Friday, July 31, 2009

Etsy Spotlight: Snoolibaby

Rebecca of Snoolibaby contacted me because, as she put it, she and her husband were "in love" with my spinning circus invitations. After checking out her etsy store and discovering that the love was mutual, we worked out a trade agreement.

Since my big strapping nine-year old boys are way past the baby stage, I asked Rebecca to simply put together a package of items that she had on-hand that I could save for the next baby shower I attend.

My lovely surprise package arrived yesterday and I couldn't be happier!

First of all, Snoolibaby's products are made from Minky fabric. I don't know what they make this stuff out of. Angel down? Bunny breath? Whatever it is, it's magically and amazingly cuddly.

I received a larger soft blue and green baby blanket (with sweet turtle appliques), a football-shaped baby toy (with teething ring), a smaller cream lap blanket/lovey (gorgeous fabric backing) and an utterly captivating stuffed bunny.

If there's some lucky baby that you need to buy a little giftie for, check out Snoolibaby -- they're amazing! Many of their items are even on sale right now!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Wedding Cutouts

My friends, Don and John, were legally married in Canada a few months ago (after which, they took off to Europe for a glorious grand tour).

They're back in the states now and planning a bang up reception at the Leach Botanical Gardens in August.

They were pleased with the pop-up wedding announcements I created for them and asked me to create cutouts to be placed in the floral arrangements for the tables. What a really fun idea for a wedding!

To make them two-sided, I flipped the image and tacked them together, front and back, and laminated them to protect against water damage.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Take Some Great Photos!

Taking photos using natural light has always been the best solution for me. Even using the light tent that I constructed using an Ikea hamper always requires a whole bunch of fiddling in Photoshop to adjust the colors as otherwise they're quite yellow. If I really want to take a nice photograph, my best option has always been to wait for a sunny day and take it outside, however living the in the Pacific Northwest (and working during the day on most days), I often don't always get that opportunity.

Not any more!

After reading that post, I headed out immediately and purchased some of the bulbs she mentioned (get the ones with the regular base. OttLite makes a series of bulbs that only work with their lighting fixtures but these are a ton more expensive. The ones with a regular base will work with your own light fixtures). I found them at Lowe's with a little bit of help.

After running home and doing a lot of screwing (of light bulbs, that is!), I eagerly starting snapping photos.

The picnic basket, below, which I shot for my Crafty Space Makeover, was shot with no flash, just a couple of Ottlite bulbs pointed at it. There was absolutely no color correction or fiddling in Photoshop (other than cropping).

What a difference!

Even my photographer-husband was impressed (he'd informed me that all consumer-grade bulbs would create light that would require some color correction).

My new photo setup includes two swing arm lamps with 100 watt equivalent bulbs and one desk lamp with a 60 watt equivalent bulb. I'm looking forward to much better product shots soon (when I have the time, that is!)!

I know that other people have had luck with using full-spectrum bulbs by other manufacturers, but, for now, I'm sticking with the OttLite brand. I'm a believer!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Reviewed by the Ultimate Blogging Toolkit!

I recently signed up to receive a free blog review at the Ultimate Blogging Toolkit.

The Ultimate Blogging Toolkit was created by Dave Wiederrich, a regular person who is sharing insight for bloggers everywhere, covering topics ranging from how to get started, selecting the right platform to how to "monetize" your blog. It's a great resource for any beginner blogger.

For a limited period of time, Dave, the man behind the Ultimate Blogging Toolkit, is offering a free blog review. Can you beat that? If you're a blogger, this is a great opportunity to have a blogger who obviously knows his stuff take a keen, objective look at your site.

I'm relieved that his review of my own blog went well. In addition to giving me high marks on content and introducing me to some new tools (PR (Page Rank) Checker), he also has inspired me to check back into Google Adsense, which I had dismissed months ago. Good food for thought.

If you're interested in receiving some feedback about your site, head over to the Ultimate Blogging Toolkit now before he decides to start charging for this wonderful service!

And thanks, Dave!

Thursday, July 23, 2009


I've said it before and I'll say it again: Powell's is possibly the best bookstore ever. Okay, that's arguable, but it IS the biggest bookstore west of the Mississippi. And it has more than its share of die-hard fans, myself included.

