Make Your Own Simple Pencil Cup!

I don’t use pencils ever, so I don’t know why I’m calling it a pencil cup – except that’s just what it’s called. Even if all it holds is pens and markers. I’ve needed a pencil cup on my desk at work for awhile now. Usually when I need something to organize my desk I just go into the break room and raid the grody communal tupperware for something that vaguely fits my needs. My supply drawer is organized thus, with lidless lunch containers serving as caddies for post its, paperclips and such. But I wanted something kind of neat looking since it’s going to sit on top of my desk and be visible. I wanted to spend exactly zero dollars on it, since I do not spend funds on stuff for my work space.

The solution? A baking powder canister that was on it’s way to the trash and some scrapbook paper I had on hand. Win!

The process is simple. First, peel the label off the canister. Wipe out the inside with a damp paper towel to make sure there isn’t any lingering baking powder residue. I can’t think of any bugs that  like to eat baking powder, but better be safe than sorry and remove those food particles. So you’re left with this –

Roll your paper around the canister and mark it to cut it to fit the diameter and height of the canister. Simply affix the paper with a glue stick. And then you’ve got your pencil cup, for practically free and practically no effort! Voila –

Oh, and I kept the lid with it – I just put it on the bottom. That way if my pencil cup needs new life as some kind of container that needs a lid, it’s right there ready to go.

Countdown to Christmas

Well, here we are – one week until Christmas. I haven’t posted anything about it because I’ve been so busy getting ready. It’s been a veritable Santa’s workshop at Apartment Farm this year. I made a quilt, embroidered name plaque and baby booties for the baby this year. And I’ve got four sewing projects and a little something for husband to finish up this weekend too. And of course, we still have wrap everything. Busy, busy!

I’ve also been baking cookies (of course). Recently I’ve done chocolate chip and soft gingerbread drop cookies. Tomorrow I’m going to do a double batch of snickerdoodles, dipped in red and green sprinkles, as well as some Russian teacakes since those are husband’s favorite. I don’t think I’m going to be able to get to the spritz this year since I have no idea where the press is. I think it’s in a plastic bin at the bottom and back of the canning cupboard, where it will have to stay. I just don’t have the energy or the will to unpack everything in there to dig it out. Next year though.

And despite some drama, we were able to purchase our annual Christmas ornament – a nativity scene of Mary and Joseph with the baby Jesus. We thought it was especially fitting this year since we brought home our own wee babe just three months ago. And we didn’t have a nativity ornament yet, so double-win. The baby loves looking at the Christmas tree – all the bright colors and shiny and glittery ornaments really catch his eye.

We’ve been having a lot of cozy time in at home, which is the perfect way to spend cold winter days where it gets dark before four o’clock in the afternoon. We actually have a fair number of Christmasy Golden Books, so we’ve read through those. And we’ve gotten a few Christmas and winter-themed books from the library. We watched Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer together. This week we’re going to try to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas. And I’ve been doing a lot of crockpot and casserole dinners – bean and ham soup with rosemary, scalloped potatoes, chicken with onions and tomatoes in red wine, and the like.  And I try to bake fresh bread every week – I’ve been doing a lot of pain d’epi and rye loaves.

So we’ve been busy, but we’re really enjoying the season and hope all of you are as well!

Last Minute DIY 4th of July Decor

You didn’t think I’d forget about the 4th of July, did you? I had some lofty ambitions to make red, white and blue fabric pennant bunting and sew up a table runner but last week my in-laws graciously offered to refinish my sewing table, so it’s currently out in suburbia getting a makeover, leaving my sewing area in temporary disarray.

Money, as it turns out, apparently does not grow on trees and we’re on a pretty strict pre-baby budget these days so I’ve also been brainstorming cute, easy crafts that I could do for basically free. Papercrafting fits the bill perfectly. I’ve got at least a whole box of craft papers and cardstocks just sitting around, and access to a color printer (can’t reveal my source on this one!) for occassional on-the-sly print jobs. There are a ton of great free printables all over the internet so it’s just a matter of spending a little time searching around for one that suits your style.

