wheat lays flat against the wreath and does not stick out.  Use hot glue as necessary to secure rogue wheat stems.
  5. Cut buds off of your fall foliage stems, leaving a 2-3 inch stem. Insert into wreath at various points, making sure to even out the color distribution.
  6. Turn wreath over and snip any length of wheat stem that protrudes from the back or can be readily seen.
  7. Hang and admire your handiwork!

golden wheat grapevine wreath leaf craft

Wheat was purchased at a farmers market for $2 a bunch, wreath and foliage stems were purchased at Joann’s (foliage was 70% off after Halloween!).  Remember to check for coupons for your craft stores!  I was able to use a 10% off transaction coupon the day I bought these!

Cost: $12!

Flowers with Acorns and Lentils

pottery barn vase filler acorn craft projects

What you need:

  • 5″ square vase
  • one box of acorn filler
  • few handfuls of dried lentils
  • plastic water bottle
  • Exacto knife
  • autumn colored flowers

Here’s what you do:

pottery barn vase filler craft projects pottery barn vase filler acorn craft projects

  1. Place plastic water bottle inside square vase, centering it.  Fill square vase with acorns around water bottle to determine proper height, mark.
  2. Remove plastic bottle and use Exacto knife to cut water bottle to marked height.  Smooth cut edges with scissors, if need be.
  3. Center the cut bottle in square vase again, this time filling lower 1/2 inch or so of square vase with dried lentils to stabilize plastic container.  Fill acorns around plastic bottle, making sure there are no gaps where the plastic bottle can be seen.
  4. Fill bottle with water and arrange cut flowers.

Cost: $3 + the cost of flowers

Apothecary Jars with Fallen Leaves


glass apothecary jar leaf filler craft home decoration

What you need:

  • preserved, or artificial, leaves
  • glass apothecary jar

There isn’t an easier craft than this!  Simply take a handful of leaves and place into jar, making sure to fluff them so they are not crushed.  Put on display and enjoy!

Cost: $3 + cost of apothecary jar (check discount stores for deals on these…I found mine at Ross for $5.99!)


Eco-friendly crafting

On a recent trip home, I read an article in an in-flight magazine about hosting a party with nothing but items from the 99 cent store….a thrifty crafter’s dream!  The author mentioned creating “green” decorations – adorable, repurposed trinkets made from things you wouldn’t normally think of as particularly pretty or chic.

My husband and I hosted a grilled pizza dinner party recently and I was inspired to create casually chic vases for table decor.  We used canned olives and artichokes as toppings for our pizzas, and I used the empty tin cans, wrapped in natural twine as vessels for gorgeous, white lisianthus.

eco friendly twine can craft

Materials:

  • Twine
  • Clean tin can
  • Spray Adhesive
  • Scissors

eco friendly twine can craft

Directions:

Remove label, wash and thoroughly dry your tin cans.  Cover your work surface with newspaper to protect from excess spray.  Mentally divide can by thirds (to prevent premature drying) and apply an even thickness of spray adhesive around the first third.  Tightly wrap the twine, starting from the upper edge, being careful to place each wrap as close as possible to the last.  Spray the middle third and repeat.  Finally, spray the final third and snip the twine, hiding the end.  So easy and so eco-chic!

eco friendly twine can craft


Sweet Dreams

Decorative pillow knitting craft project

I love to knit, but am still a novice and reading complicated patterns can make my head spin.  When I knit, I typically judge how much length or width I need based on the project.  For this project, I had a  16×16 pillow form and casted on (CO) enough for 16.5 inches on sz  9 needles.  I love the look of seed stitch, but wanted some sort of a border, so I started with three rows of elongated stockinette stitch, then knitted in seed stitch for the majority of the pillow face, and finished the same way I started.  Two separate squares were made, then sewn around the pillow with a yarn needle.  This is a great, easy project for something unique for your home.

Lions Brand Suede Yarn

Lions Suede Yarn  (By Lions Brand) was a purchased at Big Lots for $2 a skein (deal!) and the 16×16 pillow form was purchased from Michael’s with a 40% off coupon.  Less than $10 for a homemade, cute and super soft decorative pillow! That’s a thrifty craft anyone can afford!


Flowers Feed the Soul

Roger's Gardens Corona Del Mar

If you’ve ever visited Corona Del Mar, you probably passed by Roger’s Gardens, a beautiful and artfully maintained home and garden center. My mother-in-law took me there the first time, and ever since, it has become a favorite destination of mine. You can spend hours strolling along and perusing the 7 acres of succulents, roses, fruit trees and other garden beauties. Does shopping at Roger’s fall under the “thrifty” category? Not exactly, but making homemade flower arrangements from your own garden from plants you’ve purchased at Roger’s does.