But the really cool thing about Powell's?

They will soon be carrying the Molly Lee line of pop-up and mechanical cards!


I got an introduction to the gal who purchases "sidelines" by my old friend, Mike. Mike and I go WAY back, all the way to sixth grade when we were both (this is so strange) student body presidents of our respective elementary schools and participated an exchange where we each got to experience each others' schools.

I'll fast forward past the shared years of total nerdiness (including elaborate games of Dungeons and Dragons, Abba, road trips, college dorm food and one embarrassing medical procedure). Currently, Mike now manages the magazine area of Powell's, sharing a space with sidelines and suggested that the gal who purchases "sidelines" (aka: TGWPS) and I might be able to work something out together..

Anyway, we finally met the other day and TGWPS agreed to purchase some of my cards!

Again: Yay!

So, I'll be working on the selection of cards she's selected for the next week or so. I'll let you know once they're on the shelves... (oh, I hope that they sell!)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

I Heart Spray Paint

I've only had this chair for a couple of decades. Literally.

In my twenties, I picked it up for $5 at Salvation Army. At the time, I spray painted all my furniture black (like a ton of would-be hipsters, I went through a "black phase"), so that's what happened to this piece.

It managed to move from place to place with me, getting more and more dilapidated. Tad recently wrapped the cushions with an old tablecloth to hide the dinginess.

In a recent home improvement frenzy, I spray painted the frame the same lovely apple green with which I've been treating all my crafty nook makeover furnishings.

I picked up the lovely outdoor fabric from Joann's -- doesn't it look great on that green? Lacking the sewing skills to figure out how to sew a zipper on the cushions or to properly mold a case around the roundey corners, I simply wrapped the fabric around the cushions and sewed it on.

What do you think? I LOVE my cheerful new chair!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Don't Take Any Wooden Nickels...

...Unless they're as cute as these. Check out this wonderful tutorial by Cathe Holden of the FABULOUS "Just Something I Made" blog.

How have I lived this long in cyberspace before discovering this great site?

Love all the amazing tutorials, inspiration and great design!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Crafty Space Makeover Challenge: Done!

It's been four weeks and as per the challenge I set myself last month, here are the "after" shots and the results of my Crafty Space Makeover Challenge!

Take a look. I'm really thrilled with the results!

I've blogged incessantly about this the last few weeks (if you click on the link on the right for "Crafty Space Makeover Challenge" you can read all of my posts about this). Anyone who's followed me already knows that rather than just being a cosmetic update and an attempt to restore order to a messy corner of my upstairs this was a very real attempt to change how I work and to make my space more efficient!

Let's take the photos from the top and work our way down. For point of reference, take a look at my "before" shot (yuck!).

Starting with the top photo. I swapped desks with our computer desk, which is deeper, giving my beautiful new paper cutter room without having to hang over the edge.

The entire desk is now lit with three Ottlite bulbs (two 100w equivalent and one 60w equivalent -- this might seem like overkill, but I REALLY love working in a bright area). I'll blog about these WONDERFUL bulbs soon, but suffice to say, for now, they make it a joy to work at my desk now -- everything is bright and clear nowadays!

The Rest of the Desk
The cork board is now safely secured to the wall with tons of adhesive foam tape (but notice that I'm too nervous to hang much on it just yet).

I found an unused clock in our basement so now I know the time without having to run over to our computer desk.

Underneath the desk (not pictured) are the plastic bins I rescued from elsewhere in our house that now hold all of my envelopes. They used to be stored on the other side of our upstairs, resulting in a lot of back and forth. Now all my envelopes are close at hand. More of these same bins hold all my card samples and ideas as well.

I replaced the big ugly Adidas bag, which I was using to hold my recycling, with a plain cardboard box. I'd like to find an inexpensive basket but haven't come across exactly what I want yet and this box is really functional (and miles nice to look at than the adidas bag).

Picnic Basket/File Folder Storage
Okay, moving onto the other photos... one of the best things to come out of this challenge was the solution I came up with to house my file folders. I keep all my card parts in separate folders and was actually looking for a small file cabinet for them, but came up with this picnic basket idea instead. It is WONDERFUL! Not only is it cute, but it's also very functional -- I can easily find what I need. There's extra space on the side if I need to store additional items in case I need to go portable, as when I went on vacation.

