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.

Step By Step

1. Test the bottom seal on all cans, especially if you're using old cans. Fill the cans with water and let sit overnight to ensure they won't leak. A can that leaks water might also leak hot wax from the bottom. Obviously, if you just opened a fresh food can, the seal should be tight, but I don't want to be responsible for someone getting wax on her furniture.

2, Remove the labels and clean the food cans. I used tomato sauce and olive tin cans. Coffee cans are great for larger candle holders.

3. Secure the can so it won't roll while you work on it. Lay the can on its side in a vise grip, tightly-fitted box, or inside a barrier created from blocks of wood, for example. You could just sit in the butterfly position (knees out to the sides, bottoms of your feet touching) and hold the can between your bare feet while you watch "Bob's Burgers" on Netflix. I'm not saying that's what I did nor am I recommending it, but I am saying I know it will totally work.

4. Angle a nail down toward any raised line in the can. Hold the nail in place just above the raised line and hammer the nail through the can. I was less successful when I tried to hold the nail straight, or when I tried to hammer through the flat surface of the can. Hammering at an angle toward the raised lines really helped.

5. Create a beautiful, elaborate design with tiny nail pricks; or, use a drill to create larger holes.

6. Hold the drill at a downward angle as you did the nail (not straight down) and drill into the can at the hole. If you try to drill without creating a small prick from the nail, the drill will have a hard time staying in place on the round can. The small hole helps the drill catch on the difficult surface.

7. Continue hammering and drilling until you achieve the look you want. It's just that simple. Remember, you don't want wax to melt out onto your furniture, so don't puncture too close to the bottom of the can.

Safety Note: I did not create the original idea for this craft; it's been around for years. I just did my own version of it after seeing more artistic designs produced with nails. I've never heard of any issues with the candle overheating the can and haven't experienced that, but it's always something to keep in mind. I would warn, however, that after drilling into the can, you may have sharp metal protrusions on the inside to watch out for when placing a candle inside.

Like this? You might also like:
Outdoor Oasis: How to Turn a Futon into a Porch Couch
How to Make a Seashell Wind Chime

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 solid-wood, queen-size futon, I got busy getting ready for my move and never updated with the final result.

I love it.

Although it can be hard on my bad back, I enjoy painting and generally find it relaxing, so painting the futon inside and out was a labor of love.

The only downside to using the futon was the natural dip where the seat meats the back support. To eliminate the dip, I leveled out the seat with these stiff seat cushions a friend gave us. 

Now, even if your observational skills are as bad as Inspector's Gadget's, you probably still noticed that the cushion covers went from purple-patterned to pinkish red. I did not go out and buy new covers or miraculously find an entire set fitted to my thick cushions on Craigslist. 

I did unzip and remove the outer covers to reveal these original and very faded covers underneath. After these covers got wet and gross, the original owner just put new ones over them. I bleached the yuck out of them for an updated look that is more me.

While I updated my outdoor pieces with fresh paint, the glass tabletop cracked in two.

I found my new tabletop in the long piece of wood we removed from the kitchen to better fit our fridge in the allotted space. Husband helped me saw off the extra length, and then I painted it to match.

I also painted an Ikea Poang chair someone gave us for free on Craiglist and painted a cute little end table with magazine rack I picked up via Freecycle.

We even got the blue throw pillows for free when we bought our $20 love seat

All in all, my outdoor oasis updates haven't put a single dent in my wallet. While I did pay $20 for the futon, I sold the mattress it came with for $30. I already had paint and everything else was re-purposed from free items, which I picked up within 5 to 10 minutes of my location. The paper lantern lights were free, and after Shop Your Way Rewards points, I spent $1 for the string of tiny white lights along the tree. The only other thing I paid for was the flamingo from the 99 Cent Store. I just had to have 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.

We started with the $20 over-sized love seat from Craigslist. It's in great condition and is super deep, comfy and perfect for napping.

We picked up the like-new 32" TV/DVD player combo off Craigslist for $80. Having the flat screen allowed us to turn this $10 Ikea bookshelf (CL) into an entertainment center. We simply removed the panels on the sides (leaving panels in middle for support) so the game consoles could breathe.

Behind the TV, our cat perches in his tower -- another Craigslist freebie. I paid $30 via CL for the exercise bike, which I actually did use at the old house.

I also paid $30 total for the three 84" long thermal curtain panels from Kohl's. (Normally $29.99 a panel; On sale 50% off + $10 off Kohl's coupon + 20% off for opening credit card.)

We already had the black stand that's next to the couch. It was free, of course. We just spray painted it. It works well to hold Aaron's music notebooks and baskets of stuff. The rug is a Craigslist purchase from the old house.

In the corner of the room next to the kitchen sits my china cabinet, which was a very generous housewarming present I picked out on Craigslist.

With the guitar wall hooks, I finally fulfilled my long held dream that someday I would be free to move about and vacuum without occupied guitar stands in my way at every turn. I paid about $12 on Amazon for all of them.

