Wednesday, November 19, 2014

DIY Napkin Rings with Plastic Wrap Tubes

This idea comes from the creative brain of my mother. She made napkin rings at virtually no cost. In total she spent 65 cents for 1/8 yard of fabric for 12 napkin rings. Wow!

For the ring itself, she used tubes from plastic wrap. They are sturdy and the perfect size to hold cloth napkins and silverware.

She cut up the tubes, covered them in fabric (a combination of scraps she already had and the little bit she purchased), added a little flourish with artificial flowers, and voila! Easy peasy!

She plans to add holly or bells at Christmas.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Ugly Christmas Sweater Party

We had so much fun making Christmas gifts last year. For my family, we made everyone a totally awesome, super ugly Christmas sweater.

A couple of the sweaters were hand-me-downs and the rest were thrift store purchases. We hit the cheap, ugly sweater goldmine at The Thrift Store on Greenback in Citrus Heights (at least half the price of the ones we found at Goodwill).

For decorations, we bought a bag of Christmas trinkets for $5 at Goodwill and picked up a few stockings at other thrift stores. Fabric paint, bows and ribbons were collected from our hoard of craft supplies.

We incorporated each recipient's name on his or her sweater. A couple of our creations close up:

My mom knew were giving ugly Christmas sweaters as gifts, so she added to the theme with an Ugly Christmas Sweater Cookie Competition. Craft stores sell the kits with everything you need for around $10.

Goodbye Halloween, Hello Christmas

You may think I'm crazy, but I've already begun Christmas shopping. The same day we put away our Halloween decorations, I started looking at Christmas decorations online.

In my old neighborhood, we had one of the best decorated houses for Halloween and Christmas. Actually, we were usually about the only house decorated for Halloween! My childhood neighborhood is far more festive, with some houses even decorating for 4th of July, Thanksgiving and Easter.

Our house totally kicked Halloween butt this year, and the neighborhood kids really loved it, which always makes me happy.

But last Christmas, I felt we were outshone by our next-door neighbors on both sides.

So this year I'm getting an early start so I can make some nearly-free decorations.

On the agenda:

Giant lollipops, like the ones from this blog. I already have most of the materials I will need.

Giant wooden star, inspired by the $5 one on this blog. I might be able to make one from our scrap wood collection as Aaron hoards wood.

And maybe, just maybe, lighted present boxes. 

My DIY decorations will add to my little splurge. At Kmart I found an inflatable decoration I just had to have. My husband agreed, and we don't usually like inflatables that much. Trim A Home Air-Blown Snowman and Dog
Normally $39.99

25% off online Xmas items + Extra 10% off Xmas items sold by Kmart + Free store pick-up

 = $26.99.

But wait!

I had a coupon for spend $30 on, get $10 back in points.

So I added 1 box of 100 ct. mini colored lights, normally $5.99, but with the two sales, $4.04.

So with tax, 1 box of lights + 1 inflatable = $33.51 and now I have $10 back to spend!

And then I used my Amazon points to buy a small Christmas present.

Christmas, let's do this!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Halloween Decorations: How to Stuff a Life-Size Michael Myers

Michael Myers is our grand finale of decorations, the big kahuna.

The Michael Myers tradition started our first year in our first home.

Aaron had the brilliant idea of stuffing Michael and placing him in my office window, which faced the yard. You had to walk right past the window to get to our door. You couldn't miss Michael; even people driving by on the street would slow to check him out.

On Halloween, Michael amused many and frightened some. A few groups wondered out loud if he was real. Suddenly Michael would move (thanks to Aaron hididng in the office) and screams would ensue.

Eventually, Aaron closed the blinds, quickly un-stuffed Michael, stuffed himself inside and hid behind the front door. I would answer and Aaron would creep out or jump out. More screams.

The next day, we had a knock at our door. A group of kids asked Aaron if he could put the costume back on and chase them. But of course!