I wanted a few sheets of small format American flags and red, white, and blue banner/bunting stripes to work into a few projects, and came across perfectly scaled free flag printables on the Flags of the World page at Dollhouse Miniatures Printables. I printed the complete USA set which includes two strips of banner/bunting and one each of the Bennington, Betsey Ross and current American flags per page (I printed out ten). There are a ton of things you can do with these – the flags print so they can be folded double-sided, and they’re actually about the size of the miniature toothpick cocktail flags you can buy at the store, so you could certainly craft your own flag picks for drinks or cupcakes or what have you. But since we’re not really having a barbecue or party this weekend, I decided to use them in other ways.

I’m always looking for ways to embellish my milk glass during the holidays. The bunting stripes were perfect for dressing up the hobnail tumblers that I currently use as tealight candle holders. The stripes aren’t long enough to fit around the entire circumference of the tumblers, but I wasn’t worried about that since the backsides are to the books on the shelves. If you were using them on a table where the backsides would show, you could simply affix two stripes end to end and cut to size. I just used a little double-sided tape to attach the paper to the glass.

Here are a couple more milk glass tumbler candle holders on our bar cabinet. I also added a mini flag bunting. I just affixed the mini flags to a short length of red fuzzy package twine, using double sided tape.

To spruce up our vase of cork, I used some of the bunting stripes to make mini flags. I just attached them to short lengths of bamboo skewer with that ubiquitous double sided tape. And to add another little splash of color, tied a red fabric ribbon around the neck of the vase.

And my final use of the bunting stripes was to make larger flags to dress up our basil plant. I just affixed the stripes to larger strips of white typing paper with a glue stick and cut them to the size I wanted. Then I attached them to longer bamboo skewers with double sided tape.

And while I was looking through my craft supplies today, I found a few short lengths of pretty red gingham ribbon, which I thought would look quite nice on the jelly jars I use as tealight candle holders on the back of the stove. I just attached them with a little tape at the back.

So, the house is modestly decked out for the 4th of July, and I didn’t spend a dime to do it. Next year I’d certainly like the time and maybe a small budget to do a little more, but I’m pleased with the effect I achieved on short notice with no decorating funds.

So, if you think your house looks a little bare and want to throw a few things together for this weekend, get out your craft supplies and print some free graphics on the internet. Here are a few more free printables/DIY papercrafts I came across that you might like to use –

Vintage-Inspired 4th of July Crafts at Country Living

Patriotic Paper Lollipops at Make & Take

Patriotic Doily Banner at the Scrap Shoppe (If you don’t have a fancy Silhouette machine, you can make this the “old-fashioned” way with scissors and hole punches, like you would do for paper snowflakes)

Red, White & Blue Paper Fans at A Field Journal

Happy 4th of July everyone!

Valentine’s Day Craft: Be Mine Garland

I love garlands. They’re easy to make, great for any holiday or occassion and they usually look great when composed of the simplest materials. Out of all the Valentine’s crafting I did this weekend, this project was by far my favorite –

To make your own version, you’ll need the following items –

3 inch circle hole punch

red card stock

cream card stock

red-bordered labels (mine are Martha Stewart)

1 letterpress decal (mine is Paper Source, but you could also use a sticker, a diecut or a freehand drawing)

red twine (or ribbon)

clear tape

black sharpie marker

So assembly is super easy. Cut out four red and three cream circles with the hole punch.

Lay them out on your worksurface and carefully position the labels on the circles that will have the letters drawn on them.

For the spacer circle, affix your letterpress decal with tape.

Hand letter “be mine” on the labels by carefully writing one letter per label.

Flip your circles over, arranged backwards (start with the ‘b’ on the right, and so forth) being careful to keep the writing vertical, and lay your length of twine along the back, taping it to the back of each circle.