Brass Band Floribunda Roses

I purchased a Brass Band Floribunda rose bush from Roger’s over a year ago. It produces gorgeous orange flowers throughout the year and is a source of much joy for me. One of my favorite things to do is snip the roses and place them in simple arrangements for friends.

Fresh from the garden flower arrangement gift

Many of the vessels I use are thrift store finds like mason jars, julep cups or other unique glass or pottery pieces. Get creative! Even if you don’t have a home garden, you can visit your local grocer and make simple, yet beautiful arrangements, out of just a few types of stems, like the one below with green spider mums, burgundy mums and alstroemeria.

Fresh flower garden arrangement craft


Lovely Lemons

lemon botanical print

No Easter brunch would be complete without a luscious, lemon dessert.  There is something about the tart citrus fruit that calls to your taste buds and leaves you yearning.  Here, I’ve scoured the internet and made some adaptations to a couple of recipes for lemon lovers and made crisp and absolutely delicious Lavender and Lemon Shortbread Cookies and light and creamy Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting, topped with candied ginger.  Two recipes that will, without a doubt, satisfy that lemon craving.  Enjoy!

Lavender and Lemon Shortbread Cookies

for the Shortbread

  • 1 c butter
  • 1/2 c confectioner’s sugar
  • Lemon zest grated from 2 lemons
  • 2 c flour
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/4 t baking powder
Lemon and Lavender Shortbread Cookie Recipe

Cream the butter and sugar together. Stir in the lemon zest and the dry ingredients. Mold dough into 2 flat discs with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.  Roll out dough on lightly floured surface and use cookie cutter to shape cookies.  Bake cookies at 350 for 20 to 25 minutes – in my oven, I found 20 minutes was plenty of time.   Allow to cool completely before icing.

Lemon and Lavender Shortbread Cookie Recipe

for the Icing

  • 1 c confectioner’s sugar
  • 3 tsp chopped fresh lavender (Original recipe used dried culinary lavender, I used fresh because I love the organic look of the purple flowers)
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1-2 TB lemon juice

Whisk all ingredients together, starting with one tablespoon of lemon juice and adding more as needed to create a smooth, pourable icing.   Pipe outline on cookies with white royal icing and allow to dry, about 5 minutes.  (I only made a fourth of the royal icing recipe for these cookies – you don’t need much) Flood the cooled shortbread cookies with lavender icing and allow to dry.

Lemon Buttermilk Cupcakes

Lemon Buttermilk Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes 12 cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick), soft
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp lemon extract
  • 2 tsp lemon zest (Original recipe did not include this – I added for extra lemon flavor)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Beat in egg. Add vanilla, lemon zest and lemon extracts into the buttermilk and pour half into the sugar mixture. Mix in half of the flour mixture, followed by the remaining buttermilk and the rest of the flour. Stir only until just combined. Divide evenly into the prepared cups.

Bake at 350F for 18-23 minutes, or until a toothpick tester comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

Lemon Buttermilk Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1  cup confectioners’ sugar (Original recipe had 1 1/2 c – I cut it down by 1/2 c)
  • zest of 1 lemon, grated
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

With an electric mixer on medium, beat the cream cheese until softened. Slowly add the sugar, zest, and juice and beat until creamy, about 3 minutes.  Pipe onto cupcakes and top with candied ginger pieces.


Tile Me Pretty

One of my favorite things to do is shop the Bric-a-Brac section at thrift stores.  I am ecstatic when I find a discarded piece of unique pottery, a simple vase,  or a set of vintage place mats.

tile coaster crafts

Recently, I found this set of tiles – each one only $0.99 and in the same shade of aquamarine blue that we use as an accent color in our living room.  As I looked at them, I thought they would make terrific coasters, with a bit of modification.

I stopped at Michael’s to pick up an 8×10 piece of dark brown felt (our coffee table is  a walnut brown, so thought it would be good to go with a darker color so the felt wouldn’t be noticeable) for only $0.29.

Here’s what you do:

tile coaster crafts

  • Cut felt to match the measurements of the underside of tile.  I stayed a few millimeters short of the edge so the felt would be hidden.  In this case, my felt pieces were 4 1/8″ and my tiles were 4 1/4″.
  • Use a hot glue gun to secure the felt to the tile.   I started by securing the middle first, then glued the edges, one long corner at a time.  Stay near the edge of the tile so the felt is completely secured without any gaps.
    tile coaster crafts
  • Trim away any excess glue  and VOILA! instant coaster! Use them as a household decoration for yourself, or make a chic and homemade housewarming gift for a friend.

Tip: You could also use thin cork matting as a backing.  Felt was less expensive and, I found, adapted to the ridges of the tile better.

Cost: $4.50 for a set our four coasters! Now that is a thrifty craft!


