Spooky Potion Bottle Ornaments

Potion Bottle Ornament
Last year the Halloween trees never made it out of the garage. I was still recovering from my time in the hospital and I had zero energy to dedicate to optional tasks, no matter how much joy those might bring me. So this year, I’m bringing Halloween back with a vengeance. And first up is a little refreshing for those Halloween trees with a new ornament. This is the perfect “non-crafter” craft since it’s just putting glitter in a bottle and slapping on a label, so if you have a Girls Night Out or a Harvest Festival or PTA night or something where you have to entertain a whole bunch of different skill levels, this project is perfect for you.

Step 1
Collect your bottles. I got mine at the craft store, but this is a great opportunity for upcycling. Any bottle will work, you just need a way to close it, preferably with a cork. Then you let your creativity go wild filling the jar with something that looks spooky. I used a variety of glitters in different colors and sizes because these are going on a very glittery tree, but I think raiding the backyard would yield some interesting results, and same for anything from the hardware store to the pet store to the dollar store. These would look awesome full of bird seed or even little plastic spiders.

Step 2

Pop the cork back in place with a little hot glue to keep all those little glitter pieces in their place. Don’t be shy with the glue either because this has to be in place firmly enough to hold the weight of the bottle.

Step 3

Use a little more hot glue to secure a screw eye into the cork. Or lid. These are easy to find at the hardware store in the section with the hanging supplies. A little dab of glue to keep it from pulling out, then just screw down into the cork.

Step 4

Then it’s just a matter of decorating the bottle. I kept it simple with a little label, but you could go big with ribbon and fake spider web and anything you can imagine. Here’s my genius secret for these labels: just go to Avery.com/print and use one of their templates. This is not a sponsored post or an ad. I was in the middle of designing something from scratch when I realized I needed to go to the website to download their template and discovered a whole mess of them already made up for me. So I shrugged, figured ‘why reinvent the wheel’ and just printed off what was already available. I had to make some size adjustments to get them to fit on the bottle, but that’s because I picked weird shaped bottles.

Potion Bottle

To hang these, just add some string through that eye screw and tie a knot to make a loop. I have mine tucked into the branches of my whimsical tree and it’s amazing how much they add to the overall look of the tree. Adding a big splashy ornament is just what they needed to look brand new.


DIY Outdoor Coffeetable

In my last post I showed you my great big sectional process, and quickly realized that a sectional is not a sectional without an ottoman or coffeetable in front of it. You cannot lounge and worry where to put your drink. So today we conquer making the matching coffeetable. The sectional wasn’t exactly complicated, just big, and in comparison this project is one you could put together with your eyes closed.

Step 1
I’m taking a little bit of a short cut here since I’m using all the same materials, the assembly is done in the same pilot hole/wood screw way, and is still dependent on the measurements of your cushions that determined the size of your sectional. You don’t want a giant coffeetable and an itty bitty sectional, so you have to keep them proportional. If you have any questions about those items, refer to the sectional post.

Cut your 2 x 3’s to size. For this project you’ll need 4 pieces 36″ long, 6 pieces 30″ long, and 4 pieces 18″ long.

You’ll need to build two box shapes, each with a center support, that will become the top and shelf of your table.  Just sandwich three of the 30″ pieces between two of the 36″ pieces and screw it all together. And do it again for the other five pieces.

Step 2
Your four 18″ pieces are your legs. For this part it’s best if you break out the level. You want to make sure you don’t install the shelf lopsided. Line one of your boxes up flush with the legs by laying it all on the ground, screwing the pieces together, and then flipping it over. To install the bottom shelf it works great to lay it all on it’s side. Make sure that you leave a few inches of leg below the box so that nothing’s resting on the ground.

Step 3
For the top and shelves you’ll switch to the 1 x 3 furring strips just like we did for the sectional. You’ll need to cut 14 pieces 33″ long for the top, lay them out the way you want, and screw them into place.

Step 4
Then cut 10 pieces 19″ long for the shelves, offsetting them so there are five pieces on each side of that center support beam, creating two shelves. Screw down.