The little round table on the floor was actually my Gramma's drum in her old-lady kitchen band, The Henson Hunnies. Gramma knew how to keep a beat.

The vintage Go-Go's poster (eBay) and frame (Aaron Brothers) were belated Christmas presents to myself, using the spending cash that came with my Christmas Go-Go's tickets.

All said, we spent about $200 on a sofa, three thermal curtain panels, curtain rod, entertainment center, flat screen TV, guitar wall hooks, vintage rock poster and new frame.

(Not pictured, we also have a food pantry at the very edge of the room and the large snake cage against the kitchen counter bar space. Aesthetically, they are not the best, but they are functional and were free.)

Similar Posts

My Childhood Home, Furnished by Craigslist: The Living Room

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.

My one-of-a-kind, mid-century entertainment center (free from Craigslist) is the focal point of the room. The decor style is my own take on mid-century modern.

A Christmas Story Leg Lamp ... Where else? Craigslist.

Specifically for this room, I purchased the $30 Craigslist couch, three rugs (Ikea and Anna's Linens), four curtain rods, red clock, Elvis canvas + frame and Grease poster + frame. The Marilyn canvases are also new to the house, freebies from Craigslist. I spent about $150 on these items

Right before I moved, I picked up the antique school chair for free off Craigslist and the mid-century end table for $10 off Craigslist.

The two media shelves (which we spray painted) were $20 total on Craigslist. The narrow media shelf (also spray painted) was left behind by the tenants.

Scented, battery-operated candles ... yup, free off Craigslist.

The TV trays used for side and entry tables were free from Craigslist a couple years back. I received the antique hope chest when I was 16. The red Target curtains and white polka dot Ikea curtains hung in my old house. The white curtains were either free or almost free from Craigslist.

The TV is also new, as we got rid of our heavy old-school TVs and joined the modern world.

The details:

Even the white picture frames came new-in-box, free off Craigslist.

Engraved goblets from our wedding, Hearst Castle snow globe from our Honeymoon.

Aaron's mom's beloved old books.
Haven't had a land line in years, but the phone was too cool to part with.

My retro-inspired Barbies.

And why I really love that big entertainment center: Inside it holds a working turntable and hides a whole lot of stuff.

More Like This:
My Childhood Home, Furnished by Craigslist: The Family Room

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

 In and Around Ben Lomond

 Mystery Spot

Seymour Marine Discover Center

 S.M.D.C Overlook of Natural Bridges

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.

1. Plot out the design of your shells, and if you think necessary, mark the planned holes with a pen. You can also incorporate beads or small bells into your chime. The sound of wind chimes annoys my husband, so I skipped that part. I arranged four rows of five shells, in order from largest to smallest, with an abalone shell in the center of each row.

2. Practice on a throwaway shell. Lie it face-down on a block of wood, so
the smooth, inside of the shell faces up. To collect the shell dust, drill inside of a box or other container.

3. Hold the drill straight, apply light pressure and slowly drill into the seashell using a ceramic drill bit. If you don't have a ceramic drill bit, use the smallest bit you have and make patience your mantra. We started with a 1/8 bit and it was about as painfully slow as "The Tree of Life." After much frustration and way too little progress, I Googled "How the hell to drill into a seashell," and we bought a ceramic bit.

4. Drill just below the top-center of most shells. For abalone shells, we found it easier to drill just below center, closer to the points of the shells. Even with a ceramic bit, some shells took time and a lot of slow, steady pressure to drill. That's what she said.

5. Feed the twine (or string or whatever) up through the holes, starting with the bottom shell of each strand, so the line of twine runs along the backs of the shells.

6. Secure the shells in place, if needed. Tie knots. Don't use glue. I used hot glue. I use hot glue for everything because it's easy and I like easy. But even though I tried to ensure the correct positioning of each shell, some buggers glued a bit wonky. And one of the temperamental shells burned my thumb. It blistered. And seriously hurt. Don't burn your thumb.

7. Hang the completed strands on your item of choice. If you really want that beachy vibe, use driftwood. I bent a coat hanger into a circle, tied a piece of twine to it, and then tightly wound the twine around the hanger to cover the circle.

I tied two more pieces of twine crisscross onto the circle to create a hanger.

Voila. Now you have your very own seashell wind chime. Hopefully it looks better than mine. And hopefully you crafted without injury.

Pro Tip:
Have backup shells for substitutes, especially if you use the abalone shells you've been holding onto for 20 years. They might be a bit brittle. They might break and you might just have to piece the slivers of abalone back together like a puzzle, and then squeeze out more of the hot glue that already burned your finger. Just sayin'. It might happen.

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.

I get the best deals from Shop Your Way Rewards (Kmart and Sears) and Kohl's. (Is it not kind of like Christmas whenever those $10 off a $10 purchase postcards come in the mail from Kohl's? I've received three in the last two months.)