The group waited outside, expecting Aaron to come out the front door. He snuck out the back gate and the whole neighborhood could hear the kids' screams as he chased them down the block.

From that day, we knew Michael had to be a part of our Halloween decorations every year.

We have stuffed him various ways, usually with a combination of blankets and wood. This year, we found the best method: furniture foam.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Free Visit to the California Automobile Museum

"Free" just makes everything more enticing, doesn't it? As part of its Audience Appreciation Month, The Sacramento Bee hosted a free event at the California Automobile Museum on Thursday night.

I predicted the event would be primarily attended by an older crowd, and I was not wrong. I don't know why more "young people" don't attend these things, but I don't mind trailing behind a group of white hairs. By comparison, I must have looked positively youthful. I found out about the event on the BeeBuzzPoints website, which is a great resource for local events and contests.

The Bee's business writer and car expert, Mark Glover, gave a short talk about his background, which coincidentally, I related to. Glover said he's originally from Dayton, Ohio, and when he meets people from Dayton living in Sacramento, they often came here via transfer to McClellan Air Force Base. Both my grandfathers worked at McClellan, and my dad's family is from Dayton. I grew up visiting McClellan regularly as Grampa (Dad's dad) was the head referee in charge of the games at the base. Small world.

The event also included a raffle, small ice creams from Vic's and a guided tour. While I tried not to drool over the cars, I snapped some photos along the way.

You can visit the California Auto Museum for free on Museum Day, but I can tell you from experience that it can be an extremely crowded visit.

With my love, the 1965 Mustang.  P.S. How cute is my sweater? I got it at Thrift Town's 99 Cent Sale.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Opening Day Hiccups and Blondie at TBD Fest

If I'm being perfectly honest, I really only wanted to go to TBD Fest for Blondie. The majority of the music at the fest is just not my thing.

I get how important and cool this music, art, food and technology fest is for Sacramento. But for me, waving a glow stick around to techno music is the stuff of nightmares.

Still, I entered a Capital Public Radio contest online and lo and behold, I won two three-day passes. Then I kinda sorta felt like a jerk because like I said, I only cared about Blondie, and I know so many people who really wanted to attend this thing.

Held in the dirt at River Park in West Sacramento, TBD Fest was scheduled to start at 3 p.m. on Friday with local band Autumn Sky taking the stage at 3:30. Since I actually like Autumn Sky (though I'm partial to her earlier solo stuff) my husband and I arrived by 3:30.

And then we stood in line, in the hot sun, for the next 30 minutes. For some reason, no one was getting in. Nothing was happening for at least 15 minutes. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Singer-Songwriter Shannon Curtis in My Backyard

Sometimes you just instantly fall in love with a song or musician, and that's how it was for me with Shannon Curtis.

I can't recall exactly the year I first saw her, but I know it was roughly 12 years ago. I remember entering Heritage Festival on the grounds of Gibson Ranch and hearing a pop rock band with a female singer who could actually really sing. That band was Paradigm.

I was immediately hooked. And because I co-ran a local music website and zine that did CD reviews, Paradigm sent us their press kit, so then my broke self had Paradigm music to listen to all the time.

Eventually Paradigm parted ways and Shannon embarked on a solo career in the vein of Norah Jones and Sarah McLachlan. The first time I saw her perform with just a keyboard, I was blown away. I continued to catch shows here and there and do some press when I had a new music column. 

I turned my husband onto Shannon's music, and despite his protests when we first met that he didn't really like female singers, he also became a fan. (Female singers now play heavily in his music rotation, so don't listen to what they say; You can change a man! Or at least his music taste.)

The last few years, Shannon has focused almost exclusively on house concerts, playing in living rooms and backyards across the country. We were privileged to have Shannon play one of her last concerts of the summer in our backyard last Saturday.

Shannon played a very emotional and intimate set for our small crowd of friends and family. She even brought some to tears. Although Aaron and I were disappointed so many friends had to miss out on the concert due to prior commitments, I think everyone who did attend, left impressed. It was truly a special experience.