Step 5
Then it’s the regular old sand prime paint procedure.

Finished CoffeetableThe shelf design was a bit of an accident. I planned on making the bottom shelf solid just like the top, but I forgot I’d have to cut around those legs and that sounded like a whole lot of no fun. So I changed the design and I think it looks so much cooler! Happy Accidents are totally what makes it worth it.



Build a DIY Outdoor Sectional

Outdoor Sectional

So, I know it’s Fall now and everybody has moved on to pinning Halloween costumes and Thanksgiving tablescapes, but I just can’t let this project sit on my hard drive until next summer. It’s already been finished for months and months but between surgeries and fertility and recovery and the hellishness of the last year it never got the attention I wanted to give it. So I am going to stop waiting for perfection and just send it out into the world. Nobody reads things in order anymore anyway.

When we moved into this house I knew my backyard furniture wasn’t going to cut it. But outdoor furniture is EXPENSIVE!! Like, ridiculously expensive when most of it is plastic garbage anyway. But in this corner up against the house we had this huge paved area that was just begging for an outdoor sectional. I looked and I looked and when I could even find one it was over $10,000. Which is insanity. You can get a car for that much money!

I finally realized that the only way I was going to get the outdoor seating area living in my dreams was if I built it my own dang self. So I did.

Step 1

Everything starts with the cushions. I bought mine a couple summers ago now at end of season prices, which is so so so much cheaper than trying to make anything yourself. Cushions for patio furniture do not come in standard sizes, so you absolutely must have your cushions before you start sawing wood. You’ll need to base all of your measurements around the ones you plan on using if you expect anything to fit. Mine were 21″ square, which is what all the measurements I’m about to give you will reference, so if you end up with cushions that are not 21″ square, remember to change the math! I also used 2 x 3’s to make it look a little less like studs, to cut some of the heaviness out where I could, and to save myself some cash. Remember as you’re changing the math to always account for the width of the wood pieces you’re assembling. A finished 21″ wide is actually an 18″ piece sandwiched between two 2 x 3’s.

Step 2

Despite the size of the project, it really only consists of a few parts and is really manageable, even with my rudimentary building skills. The first thing to build is the frame. I made mine to be a corner sectional with a chaise lounge on one side. With your 2 x 3’s cut to the proper sizes, then it’s just drilling through the pieces to make a pilot hole, and following it up with a wood screw to secure it. With something this big and heavy, I like to use two wood screws in each joint.

Step 2 right

Right side cut measurements. Not pictured: another 18″ long piece I attached across the middle to offer some more support.

Step 2 center

Center cut measurements. Not pictured: Another 18″ crosspiece I added after I got a little further in the building process and realized I wanted it more stable.

Step 2 left

Left cut measurements.

But Tresa? I can hear you asking, Why aren’t the sides of your rectangle the same size? Good question. It’s because of how those joints need to line up for assembly. The exterior sides are longer because they don’t have to account for the width of the wood it’s joining up with. So you see in the back how the top side meets the back on the outside, while the bottom side butts up against the back? I needed to do that to get the sectional as long as I wanted it to be. If you’re changing the dimensions on this, don’t forget the width of the other piece next to it! I can’t emphasize that part enough, it’s so easy to forget you have a whole other 2 x 3 to make room for.


Step 2 detail

To make your sectional as long as mine, you could use a metal brace of some kind, but I designed it so that the sides of the sectional would seam that back together. Which is also why that back piece is 1/2″ longer than its mate across from it. It needs to overlap a bit to be able to screw into the 2 x 3 it crosses.

Step 3

With your frame built, now you’ll need legs. You need three of these little boxes. Two to go under the joints where the sides meet the back, and one to hold up the end of the chaise.

Step 4

And then you’ll need 6 of these d-shapes which are legs with back support. Cut an extra 38″ piece to create your corner piece.