Portable Crafting Kit
Another simple item that has changed how I work is my apple green tray, also known as my portable crafting kit. As I'd blogged about before, I realized that a lot of times, rather than working at my desk, I prefer to bring my crafts downstairs to work at at our dining room table (this allows me to be closer to the family, etc). Rather than running up and down the stairs for every little supply, I keep the items I use all the time into the tray (x-acto knife, cutting mat, atg gun, etc). I always know where these things are. By tossing a file folder of card parts from my picnic basket into my tray, I'm completely ready to craft anywhere I choose!

The "I Don't Know" Trays
One thing I know about myself: it is hard for me to maintain order. I'm too impatient. Rather than create a system that will ultimately fail, I have to figure out processes that is so easy for me to use that I can't go wrong. One of the things that made me miserable about my old desk was that it was always cluttered. Bits of scraps, unfinished projects, unread articles, etc, littered the surface. If I wanted to work, I would have to first clear off an empty space, not exactly conducive to the creative muse!

Enter the "I Don't Know" Trays! These pretty apple green in/out trays started out life as dark wood but were easily transformed by a can of spray paint (along with my Portable Crafting Kit).

In a previous post I wrote about how having an "I Don't Know" Bin. This bin was first introduced when I was sorting out all the kids' toys into separate bins. Most of their things were quickly and easily sorted (Legos, cars, etc) but to give us an "out" I invented this catch all bin. Now when they are asked to clean, they no longer come across an oddball toy and get stuck trying to find a home for it. They can easily toss it into the catch all bin and continue with their momentum.

The "I Don't Know" Trays serve the same purpose. This is where I can quickly stash all those bits of paper that would normally clutter up my desk. Whenever I have a spare few minutes, I go through the trays and file things away where they belong. They make keeping my desk tidy very easy!

Other Desk Items
A candy dish holds brads and other frequently used tiny things.

A glass vase from elsewhere in the house holds all my pens and some tools.

I redid this thrift store bookcase and am very happy with it. Note the soft green color on its back. It's easy to weigh my envelopes on the postage scale on top. Various glass jars that I've collected keep my supplies in order but allow me to see what's inside, key to my being able to use any organizational system.

Shipping and Mailing Kit
Another idea that came out of this challenge that has really streamlined how I work is my new Shipping and Mailing Kit. Read about it here, but suffice to say that this little basket has save me countless steps and time already!

I didn't blog about this, but my receipts were totally out of control! I didn't even keep them in an envelope, they were literally in a messy pile on the other side of the room. I realized that with a handful of outdated envelopes and my Bind-it-All tool, I could quickly make my own receipt book, with a different envelope for each month. I'll blog about this project in a future post -- I loved how I was able to use things that normally would have been thrown away for this little project.

So there you have it! My entire makeover! This doesn't show everything. I have lesser-used supplies that now live (tidily) elsewhere in the room, but I have all the things I use 99% of the time right there where I need it, plus a work surface that is absolutely a cinch to keep tidy.

I have to say that just LOOKING at my space now makes me so happy. Working in it feels so effortless that it's been well worth the time and effort I put into this (and, honestly, it's been so much fun to try to do this with existing objects and/or thrift store items). I know that I have saved myself many hours of frustration and wasted effort for the future. I highly encourage anyone thinking of doing the same to do so! If you are considering it, a few words of advice:

