Monthly Archives: June 2010

Cheap Wall Art Part Two: Paper-Backed Glass

For the second piece of cheap wall art, I glued some beautiful Italian paper onto the back of a plain glass tray and bowl. The neat thing about putting paper on the back of glass is that it brightens the paper design, making it nice and glossy, almost like it was painted right on!

Grab some glass (you could use a plate, bowl, vase, window pane, anything!) Clean it well and put a big dollop of Mod Podge or Matte Medium onto the back of your glass (the concave side). Cut your decorative paper into pieces no larger than about 5 inches. If your glass is rounded at all, cut slits in from each corner to the center

Starting in the center of the glass, place the paper in the glue design side down. Continue to cover the glass with paper, making sure that there is plenty of glue under each piece of paper. Use the slits to help conform the paper smoothly around any bends. Don’t be skimpy with the glue, and work quickly before it gets tacky to avoid big air patches dried in.

Once the glass is covered, use the paintbrush to spread the glue on the top of the paper. Look underneath and press all the air bubbles out to the edge so that the front looks nice and smooth. The picture below has not been smoothed yet!

Trim the excess paper with an x-acto knife when the glue is dry, and you’re done!

Cheap Wall Art Part 1: Making Art From a Collection

I’ve been looking for some wall art for our bathroom, and thought I’d begin by finally giving a home to a small collection I’ve accumulated: small because I’ve only got six of them and they’re all only an inch or two tall.

To display the collection I started looking for some sort of shadow box. Any sort of old tray or frame would have worked and by being flexible I was able to find this great old wooden wall hanging for 50 cents at a thrift store. It wasn’t the German blessing that drew me to it, it was the wonderful weathered wood on the back that provided a ready-made frame. And it matched the style of the coral and shells that I wanted to show.


Once I laid out the 6 shells on the dark wood I saw that they weren’t visible against the dark wood. So I put down a few watery layers of off-white acrylic paint. Then, using a dry paintbrush, I built up 6 heavier paint spots to even further pop the shells from the background. Once the paint was dry I used some cheap, dollar-store epoxy to glue everything down.

One artist’s trick to add some texture is to take your wet paint and sprinkle salt onto it. As the salt dries it pulls up little puddles of paint water, which leaves a bunch of tiny speckles in the dried paint. And don’t brush off the dried salt; it adds a nice little sparkle in the background (you can see it in the picture below).

Here’s the final display, all ready for the wall. My little shell collection is finally safe (it certainly wasn’t doing very well at the bottom of the junk drawer) and I’ll smile every time I see it up on the wall.

Keeping Track of Gift Giving

With all the holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, etc to celebrate in the family, it can be hard to keep track of all the gift giving. One trick that has helped me to (hopefully!) be a more thoughtful gift-giver is to keep an on-going record of gift ideas and gifts I’ve given. Having this information organized gives me a great starting point when the birthdays roll around.

I’ve created a document in excel (password protected, of course) to help me. The doc has three pages with all the names of those we give gifts to running along the top row of each page. Here’s a peek at how I organize it.

First Page: Gifts Given

(I had to blur these out so that no-one in the family peeks!)

Down the first column are the gift-worthy events of the year, starting with the current year and repeating back to 2006 when I began. This way I can look down the list and see all the gifts we’ve given a particular person, so that I don’t give anyone the same thing twice. It also serves as a fun record of our life that we enjoy looking back at!

If I won’t be buying a certain gift for a certain person (example, sister won’t be getting a father’s day gift) I put an x in the spot. That helps me see how many gifts I have left to get this year.

Second page: Ideas

When I talk to family members I listen in case they mention any needs, wants, things they love, new hobbies, etc. On the ideas page I have different categories listed with general information about the person’s favorites. Below that I add a whole list of ideas for each person as I think of them during the year. When its time for a birthday, I can peruse the list of info and then have a big list of ideas to pull from.

Third page: DO NOT GIVE!

When I hear someone talk about a random thing that they dislike (something that I would have considered buying for them) I write it down here. Or if I hear that they own something I may have wanted to give them, I make a note. If I learn that they don’t have pierced ears, or got rid of their video game console, or have stopped eating chocolate, etc. it all goes here so that I don’t accidentally get them something they don’t want or can’t use.

Gallery

Dad’s Advice

This gallery contains 5 photos.

My Dad always said, “Presentation is 90% of the meal” (particularly as I would stand in the kitchen and watch him plate and garnish a beautiful piece of meat off the BBQ). Hubbs and I have had many conversations about … Continue reading

Thinking Different About Furniture

As we moved into the new house, many friends have generously passed on their furniture hand-me-downs. The new house is so much bigger than the cottage that we’ve eagerly accepted every offer, figuring we’d take it now and decide where to put it later. This included two beautiful TV cabinets, even though we don’t own or tv, nor do we have plans to get one.