Flip it over. If any of your letters are skewed, reposition the tape on the back. Once you have it arranged to your liking, hang it somewhere prominent so everyone can admire your handiwork. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Instant Valentine’s Day Decor

I enjoy Valentine’s Day, and the other day I noticed my house was woefully undecorated. Good thing there’s still a week to go! Yesterday I did a bit of crafting to spruce things up.

Well, I can’t take credit for that one, though. It’s the one store-bought thing I’ve got up. I actually came across it Friday night on my way home from work at Walgreens of all places – only $3.00! So it came home with me. I love the glittered things.

This one took zero percent effort as well – it’s a foldout vintage reproduction card that I just set up on our hall table.

These two wall hangings literally took seconds to make. I had some more reproduction embossed Valentine’s cards in my paper stash and just taped some red ribbon to the back. I’d like to get some red tinseled wire to outline them in for next year though – a little extra sparkle.

Yesterday I said I was going to do some conversation hearts plant stakes, but I forgot I had Martha Stewart vinyl Christmas die cuts that I got on sale after Christmas for $1.70 per package. It had four hearts (which I don’t really think of as Christmasy anyway) and I simply taped them to bamboo skewers.

And there’s the project that didn’t quit turn out. I looks painfully elementary, but I’m showing it to you anyway because I think it has potential. I cut three hearts from stiff cardboard and glittered them, then glued/taped the ribbon to the back. I hung it up and was immediately dissatisfied with it, but I couldn’t figure out what it was missing so I just left it up and forgot about it. This morning, just as I was waking up, the solution came to me. The hearts need a frilly border of some sort – I’m thinking white eyelet lace would be nice. And I should switch out the double folded ribbon on the back with a single length of ribbon. I probably won’t get around to the fabric store this week to buy any eyelet lace, but I bet I’ll get some in my fabric stash before next year, so I’ll just tuck those hearts away into a folder so they’re ready to go.

And I did one more project for Valentine’s Day, but I’m so pleased it turned out well I think it deserves a post of it’s own. 🙂

Winter Hibernation

I have been woefully absent from blogland recently. We had an actual blizzard this past week in Chicago, which was an experience. Husband and I both made it home on Tuesday afternoon before the worst of it hit and hunkered down through Thursday morning. We were cozy and warm indoors while the storm raged on outside. Wednesday afternoon the snow finally let up and the sun actually shone, so we took a walk out to the lake. There were drifts of snow five feet high in places, and the wind whipping along the shore was brutal. Here are some of the views from around the neighborhood –

I haven’t seen so much snow since I was a kid. It was actually kind of fun and nice, being so novel. And I don’t think the snow is going to melt for quite awhile, which is fine because most of the roads and sidewalks are clear. The city even had a ginormous front loader on our street until late last night, clearing snow into a semi trailer to be carted off somewhere. The whole experience was pretty surreal.

Interestingly enough, the obscene amount of snow didn’t make me go more stir-crazy – my cabin fever has actually abated a little bit. I’ve been pretty reclusive lately, curled up with books and a warm blanket on the couch. I haven’t really been motivated to do much of anything – no sewing (yeah, whoops), no crafting, no planting. I’m kind of in awe lately – my husband and I happily discovered a little while ago that we’re expecting our first baby! In general, I feel much more still than I thought I was capable of, so I’m going with that. Our sweet little babe is due to join us out here in the world in September and we’re very excited to welcome the newest generation of Apartment Farmer. Though we’re kind of kicking ourselves for not getting a two bedroom apartment when we moved last fall… no matter; we have enough space to make things work for the first year. So there will be lots to do to prepare for the beba’s arrival, and I’m sure I’ll be sharing a bit of that here with you all.