Just as an example: I recently had a SYW offer for $23 off a footwear purchase of $23 or more at Sears. By shopping the sale, I got three pairs of toddler shoes without spending a cent of my own money. The order would have normally been over $40 -- ridiculous for tiny toddler shoes, no matter how stinkin' cute they are.

It may sound a bit off, but Victoria's Secret is another great store to use for charity. For one, charities need bras and underwear, but also, with those $10 off a $10 purchase coupons they send, you can buy their bubble bath/body wash/shampoo combos and only have to spend a few bucks of your own money. The charities we give to request name-brand bath products. Bath and Body Works and JC Penny send out similar coupons.

I also find that these store freebies and great deals help remind me to give year-round, and not just at Christmas.

To keep the store emails under control, I sign up with my Gmail account, so everything automatically gets filtered into one folder. I also sign my husband up to get double the deals.

Signing up for Freecyle and watching the free section on Craigslist are also smart ways to collect gently-used items for charity.  

Yard sales and estate sales are full of treasures charities need. The best time to shop a yard sale or estate sale is at the end of the day when the sellers would rather give everything away than pack it up or haul it back into the garage. Arrive prepared with bags or boxes to fill with clothes and small household items. Do a sniff-check to ensure the items are not from a smoking environment.

Some charities will even upcycle your old furniture for profit. We gave away a well-used Ikea arm chair to West Coast Mastiff & Large Breed Rescue. The charity turned it into an adorable dog bed for resell.

With store freebies, Freecycle, Craigslist and yard sales, it's really easy to give to charity when you don't have a lot to give.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

End of Another Venue Era: Slime Girls and The Dollyrots at Luigi's

It's always sad when an any local music venue closes in Sac, but especially when it's an all-ages one. I admit that, I, personally, was never that big of a Luigi's fan, but I appreciated it for hosting all-ages shows.

Whereas 15 years ago, Capital Garage meant the world to me, and before that kids had the Cattle Club -- or The Loft, depending on your allegiance -- today's under 21-crowd had Luigi's. Luigi's was by no means an ideal room, but it did the job, with a real stage, a not totally terribly sound system, and a dance floor that was better than what the other small-sized venues offered.

If I was 15, 16 or even 20 again, I probably would have loved the venue, and would have championed it, and then mourned its loss, in the same way I did for so many like it back in the day for the LoCal MuSac E-zine and website.

But honestly, I'm not that high-energy punk princess anymore. I'm 30, and not in the best of health. Just thinking about going to a show makes my back ache. My poor husband had to sleep most of the day just to have the physical ability to go to half the show. And that was really only because we bought advanced tickets.

But I'm so glad we did. Even if we were sitting with the youngest kids' parents, waiting for our beloved Dollyrots to play, we got to breathe in the youthful energy from the crowd -- the energy you just don't see at Old I, even when it's a Knockoffs or Brodys show and the crowd uncrosses their arms and actually starts to move around, sing along. 

We missed Shoujo Kitten and Sneeze Attack, but got to laugh at the energetic kids dancing their hearts out to Slime Girls, a band that is a rambunctious concoction of video games, anime and punk rock.

And then we got to have our own fun when The Dollyrots took the stage.

Fittingly, the last ever show at Luigi's ended with a group hug, initiated by Kelly Dollyrot.

So farewell, Luigi's. Thanks for reminding me of my youth. 

Photo by Aaron Morris
Show photos behind the jump.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Losing Weight and Adding to My Wardrobe One Deal at a Time

Going into a thrift store and finding exactly what you wanted in your size is a pretty good feeling. You know what is an even better feeling? Going shopping and having to size down because you've lost weight!

This LBDD (little black doily dress) is proof of that. It was a pretty awesome feeling when the medium was too big and the small fit perfectly. I don't care if the sizes maybe run a little big, I'll take that as a victory, especially since I was a size down in shorts -- if only Sears had had my smaller size. I've lost about 13 pounds in a little over a year.

Paired with a yellow belt, Batman style.

Detail of dress, sans slip.
And thanks to the Shop Your Way Rewards coupons, I got the dress and two pairs of Bongo tennis shoes for about $12 total. Not bad!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Not Your Ordinary Wedding Budget Tips: How to Save Some Serious Cash

My fairy-tale wedding -- which included a couture wedding gown, buffet dinner with table settings for 150 people, and a ceremony at a church that is so popular, it is booked every Saturday of the year -- cost under $8,000. When you consider that the average cost of a Sacramento wedding is over $31,000, I consider that pretty impressive.

Now, you can find many budget-saving wedding articles on the web and in magazines. In fact, some of the ones you come across, might even be written by moi. Professionally, I've written countless wedding articles with tips backed by well-known experts. But those are not the tips I'm including here.  

These are the tips for someone on a limited budget who doesn't need or can't afford to have professionals run the whole show. These are the tips that require doing your research and asking friends and family for help. These are the tips that saved me thousands.