  • Pick one area and maintain your focus. Don't allow yourself to work on a related area until you are done with your first job -- if you maintain focus you'll see results faster and the rewards are more immediate.
  • Break down big jobs. If you're feeling overwhelmed, break your job down into manageable steps. For instance, look at my basement makes me a little dizzy, but if I set myself the job of reorganizing just, say, the laundry area, this is more doable.
  • Take everything out as your first step. Sort things into logical groupings. In addition, have a box available for things to take to Goodwill, another box to fill with garbage and another for things that belong elsewhere in the house. One last box can be "I don't know" bin. This last box is where you throw things that you have to think about for more than 10 seconds -- it allows you to keep your momentum going.
  • Be ruthless in dejunking. Try very hard to get rid of things that you don't use. I know: it's hard. I'm a packrat, but I can't tell you how great it feels to not be crowded by a lot of supplies that I know in my heart I will never get around to using. Remember that by donating your things, you are allowing someone else to use them... what a good deed!
  • Take inventory. When you have all the things sorted that need to go back in your space, you will have a better idea of what kind of storage you will need for each type of object.
  • Look to your own home first. I don't know if I'm unusual or not, but I was surprised by how many organizational supplies (baskets and things) I already owned. Make sure you take stock and use these before going out and buying more.
  • Consider how you work. Be a spy and watch as you work on projects. I found that I wasted a lot of steps preparing a card to be shipped, which resulted in the Shipping and Mailing Kit. See where you are wasting time and figure out a solution to conquer that!
  • Fix problems. Similarly, think about what causes you problems when you work and try to fix those problems. Sometimes it's as simple as adding another lamp to eliminate eyestrain (worked for me!).
  • Measure all your spaces, including the dimensions of your desk, the spaces between shelves, etc. I kept all these measurements in a booklet that I kept in my purse. This will help you make informed decisions when you come across possible solutions.
  • Keep an open mind. When you shop, shop for solutions, not specific items. For instance, I really needed someplace to store my file folders. Had I kept a strict mental image of file cabinets in my mind, I would never have stumbled upon my idea of using a picnic basket to hold this paperwork. Likewise, I kept looking for pencil holders for my desk and finally found a little vase at home perfect for the job.
Well that's it! Thanks for hanging with me! I hope that you glean a nugget or two of information out of my journey...

For myself, I think this is just the start -- a really great kickstart, but just a start nonetheless. There's still work to be done, but I'll take my time and make sure that it's right.

Now I'm off to Goodwill to hunt up more battered things to revitalize with a coat of paint!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Portable Crafting Kit Goes on Vacation!

Last month, we hit the beach for my husband's family reunion. Sunny skies, lots of sand, a rented house with laundry right smack on the sand. Total bliss, right?

Actually, yes.

But here's one thing that oddly stresses me out about vacation: I'm terrified of not having enough things to do.

It's probably a sickness I should seek professional help for, but I like to keep busy. I get so much pleasure out of making things that it's torture to be forced to relax for long stretches.

For one spring break, I insisted on packing a laptop, printer/fax/copier combo, my craft robo and a couple of bags of supplies to stave boredom.

This time? Things were a ton simpler. I just made sure that the picnic basket/file cabinet that I created for my Crafty Space Makeover Challenge was well-stocked with enough card parts to keep me busy for a long while.

I tossed the contents of my portable crafting kit (aka my green crafting tray) into the picnic basket along with a few other essentials, like pop dots and extra x-acto knife blades. The picnic basket nestled nicely into the tray and everything I needed was ALL RIGHT THERE!

It was wonderful and I was able to be really productive (and, yes. I did take some time to just relax at the beach as well).

As long as we're talking about portable crafting kits, take a gander at THIS cutie:

It's made from a recycled thrift store suitcase. LOVE IT! Find a tutorial at this fabulous blog by Bitter Betty!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Talking to Powell's this Weekend!

So, on Sunday, I have an appointment with the person in charge of purchasing cards for Powell's! Powell's, if you're not from Portland, is the largest bookstore west of the Mississippi. It is truly an amazing place to visit, with the main store taking up an entire city block.

Anyway, it is certainly the coolest bookstore in our area, if not, perhaps, the universe.

Since making the appointment (with the help of an old high school buddy who now manages the magazines there), I've been a little stressed about preparing my cards for retail sale. They, of course, need to be packaged in plastic to protect them, but they sometimes also need a little explanation so that people know how they work.

Above are two solutions I've worked out. The pig card slips into a clever plastic sleeve that opens up and will allow the shopper to open the card up and see the pop-up pig. A round sticker on the front lets the viewer know that a winged pig pops up inside (otherwise the outside looks so bland).

The Sailboat Three Reasons card is more enticing on the outside, but it requires a little explanation. If a person picked it up out of curiousity and then wondered what happens if you turn the wheel, the slip of paper on the back will tell you.

Hope this satisfies my Powell's buyer!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Crafty Makeover Participant Updates!