But I don’t intend to sit around all weekend just being pregnant. Wednesday during our snow day husband begged me to bake bread, so I did a couple of basic loaves which he’s consumed nearly single-handedly. He says I’ve figured out how to make good bread (at last!). I give a lot of credit to the River Cottage Bread Handbook as well as using bread flour instead of all-purpose. And the bread knife he got me for Christmas is seriously one of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten – it just slices through the loaf like butter! Since he’s eaten the other two loaves, I’ve got to bake some more. And I’ve been thinking about focaccia too, so I might do up a pan of that, maybe with a little fresh rosemary and cracked olives.

Food in general is a bit of a tricky subject for me lately, what with the “morning” sickness (which actually means – whatever time of day, random sickness) and my growing list of food aversions, which currently includes eggs, chicken, tomato juice (after a brief, intense love affair with it), and bacon. Breakfasts have been tricky too. I had a few weeks where all I wanted was lady apples and apple juice. Then it was oatmeal, and shamefully – chocolate chip cookies (yeah, I know – not optimal nutritionally, but it was the only thing I could choke down for a few days there). Baked goods and pasta as well as most beef dishes seem to be my friend. So for breakfast, I need to expand my repertoire – I’ve been thinking of looking up a recipe for chewy molasses breakfast cookies. And pumpkin sounds good to me again, so I might do up a batch of Super Pumpkin Pumpkin Bread as mini muffins this weekend too.

And then, there’s Valentine’s Day! I need to get in high gear crafting for that – the house is looking a bit bare in the holiday decor department. I only have a Valentine’s Day Snoopy window sticky in the living room and a red-glittered “love” wood block on the bar. I’ve got three fairly simple things I’d like to put together this weekend to spruce up the apartment – paper “conversation heart” plant stakes, a paper “Be Mine” garland, and a glittered heart wall hanging – I’m going to cut three hearts out of stiff cardboard in varying sizes (small, medium, large) and mount them vertically on a length of pretty ribbon. So stay tuned for photos and basic notes on how I’ll put those together. And then there are the all-important cards. For my nieces, I’m going to make the I Love ‘Ewe’ Valentines I saw on Craft Gossip (one of my all-time favorite craft sites). They’re just too cute to pass up! I’m going to make mine on colored cardstock and maybe do stamped lettering. I also picked up a few mini Peanuts Valentine’s Sticker Tablets at Walgreens to send them – two for a dollar! The girls like “stickys” (as they call them). And I still have to come up with an awesome design for this year’s card to husband. We plan on a low-key Valentine’s Day at home this year. We’ll be making a romantic dinner together and staying in.  

Oh, and I’ve got make up my seed starting chart this weekend, and hassle, I mean – remind – husband that he needs to get the glass inserts put into my awesome red windowsill greenhouse so it’s all ready to go. It’ll be time to get the seeds in some dirt before I know it – I also to need to make a list of new planters I’ll need to acquire or convince husband to build so I actually have a place to put all my wonderful little seedlings.

So, happy weekend to me!

Sunday Funnies

Not funny ha-ha, but funny peculiar. As it so happens, I missed this week’s MOSS Project. Insert shame here. I was actually out of town this weekend for a family wedding (which was beautiful and nice) and then when we returned home this afternoon, I realized that I hadn’t gotten around to the fabric store earlier in the week to buy the double-fold bias tape that I needed for this week’s project – the potholders. I’m not going to beat myself up about it – sometimes life happens. I’ll be back next week with the sewing kit roll.

In other news, I’m slowly coming out of my cooking rut. I had a taste for pasta for lunch today so I made a white bean and broccoli sauce with a touch of lemon and chili flakes. Sometimes its nice to have a pasta sauce that isn’t based on tomatoes. For dinner tonight, I decided a crockpot rotisserie chicken would be the way to go. I covered it in Milwaukee Iron seasoning from the Spice House and put a little lemon juice in the bottom. Crockpot chicken doesn’t call for liquid, but I thought a little touch would be a nice flavor addition to the seasoning. I guess today ended up being a lemon kind of day. I’ll make some mashed potatoes to go alongside. I’m still trying to think of what to bake for a breakfast treat – I’m thinking chocolate chip muffins would be nice.