Wednesday, August 6, 2014

No Sew Instructions: Turn a Skirt Into a Window Valance


I've always wanted cherry-print curtains in my retro-styled kitchen. My narrow, corner kitchen window, however, does not work with most curtains. Hanging a sheer curtain panel with a tension rod was the best way to let light and airflow in while still providing privacy, but it left the window looking unfinished. I thought a valance would complete the look, but also knew I would either have to make it or cut a normal-sized kitchen valance in half to fit the small space.

Then, while sorting clothes to give to charity, I came across my cherry-print skirt, size 3. Loving the print, but knowing I would likely never fit into the skirt again, I decided to turn into a window valance.

Like many of my DIY projects, I made this one up as I went along, with basically no plan. Because I used sewing pins and skipped the actual sewing, crafting the valance was pretty simply.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Cosmetic Companies That Don't Test on Animals

I originally wrote the following article as an assignment for a client, but was a little surprised to discover the client didn't actually want me to name names -- advertisal relationships and all. Rather than rewrite an entire article to avoid offending a makeup line by stating the facts about its safety testing, I decided to throw it up on my blog. I also have another reason for sharing: The information I learned in my research made me examine the makeup I buy. With the selection of cosmetic lines that don't test on animals, there's really no reason I should be supporting a company that still tests on animals. 

If you're looking for that perfect volumizing mascara or blemish-concealing BB cream, but want to ensure the product is cruelty-free, good news: As of 2014, over 1,000 beauty and personal care companies don't test on animals, according to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The bad news is that some big-name brands still test on animals, and the testing practices of some cosmetic lines are unknown. When in doubt, look for the leaping bunny logo, which is the international cruelty-free stamp of approval from PETA.

Drug Store Brands
You don't have to go to a department store or beauty store to find cosmetics that don't test on animals. Drug-store staples, including Jane, The Body Shop by L'Oreal, Terra Natural and Physicians Formula are PETA-approved. Even the low-cost Wet n' Wild is cruelty-free. If you still love those scented Lip Smackers, never fear, Bonnie Bell makes the leaping bunny list, as does natural lip balm maker, Burt's Bees.

Middle and Higher End Brands
When those coupons and rewards offers come in the mail from Bath & Body Works and Victoria's Secret, you can buy their cosmetics with confidence that they are cruelty-free. Higher-end brands that don't test on animals include Smashbox, LUSH cosmetics, Urban Decay, Sephora Spa Essentials and Aveda by Estee Lauder.

Mineral Makeup
If you're a mineral-makeup beauty, you'll find many brands from which to choose, at all price points. Mineral cosmetics that don't test on animals include Affordable Mineral Makeup, Aussie Mineral Makeup, Bare Essentuals, Pur Minerals, L.A. Minerals, Luv Mineral Cosmetics, Everyday Minerals and Earth Goddess Minerals.

Testing Abroad
Some companies don't test the products they sell in the U.S. on animals, but do test the products sold in other countries on animals. In China, animal testing on cosmetics is a legal requirement. Avon, Estee Lauder, Mary Kay and Revlon all lost their long-held PETA-approval after testing and selling in China; however, in early 2014, Revlon and L'Oreal's Garnier announced they would pull their products from the country. On its website, Almay says it personally does not conduct animal testing, but adds that, "Regulatory authorities in a few countries conduct independent testing in order to satisfy their own mandatory registration requirements."

Confirmed Testing
Just because a cosmetic product doesn't carry the leaping bunny logo, it doesn't necessarily mean the company tests on animals. The company may not have gone through the process to carry the logo, even though they don't do animal testing. Some companies cannot carry the logo because of confirmed testing. According to PETA, Bobbi Brown, Maybelline and M.A.C. conduct animal testing. Procter & Gamble, which owns Cover Girl, claims that it completes 99 percent of safety testing without using animals.

To learn what animal testing entails, visit this Humane Society page.

Monday, July 28, 2014

My Childhood Home, Furnished by Craigslist: The Kitchen

My kitchen is not my favorite room in the house. It's outdated. Honey-oak cabinets aren't my preference. And I could really do without the old, blue countertops. I haven't done a lot of decor-wise to the kitchen, but I have added my mark here and there.

Before we moved in, I planned where everything would go (hello, obsessive compulsive personality!) and realized right away we needed two things: a pot rack and a rectangular table. As much as I love Gramma's round/oval table, I needed a table that could sit flush with the wall to maximize the limited space. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

How to Turn Soup Cans Into Candle Containers

This craft is an oldie but a goodie. Using tin food cans, you can illuminate your favorite outdoor space. All you need is a nail, hammer and optionally, a drill to turn soup cans into candle holders.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Outdoor Oasis: How to Turn a Futon into a Porch Couch

I refer to my back porch as my outdoor oasis, not because it's the most beautiful or detailed, but simply because the furniture is comfortable and the atmosphere is peaceful. It's where I go to unwind, relax and read.

