Adventures in Crafting: Hand-lettering edition

My super-talented colleague, Cristel, recently gave a presentation on hand lettering to a group of us at work, and I was inspired to give it a try. I’ve done lettering in Illustrator before, but never with pen to paper.

I happened to have these Sharpie brush pens on hand — Tim loves office supplies so there is no end to the number and type of pens in his desk at any given time — but after trying them out, I realized my kids “borrowed” them and used them to color. They were dry. :-/ So I ordered some new ones from Amazon (along with some practice paper), but they were delayed by weather. Double bummer.

We were shopping for birthday supplies at Walmart this weekend and I found this big ol’ box of 50 Crayola “Super Tips” for $7. Thanks to YouTube (because you can learn how to do just about anything on YouTube), I know that Crayolas are recommended for practicing brush letters since they’re cheap and easy to find. Practice problem: solved.

So now I have a cheap graph paper notebook that’s full of pages like this:

I’ve noticed some improvement in controlling the pen since I’ve started practicing, and it’s easy enough to find time; a five-minute break is enough time to write out a word or two, or practice individual letters or shapes. I don’t really like my k’s, w’s, or B’s yet, and round shapes like o’s and a’s still trip me up.

If I keep this up, I’ll reward myself for daily practice with a set of better quality pens. This will also help make my digital lettering better, since now I have a better sense of which strokes should be thick or thin!

Adventures in crafting: Chalkboard wall

When we first moved into our house, I knew I wanted to do something with the basement enclosure. That wall gets a lot of traffic, between little hands and paws and chairs bumping against it. It was originally painted to match the rest of the walls with a light yellow in a matte finish, making it almost impossible to clean.

I thought I’d cover it with chalkboard paint, but I loathe painting, even for a small project like this. I’m messy and I’m likely to give up halfway through. We’ve been here four years. If it hasn’t happened by now, it’s not gonna happen.

Then I discovered these convenient rolls of peel-and-stick chalkboard vinyl and the crafting gods smiled upon me.

So I bought three rolls (18 inches by 6 feet each) and went to work. This stuff was so much easier to apply than paint. The above probably took me an hour from start to finish, between measuring and cutting and making sure it went on without bubbles. I was initially concerned about the seams, but they barely show.

The only problem was one of the rolls of vinyl was slightly darker than the others, and it became very obvious when you put them next to each other; not sure why, since they came in the same shipment, but I put the darker pieces on the shorter side of the wall where it’s less visible.

Each roll came with chalk, but I also bought chalk markers to cut down on the dust. The kids have already covered their new “board” in scribbles, and I don’t care how dirty it gets because it wipes clean with a damp cloth.

Wow, I’ve reached “peak parent” with that last sentence, huh?

I have plenty of the vinyl left over for smaller projects; I may work on some simple chalkboard frames that I can doodle on or use for note-taking.

Above all, now I can say I did something for this house before my sabbatical ends!

Slimy Times

Her face says it all. Joy, wonder, intrigue…EW.

I don’t know where I first encountered the homemade slime thing (…it was probably Pinterest) but it’s been stuck in my mind for weeks. I have vivid memories of playing with Gak as a kid, and this is basically the same stuff.

I knew the kids would love it; Gwen especially enjoys tactile things, and the more rubbery “slime” works with her Play-Doh toys. It’s also a cool introduction to non-Newtonian fluids, which my young geek, Ellie, would appreciate. Yay science!

Pretty innocuous looking, eh? Like puddles of paint.

I followed this recipe, the gist of which is white glue, borax, water, and food coloring. It’s easy to make, but the process is messy. Thankfully it’s also washable (I’m told vinegar will do the trick if plain water doesn’t work).

The above recipe is straightforward so I’m not going to copy it here, but I did learn a few things in the process of making our own goop:

  • Add the borax solution a teeny, tiny bit at a time for the best results; I made the mistake of adding too much too quickly, and my goop was more rubber than slime. Still fun to play with, but not as stretchy as I wanted.
  • You’re going to get to a point where stirring doesn’t really work, and you have to knead the borax solution in. To avoid the sticky mess all over your hands, put the goop in a zip-lock bag when you do this. Or don’t. I’m not the boss of you!
  • If it’s too rubbery, add more glue and water.
  • If it’s too sticky, add more borax solution.