Shannon and her husband take the time to get to know the guests before the concert.

You can learn more about Shannon and her innovative house concert tours at her website.

Related Posts

Outdoor Oasis: How to Turn a Futon into a Porch Couch
Nar, Go National and The Knockoffs at Old Ironsides 
Chalk It Up 2014


Friday, September 12, 2014

Halloween Decorations: Floating Goblin

We like our Halloween decorations creepy, not cutesy. Sure, sometimes little kids are afraid to come up to our door, but with prompting from their parents, they almost always get over it. We have free candy, after all.

This floating goblin is a simple, thrifty DIY Halloween decoration that takes just minutes to make.

All we used was a blue rubber mask from the 99Cent Store, a bug zapper lantern and a hooded, black Halloween costume top in a thin, breathable fabric from the 99Cent Store. 

We hung the zapper lantern, which is encased by proctive bars so we've never had to worry about it burning the fabric. We chose the zapper because it gives off a nice blue glow. A porch light with a black light in it would also achieve this affect.

Then we stapled the hood of the top around the edges of the mask.

To secure the mask in place, we fit the mask's flexible head strap around the lantern.

Finally, we just pulled the shirt over the lantern.

We probably could have done a better job hiding the cord the year the pic was taken. The next year, we ran the cord along the ceiling of the porch cover so it didn't just hang there.

Like this post? You might also like:

DIY Flying Monster

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Halloween Decorations: DIY Flying Monster

He's made children cry. He's one of the reasons we get so many "badass decorations" compliments from adults. He's our flying monster, and he only cost a few bucks to make.

What You Need:
1 Black grad robe (Check thrift stores, if you don't have one lying around.)
1 Over-the-head mask (Preferably with a hood)
1 Pair of monster gloves
Lots of safety pins
1 Plastic bag
Newspaper or tissue paper
1 Wire coat hanger
2 sticks (We used the wands from old blinds)

The Basic Steps:
  • Fill out your mask with something bulky so it has dimension. We actually have a block of wood in there, but without pulling apart the monster, I couldn't tell you how we managed that. You can fill a plastic bag with newspaper, seal the bag and then safety pin or sew it into the inside of the mask.  
  • Safety pin the collar of the graduation gown to the neck opening of the mask. If your mask has a hood -- as ours does -- safety pin the hood to the gown.
  • Cut a small slit in the back of the neck area or back of the hood to insert a wire hanger.
  • Insert poles (narrow scraps of wood, wands from blinds, etc.) into the sleeves of the gown to give your monster outstretched arms. 
  • Secure the poles in place. We used large safety pins to attach the poles to the inside top of the sleeves, so the rest of the sleeve hangs open below.
  • Stuff the gloves with newspaper/tissue paper to give dimension. 
  • Attach the gloves to the poles. We Macgyvered the gloves with duct tape and safety pins and its held for years. For added fun, position the fingers in place -- our guy is flashing the rock n' roll sign.
  • Hang your guy up -- near a corner works great -- and attach the hem of the robe to a wall to give your monster the look of movement. We safety-pinned the ends of the robe together and then secured the ends to the wall with push pins. 
TIP: If you find yourself having trouble getting the arms in the right flying position, tie fishing line around the wrist area of your monster to pull up the arms (like a marionette). Then tie the other end of the fishing line to plastic gutter hooks (the kind used for Christmas lights) and attach to your gutters. 

Like this? You might also like: 

DIY Floating Goblin

Monday, September 1, 2014

Chalk It Up 2014

My face melted and I was generally blinded by the bright sun, but I still enjoyed seeing the sidewalk chalk drawings and listening to live music at Chalk It Up on Saturday afternoon.

Chalk It Up is an annual Labor Day weekend festival at Fremont Park that benefits youth art programs in Sacramento.

This year we only caught two bands, The Old Screen Door and Musical Charis. I snapped some quick cell phone pics of the bands and of my favorite sidewalk art.

The Old Screen Door
Musical Charis