What could we do with a tv cabinet? I thought about the things that we did want to do in the house, and decided to use the furniture for those purposes.

TV Cabinet One: The Bird Cage

Now, flower arranging station


I stood some of my paintings along the back ledge and stored all my vases underneath. Clippers, string, and other supplies are all on the shelf where I’ll use them.

I love having a place to bring my flowers in from the garden and get them arranged, and its always great to have all the supplies at hand for whatever project you sit down to do.

TV Cabinet Two: The Cupboard


Now, a Guest Room Dresser

I found a great thrift store mirror for $2.50, and couldn’t believe that it fit PERFECTLY in the back of the cabinet! It covers up the perforations that are all across the back of the unit, made for fitting the back of a tv. I love that there’s a nice dresser for the guest room that can be “put away” if I’d like by closing the sliding doors.

The mirror is aged and imperfect, which adds some nice texture and interest.

Granola

Once I learned that a gallon of milk could be turned into a gallon of yogurt, it wasn’t long before I was wondering if it was also possible to make granola. After some research I was amazed to learn that its basically just oatmeal and honey baked up crisp. Well, I had to try, and seriously, a bowl of homemade yogurt topped with homemade granola is really hard to beat.

Making granola is much easier than you’d expect, and you can customize however you’d like. When filling the “main” and nuts/seeds/grains categories, pick some from the list below, or try any other dry ingredients that look tasty or healthy. Similar to granola bars, I don’t think there are too many grains nuts seeds or fruits that wouldn’t work.

Ingredient Ideas

  • sunflower seeds
  • flax seeds
  • oat bran
  • coconut shreds
  • date pieces
  • pumpkin seeds
  • wheat germ
  • slivered almonds
  • chopped cashews
  • dried cherries
  • golden raisins
  • dried mango pieces

Recipe for Granola

1 cup “main” ingredient (try something from the list above)

2 cups any combination of nuts/seeds/grains (any ingredients from the list above)

5 cups rolled oats/wheat/barley/rolled grain of your choice

1/4 cup oil

1/2 cup molasses

1/2 cup honey

1 1/2 cup dried fruit

1 T vanilla

  1. Mix all ingredients except dried fruit and coconut (if using) in a large bowl. Mix well to ensure honey and molasses are evenly distributed.
  2. Spread in an even layer on 2 cookie sheets
  3. Bake at 300 for 15 minutes. Remove pans, stir well, and put back in oven for another 15 minutes.
  4. Remove pans, stir well, and if you’re using coconut, add it to the granola now. Bake another 15 minutes.
  5. Remove pans, pour granola back into mixing bowl, and stir in dried fruit and vanilla.
  6. After completely cool, store in a sealed container.

Granola bars

One lunchbox favorite around here is home-made granola bars. Once a month I’ll make a Whole Foods run and see what’s on sale in the bulk foods aisle, and that determines what flavor I make. The recipe makes enough for about month’s worth of lunches (depending on what size you cut them the recipe should make 24-36) so once they’ve cooled I’ll cut them up, wrap them individually in sandwich baggies and keep them in a bag in the freezer to pull out for lunch making.

Here’s the recipe, feel free to get creative on the “goodies” part- I can’t imagine there are too many dry ingredients that wouldn’t work.

Granola Bars

1 cup light corn syrup or honey

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup peanut butter (optional)

2 t vanilla

1 t salt

6 cups puffed rice (or other puffed grain) cereal

4 cups of goodies, which could include any combination of:

  • banana chips
  • cheerios
  • chocolate chips
  • coconut
  • dried cherries or cranberries
  • peanuts
  • quick-cooking oats
  • raisins
  • sesame seeds
  • sunflower seeds
  • wheat bran
  • any other type of dried nut, seed, grain, fruit or flake that you like!

some good combination starting points are:

  • cashews+diced dried apricots+oats+white chocolate chips
  • sliced almonds+cranberries+dried apple pieces+1 t cinnamon
  • cherries+chocolate chips+pecans
  • banana chips+chocolate chips+coconut
  1. Line an 11×17″ pan with foil and coat with cooking spray.
  2. In a large heatproof bowl, combine puffed rice cereal, salt, and 4 cups of goodies. Set aside
  3. In a saucepan, mix brown sugar and either corn syrup or honey over medium heat until boiling.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and peanut butter (if using) until dissolved
  5. Pour over bowl of dry ingredients and mix until evenly coated
  6. Press into the pan, using the flat bottom of a cup to help press the surface down firmly
  7. Put the pan into the freezer to cool, but pull out to cut before it freezes all the way through!
  8. Cut into bars and wrap individually in baggies, store in freezer. (These don’t have to be kept in the freezer, but they are easier to eat and stay together better when they are cool than when they are warm or room temperature)

This month, and what you see in the pictures below, I used broken up banana chips, coconut, sunflower seeds, chocolate chips, wheat germ, and peanuts, and I included peanut butter in the sauce.