Last year, I wrote about getting rid of my busted up outdoor furniture, updating the salvageable and buying a futon to to use as my new outdoor couch.

Shortly after I painted the $20 queen-size, solid-wood futon with outdoor white paint, I got busy getting ready for my move and never updated with the final result.

I love it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

My Childhood Home, Furnished by Craigslist: The Family Room

The family room is where the music happens. It's where marathon hours of video games are played. It's really more my husband's room. I mainly use it to watch Jeopardy because it's easier to get ABC reception in that room. Sometimes I play Jeopardy on Playstation, too.

This room has had the most transformations in the 7 months we've lived here. First, it was the video game and Netflix room, back when we had the most massive beast of an old-school TV you've ever seen.

When my brother moved in, we sold most of the furniture in the room, gave away The Beast and moved in my office furniture. About a month later, our other roommate moved out, and I got my office back.

Without The Beast taking up a quarter of the room, furnishing the family room was pretty simple.

Monday, July 14, 2014

My Childhood Home, Furnished by Craigslist: The Living Room

Since we moved into my childhood home on Halloween, I've been busy furnishing, decorating and then re-furnishing and re-decorating as we replaced the old with the new-to-us. I made about $1,000 selling furniture and random items in the move, but have only invested a very small portion of that into the new house. I am finally getting to the point where the house is just about done.

I love many things about this house, and having a living room and a family room is at the top of that list.

Growing up in this house in 90s, the living room was the formal room. A floral sofa, matching wingback chair, curio cabinet filled with mom's collectibles, a beautiful old piano and lace curtains filled the space.

Entering that front room, you wouldn't even know two kids lived there. You wouldn't see a teenager parked in front of the TV, video game controller in hand, soda bottles scattered around him. That mess was hidden in the family room.

And while I don't have a teenager or any kids beyond the four-legged variety, I have a husband. So, taking a play from my mom's book, husband gets the family room as his video game/music room. And I have my nice living room. That's not to say the living room doesn't get messier than I'd like: the polka-dot rug is usually littered with dog toys, but I never have to trip over controller cords, and that makes me happy.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Santa Cruz Anniversary Vacation

For our 7-10 anniversary (7 years married, 10 together), we stayed three nights in Ben Lomond, which is in the Santa Cruz mountains. I composed a post detailing how we made it a fun, low-key, thrifty vacation, but once again, Blogspot has a mind of its own, messing with my uber simple font settings. So instead of words, I just give you pictures. Enjoy.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Natural Bridges State Beach

Monday, June 9, 2014

How to Make a Seashell Wind Chime

Some crafts do not go as planned. Some crafts cause curse words to fly out. Some crafts cause physical pain and even leave a mark.

My seashell wind chime was one such craft.

See, while browsing Big Lots one day, I came across a selection of seashell wind chimes, very reasonably priced. I exclaimed, "How cute! Wait, I could make this! It's just seashells and twine. Just drill some holes." My husband agreed. "Yea, that'd be hella easy. I could help you drill them."


Since I got the idea for this craft at a store, I didn't even think to see if other people made such wind chimes. (A Pinterest search shows, yea, they're kinda popular.) I decided I could just wing it.

So I pulled out my seashell collection, dating back over 20 years, gathered from the coasts of California, Hawaii and Florida, and selected 20 shells to use.

And these are the steps I learned to do ... and not to do.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

How to Give to Charity When You Don't Have a Lot to Give

Talking about our charitable contributions is not something my husband and I do a lot of. For us, it's mostly a private matter, but we do like to promote the charities we support. When you don't have a lot to begin with, supporting a charity is not always as easy as writing a check.

Giving to charity, however, doesn't have to be about money. Charities need physical items -- new and gently used -- and you can supply these with a little shopping savvy.

My first tip may be obvious to most deal-hounds, but it wasn't always to me: Sign up for store mailing lists left and right and use those points and coupon offers to shop for charities.

It's so simple, and I find, really fun and fulfilling.

My husband and I favor women and children's charities, such as W.E.A.V.E. and the Sacramento Children's Receiving Home, both of which have wish lists of needed items. At Christmastime, they have gift wish lists. It's important to check wish lists as charities list what they don't need or do not accept -- toy weapons, as an example.

Since we don't have children of our own, we especially love toy shopping. It's the perfect excuse to browse the toy aisles and pick out the Barbies, Hot Wheels and Nerf footballs we kind of still want for ourselves.