Step 5

Lift the frame up onto the legs and attach with screws. In this picture you can see the crosspiece I added to make the frame stronger, the little box directly under the joint, and the corner piece. This is just one of your six d-shaped legs, but you add that second back piece onto the outer side of it to make that corner. You gotta have something for your back pieces to screw into.

Step 6

Now we just have to add the seat and back. I switched to 1 x 3 furring strips here. I cut 58 pieces 21″ long for the seat and installed those by screwing them directly into the frame. I didn’t bother measuring how much space was between each piece, I just eyeballed it to make sure that the pieces weren’t touching on one end and far enough to fall through on the other.

Step 7

The six back pieces on the right side are 84″ long, but on the long center section I wasn’t going to be able to make it all the way across with one piece, so I had to measure how long the pieces had to be to reach the leg they needed to screw into. You’re going to have to measure your own based on where that leg ends up, but in my case I cut 6 pieces to be 87″ long and 6 pieces to be 37″ long and attached them with screws into each leg’s back.

Finished Outdoor Sectional

After that everything needed a good sanding, priming, and a painting, and then I put all those cushions where they were destined to be. Of course, I also realized in a hurry that I can’t have an outdoor seating area with no place to put a cold drink, so I had to come up with a matching coffeetable. Instructions for that will be coming tomorrow.


Outdoor Slipcovers

Outdoor Slipcover
This is one of those awesome Summer projects I’ve been talking about forever. And it was so massive to put together all the different photos and videos and instructions that it sat on my harddrive for my whole year of sickness. Today is the day it gets it’s due.

Outdoor Furniture
In this house I have the most amazing backyard. Totally landscaped by the owner, huge and with all kinds of levels to it, whatever patio furniture I had before was just swallowed up as soon as we put it out there. And if you’ve ever shopped for patio furniture, you know it is ridiculously expensive. Like, you might as well put the real stuff out there, expensive. Which meant that I had to get pretty creative to make this space usable and not just pretty.

Outdoor CouchI found this couch on the side of the road, cushions destroyed by a dog, waiting for the garbage man. So I snatched it up. I figured that even if I couldn’t do what I envisioned, I wasn’t out anything, so I’d give it a try. The results are so amazing I couldn’t have imagined it. When we had a wedding at our house this summer this little spot was the most popular place in the whole yard. You had to fight for a spot.

Outdoor ArmchairThis chair I got at our local thrift store when they were having a 50% off sale, which means I got this chair for $5. With such low stakes, I couldn’t go too far wrong. The only expense to this project was the outdoor fabric, which I got at an end of season discount from Joann’s. So hey, maybe my lack of timeliness could work in your favor. Snatch up the fabric today and even if you’re skidding into fall you’ll be all set to give this project a go.

The tutorial really works best once you see it in action, so I didn’t even try and get action shots. Just watch me do my work in the video.


4th of July Cowbell Banner

Cowbell Banner I’m sneaking this project in under the wire for a little holiday festivity. Ever since the pennant banner took over the internet, I’ve developed a real love for banners as party decorations. It’s so fun to have something besides table top stuff to really bring the party over the top. But I’m also sick to death of pennant banners, so I’m always looking for a way to reinvigorate things. I realized the answer as soon as I found these colorful bells: More Cowbell.

Supplies You will need:
Holiday colored cowbells (If you can’t find holiday cowbells in your craft store, a little spray paint will do the job.)

Glitter Glue or dimensional paint

Rope in a coordinating color

Step 1 Use your glitter glue and dimensional paint to fancy up your bells. I stuck with the holiday theme of stripes, but kept things simple with dots instead of stars. Sticking with the metallic colors, I think dots are enough to make my point.

Step 2 Cut a piece of rope long enough for the space you’re decorating. I cut about eight inches per bell so that I’d have room for knots and plenty of space to keep the bells from hitting each other. I wanted the bells to clang, but not drive anyone away. After you attach the first bell you’ll need to drag the whole rest of the rope through each bell in order to tie it, so it works best if you make several shorter banners instead of one super long one.