Sweet Greens

Baking makes me very happy, if only because I get to use my fabulous Kitchen Aid mixer. Around the different holidays of the year, I like to bake cookies and cupcakes for my family, friends and staff at work. What a great way to show your appreciation without spending a bunch of money!

shamrock pot

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day this year, I made Martha Stewart ‘s Perfect Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing and tried out the recipe for Vanilla, Vanilla cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream frosting from Billy’s Bakery in New York. Needless to say, they were a hit!

The cupcake recipe was found at a great little blog, 52 cupcakes. I have to agree with the cupcake queen, these are fabulous! I made the cupcakes in gold foil baking cups and decorated them with little shamrock picks I found at Michael’s and green sprinkles. Delicious AND adorable!

billy's bakery vanilla cupcakes


Billy’s Vanilla, Vanilla Cupcakes

Makes about 30 cupcakes
1 3/4 cups cake flour, not self-rising
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 325°. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt; mix on low speed until combined. Add butter, mixing until just coated with flour.

2. In a large glass measuring cup, whisk together eggs, milk, and vanilla. With mixer on medium speed, add wet ingredients in 3 parts, scraping down sides of bowl before each addition; beat until ingredients are incorporated but do not overbeat.

3. Divide batter evenly among liners, filling about two-thirds full. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 17 to 20 minutes.

4. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat process with remaining batter. Once cupcakes have cooled, use a small offset spatula to frost tops of each cupcake. Decorate with sprinkles, if desired. Serve at room temperature.

Billy’s Vanilla Buttercream

vanilla cupcake recipe

Makes enough for 30 cupcakes

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 6 to 8 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. With mixer on low speed, add 6 cups sugar, milk, and vanilla; mix until light and fluffy. If necessary, gradually add remaining 2 cups sugar to reach desired consistency.

Martha Stewart’s Perfect Sugar Cookies

sugar cookie recipe

Makes 2 dozen

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons brandy, or milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  1. Whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar; add dry ingredients, and mix until incorporated. With mixer running, add egg, brandy (or milk), and vanilla; mix until incorporated.
  2. Transfer dough to a work surface. Shape into 2 discs, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with nonstick baking mats or parchment paper; set aside.
  4. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes, and transfer to prepared baking sheets, leaving an inch in between. Leftover dough can be rolled and cut once more. Bake until lightly golden, about 10 minutes; do not allow to brown. Transfer to wire racks to cool.
  5. Decorate with Royal Icing, optional.

Martha Stewart’s Royal Icing

Makes 2 1/3 cups

  • 1 box confectioners’ sugar (1 pound)
  • 5 tablespoons meringue powder
sugar cookie favor
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine sugar and meringue powder. Mixing on low speed, add a scant 1/2 cup water. For a thinner consistency, usually used for flooding, add more water. A thicker consistency is generally used for outlining and adding details. Mix until icing holds a ribbonlike trail on the surface of the mixture for 5 seconds when you raise the paddle.

Remarks: As for Martha’s cookies, I still need to master my flooding technique. Otherwise, people seem to like the flavor of the cookie (even though royal icing pretty much tastes like powdered sugar).  I’ve made them with brandy and with milk.  It seemed to me that the ones with brandy were easier to roll out and less sticky.

To finish, place two cookies in decorative clear bags. I wrote “You’re my Lucky Charm” on the bags – a neat treat for staff to show your appreciation.


Accessories on the fly

If I’m getting dressed up for a night out on the town, or even a daytime outing, I sometimes find myself in the situation where I don’t have the perfect piece of jewelry to complement my outfit. At this point, I’ll head to my beading kit and see what I can whip up for a quick accessory.

banana republic sweater dress

One day, while waiting for a home furnishings store to open, I popped into a nearby Michael’s to peruse the aisles. I was wearing a fun, new sweater dress I had picked up on the clearance rack at Banana Republic for the bargain basement price of $30. I didn’t have any great accessories to pair with it, so went to check out the bead aisle to see what Michael’s had. I found a string of Jasper beads in the same color family as my dress that would make a super cute and easy-to-make bracelet. The beads were 50% off, so they definitely met my “on sale” standard. I made this fashionable bracelet in about 3 minutes. These are great for yourself or as a homemade gift for someone else.

Here’s what you do:

  • String the beads onto stretchy clear cord
  • Measure out how many will fit on your wrist to your desired slouchiness
  • Tie off in a knot and snip extra cord
  • VOILA! Instant accessory!

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Cost: $2.50 (I had the clear cord in my beading stash already, but it is generally inexpensive)

Tip: Paint the knot you made in the stretchy cord with clear nail polish to help it stay put.

You could also make a long necklace with three of the strands for under $10. I just happen to be a bracelet girl, myself.