This stuff is a pretty great stress reliever. I have a habit of twirling my hair and picking at my scalp when my anxiety is getting the best of me, and I’ve found playing with slime keeps my hands occupied so I don’t pick.

Adventures in Crafting: Home Décor Edition

Despite my love of all things pretty, home décor is one area of visual design I’m terrible at. It’s not so much my taste, but I find the process of decorating so overwhelming that I’ve become adept at ignoring my surroundings when I don’t know what to do with them.

The orange wallCase in point: Our last home had a hideous hunter-orange accent wall in the living room, and it stayed that way for five years because every time I tried to imagine something different for the space, my brain folded in on itself like a dysfunctional camp chair. In fact, the only painting we did while we lived there was Ellie’s room (a five-person effort that took months) and our teeny downstairs half bath (and only because there was water damage, and I still had a meltdown mid-project).

Thankfully most of this house was painted when we moved in two years ago, but we haven’t done much beyond that. I put up a few pictures, but most of the walls remain bare, and there’s one wall in the living room that’s particularly sad. It’s in an awkward place, partly behind the wood stove on the left and the mounted TV on the right. It’s large, and all our furniture is oriented toward it, so this wall is the focal point of the room, and it’s blank.

It didn’t help that, while in Boston, I visited Ikea for the first time. If there’s anything that can make you feel sad about your current living situation, it’s a trip to a perfectly curated furniture store. I came away with a few bits and bobs, but mostly what I got out of the trip was determination to do something about the living room to make it cozier and give it some personality.

You wouldn’t know it, but that big empty space in the background is a living room.

First step: Figure out what to do about the damn wall. Pinterest to the rescue! I’d seen the wire + clips method of hanging photos before and decided to improvise using clothespins and hemp rope.

For the technical bits, I measured from the top of the sheetrock, starting about eight inches down and spacing the strings eight inches apart. I drilled eye hooks into the wall on each side, with the hemp rope tied tightly between them. The rope still drapes a bit, and I staggered the lengths to give it a less rigid feel. As much as I love modern design, our house doesn’t look the part.

I don’t have a before and after picture, because that would require foresight and planning, neither of which factored into this project. Just imagine this wall with absolutely nothing on it, and you get the idea.


The final result is a mishmash of family snapshots, postcards, and art prints and photographs. For accents, I made some flower medallions out of scrapbook paper, collages, old keys, and bottle caps from my collection. I eventually replaced the larger standard clothespins with miniature versions, so they’re less intrusive and add less weight to the strings.

The beauty of this is the ability to change out the photos when we (read: I) inevitably get bored.


I also put down a new rug. It’s bold. It’s bright. It has loads of personality! I was worried it would be too much, both in size and pattern, but it fits perfectly. The dog has already thrown up on it, but his opinion doesn’t count.


Add some throw pillows, repurpose the kids’ toy box as a coffee table, and throw a sheet over the run-down love seat, and voila! We have a brand new living room for basically the cost of the rug and a couple pillows.

Next up: The stairwell wall gallery.

Repurposed Drawer Shelf

Repurposed Drawer Shelf / Shadowbox

I’m on a bit of a home décor binge lately; I fear we’ve reached “peak Pinterest”. For example, yesterday I put together and installed this accent piece for the bathroom.

I have boxes full of random junk I’ve picked up over the years, with the intention of using things as props for photo shoots. The other day I went up to my future office to look for some picture frames and found this old drawer I’d bought at the Big Chicken Barn; it was originally home to a bunch of glass bottles, but this time the drawer itself caught my attention.

I added the petals design on the back with scrapbook paper, then installed eye hooks on each side to mount the box with picture-hanging wire. The decorations are various odds and ends from my collection. The tag on the bottom is the original price tag that came with the drawer; it seemed to fit the aesthetic. 🙂

I’m on vacation, so there are more projects forthcoming!

Christmas craftiness

I went a little nuts making ornaments this year. I blame Pinterest, taunting me with all its “easy” tutorials and perfectly composed photographs.

We have boxes full of ornaments for the tree, so it’s not like we need more shiny, dangly things, but I just couldn’t resist. I bought far too many crafting supplies, got hooked on scrapbook paper (so. much. cute), and only burned myself with the glue gun once.

The results speak for themselves:

This year’s binge also gave me ideas for gifts for next year, and gave Ellie and I something fun and creative to do together; definitely worth the money and time spent.