Bell Banner I’ve been saving this project since last summer when I originally made it for Darice, and thanks to Atti’s surgery I nearly missed the holiday again! Lucky for all of us this project is so quick you can make it the day of the celebration. You could even put the supplies out and let the kids decorate while they’re getting antsy for fireworks. And make an unholy racket while they play. You might want to keep your “More Cowbell” jokes to yourself, though. Kids just don’t get it.


Cherry Pie Pops

Cherry Pie Pops
One last farm related treat before I wrap up all the festivities, and that’s these Cherry Pie Pops. Homemade pie is such a perfect All-American staple, I knew I had to have it reflected in my Farm Table. But there was no way I was letting 20 kids loose in my house with plates full of cherry pie. These pie pops were the perfect solution. All of the tastiness of pie, but somehow I made it through the entire party without any cherry stains on my rugs!

Step 1
Since I was in time management mode, I used a pre-made refrigerated dough. If I was serving this to grown ups I’d make my own, but either way you just roll your pie dough out as normal. Use a biscuit cutter to cut out as many pieces as you can.

Step 2
Line the pieces up on a parchment lined cookie sheet, and press a lollipop stick down into the dough.

Step 3
Spoon some pie filling into the center. I actually kind of overfilled the pies in the picture. You want to be able to get that top piece on.

Step 4
Use a fork to pinch the edges of both pie crusts closed, then cut a couple of slits in the top to allow steam to escape. Since there’s a lot of crust to a smaller amount of filling than usual, I gave the crusts a little touch of water and then sprinkled them with sugar, just to up the sweetness a bit more.

Pie Pops
When it comes to the epic cake vs. pie debate, I’m a member of team cake. But if we’re talking cake pops vs. pie pops, these win, hands down.


Corn Cob Marshmallow Treats

Corn Cob TreatsWith Easter behind me, I have to get back to showing you all the ideas I had for Atti’s farm themed birthday party. The party was a success for Atticus, but also a big success for me since I got to go nuts with the snacks and live out all my Pinterest dreams.

popcornWe borrowed a popcorn machine from Bear’s work and had popcorn popping all day. The goats were BIG fans of this one.

Orange PumpkinsA few other ideas were simple things I saw online. These orange pumpkins popped up all over the place, and so did serving potato chips and chex mix under the names “wood shavings” and “chicken feed” respectively. I’d link to something if I could find an originator, but everything I found just has people saying “I saw this online.”

But these Corn Cob treats are all mine, and I’m obsessed with them.

Step 1If you’ve ever made rice krispie treats, you know how to make these. I followed the instructions of the back of the marshmallow bag and melted together 3 T butter and the contents of one bag of marshmallows.

Step 2Then stir in 6 cups of Kix cereal and keep stirring until each little ball is coated in marshmallow.

Step 3Scoop the goopy covered cereal out onto parchment paper, making little handful sized mounds. Let these cool down until they’re not too hot to touch.

Step 4When the cereal treats are cool enough to touch but while they’re still warm and malleable, give each mound a squish to get it thoroughly stuck together but also to shape it into a corn cob shape. Just a long oval will do, you don’t need to put much thought into it.

Step 5For serving, and to finish the look, put each treat into a cellophane serving bag. Give the top of the bag a twist and tie it closed with green raffia to make it look like a husk.

Not only are these treats about the cutest things ever, but making them with Kix instead of Rice Krispies really changes the taste. There’s more cereal compared to marshmallow, so they’re not so cloyingly sweet. They disappeared embarrassingly fast. Like, Bear may or may not now posdess a blackmail picture of me double fisting these while my mouth is already full. I have to remember to stay on his good side now.


Fun Foam Flowers and Chicken Wire Napkin Rings

Fun Foam Flowers
I have more farm birthday stuff to show you, but I had to take a break before Easter comes and tramples right over me. Farm birthday goodies are coming, but for today I had to share this little project with all of you preparing for a big Easter meal and looking for a quick and cheap way to dress up your table. If you can work a glue gun you can make this in a matter of minutes, and for less than a dollar each flower.