It looks like my fellow Crafty Makeover participants have made a lot of progress since I posted about them! Above is a shot from Elana's nook, read more about it here:

Surprise participant, AJK Artistry:

Read the writing on the wall at April Ink's blog (and check out the cool dry erase paint she discovered!):

Lavender Greetings made a TON of great progress:

Thanks to all for sharing!

Me? The systems I've set up are still working great! I'm still obsessed with haunting various Goodwills, looking for more things to bring home and spray paint -- some nice color can so easily turn a dingy piece around!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

I'm in a Treasury!

I got notification that my Drink a Toast Birthday Card was featured in a treasury! The theme was "toast" -- fun theme!

If you don't already know, the treasury is "member curated gallery of handpicked items." It's fun and coveted because your items will be featured on etsy, giving you some really nice exposure. Sometimes etsy admins will even pick up a treasury and feature it on the home page, which would be amazing exposure!
Anyway, pretty exciting for me!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Spray Painting 101

I am always thrilled at what a fresh coat of paint will do to a dingy, thrift-store cast-off. And spray paint makes things amazingly easy.

I found a decent wooden bookcase at Goodwill for a crazy $10. It is solid-wood construction (not particle board) and has a little curvey detailing at the top that made me love it.

In my household, my husband and I have very different styles. He is very measured, precise, reads instructions and follows them to the letter. I tend to take directions as general guidelines and am somewhat creative in my interpretation.

Both are strengths. For instance, if dinner has to be on the table in a short amount of time, we both know that I can do it a lot quicker than he. On the other hand, if something really needs to be done right, we also know that he has the patience to do it.

I say this because when it comes to painting, we do things quite differently and as this blog post is titled "Spray Painting 101" I thought I should mention both methods.

If I were to paint a thrift store find, this is what I'd do:
  • Remove all labels and clean and dry the item
  • Take some sandpaper and rub quickly over the entire item, to roughen up the surface so that the paint has something to adhere to
  • Shake up the desired spray paint the minimum amount of time that it says on the directions
  • Paint, going over the entire surface fairly randomly at first, allowing a few minutes in between coats to allow the previous layer to dry a bit. Continue to come back, filling in bare spots
  • Allow to dry overnight and then begin to use my new, wonderfully refreshed object
This is my husband's method:
  • Remove all labels and clean and dry the item
  • Sandpaper the entire item thoroughly, to roughen up the surface so that the paint has something to adhere to
  • Prime the object, if deemed necessary (it wasn't for the bookcase)
  • Shake up the spray paint at least the maximum amount of time directed on the label
  • Paint the item in a very methodical manner, covering each surface with a series of parallel strokes
  • Allow each coat to dry thoroughly, sanding lightly between coats
  • Repeat until a very smooth surface is achieved
  • Allow the item to dry for at least a few days, if not a week, before using it
Now, both of these methods have their strengths, of course. I suspect most people are somewhere in between us. I have my method because I am somewhat impatient and it works beautifully about 98% of the time and I have a finished item in about a few hours. These shelves fell into that small minority of projects that needed a little more than my usual slapdash style.

Two things happened:

If you look at the photos above (click on the photo to enlarge it), you can see a close up of where the paint started to crackle on me. Very annoying! This happened when I was putting the final, beautiful coat of soft yellow on the top, so it was puzzling as to why it was happening then and not the entire time I was coating the thing. In any case, talking with husband and father-in-law, the problem seems to be a chemical reaction between the spray paint and the varnish on the bookcase that somehow didn't happen til after the initial coats had completely dried.

I kept on sanding JUST the part that crackled and repainting it in hopes that this would work again (trying to coat it with primer at one point), but the problem simply continued.

My husband, who won MAJOR points for stepping in, finally took matters into his own hands and thoroughly sanded the top down to the wood and repainted it for me while I was at work.


The second problem I had was because I wanted to paint the back of the bookcase a soft green, so I masked off the sides of the bookcase. When I removed the masking tape, though, large swathes of the yellow paint came off with the tape.

This probably happened because I didn't spend enough time on the sanding step, to roughen up the original surface enough so that paint could properly adhere to it.

So, live and learn! My bookcase is all done now and I've moved it into my corner. There are parts of the paint job that aren't perfect, but they aren't very noticeable...

The four weeks for my Crafty Space Makeover Challenge ends next week. I promise photos of the entire space!