I originally intended these flowers to go on top of napkin rings, but I made them WAY too big. Which ended up working out great because the napkin rings looked better unadorned and these flowers let me have a seasonally dressed up table in a house that needs to be kitty and wheelchair friendly. I can’t have china out on the table all week long if I want to keep it, but if these end up on the floor (and they have) then no harm done. Just a quick brush to get the cat hair off and back up to the table for a little spot of loveliness.

Step 1
Out of Fun Foam, you’ll need to cut your pieces. One large piece of foam is enough for one of my big style flowers. You’ll need one circle piece roughly 1 1/2″ in diameter, and then you’ll need four sets of petals in different sizes. I freehand cut one of the large petals (it’s about 3 inches across) and I specifically did not aim for uniformity or a pattern because nature is random. It looks better messy. You’ll need a little tab at the bottom to give you space for glue, so the finished petal looks a bit like a fat teardrop. Once you get the petal the way you want it, cut out five more. Then take one of those petals and trim about a 1/4 inch from around it. Cut five more just like that. Trim off another 1/4 inch, cut five more that size. Trim one more time and cut until you have five petals in the smallest size. Five petals in four different sizes, plus the circle for the center.

Step 2
Use a heat gun to warm up each piece of foam. The heat gun gets wicked hot, so I used a little needle tool I had on hand to keep the petal where I wanted it without burning myself. A pencil will work, or anything that keeps your hands out of the way. As the foam heats up it will naturally begin to curl in on itself. You don’t need much curl, particularly on the bigger petals, you just want to add a little dimension. Heat up each petal.

For the center piece, heat up the circle until it begins to be pliable. Then fold it into quarters and heat it up again. Hold it in that folded up position until it cools and you’ll have a little bud shape.

Step 3
On a piece of parchment paper, spread a pool of hot glue. The parchment paper is a fantastic non-stick surface to work on and this will let you stick the petals down into the glue when the first layer doesn’t have something to stick down on top of.

Step 4
Arrange three large petals in a triangle shape, and then add the last two to make the star shape by gluing those last two petals on top of the others.

Step 5
Add the next few layers by putting hot glue onto the tabs on the bottom of each petal, offsetting the petals as you apply them. You don’t want them to line up with the petals below them, you want that organic random look. If you aim to have that seam where the petals overlap in one layer land right in the middle of the petal in the next layer, you’ll get great fluffy volume too.

Step 6
Spread some hot glue on the curved bottom of the center bud piece and tuck that right down into the middle.

Step 7
If you’re unhappy with the shape of any of your petals, you can bring the heat gun back out. Heat up any offending petals and use your fingers to hold them in the shape you want until they cool down.

Napkin Ring Step 1
So my original vision for this project didn’t work out, but that doesn’t bother me any. Instead of one project, I get two. And these wire napkin rings are even simpler than the flowers.

Cut a piece of decorator chicken wire to 6″ x 3″.

Napkin Ring Step 2
Bend it around and use the wires you cut to wrap it together.

Fake Flowers
Since I had a bunch of dye out to dye some Easter eggs, I decided to take the largest petals and dunk them, just to see what happened. I ended up with just the faintest hint of color on the outermost petals, which I think adds to the look so much. Flowers often take on a touch of color on the outermost edge and it helped to make it look a little less pretend.

Flower Centerpiece
I’m not typically a big Tablescape person, but I’m starting to see the appeal. In the week since I finished these projects my dining room table has actually stayed clean. No leftover meal messes, no homework piles, just a bright spot of Easter loveliness. I might give this Tablescape thing a try more often.


DIY Photo Rig

DIY Photo Rig

Blogging is so completely different from when I started out. To keep going after ten years you gotta find ways to keep it fresh, and for me, that’s been through my Youtube channel. I just had a reason to link to one of my early videos and I’m amazed at how bad it looks. There’s a real learning curve to even film making as basic as a Youtube video, and since I’ve started I think I’ve gotten way way better.

My latest advancement is a tool to give me another angle to shoot from. I do all of my filming and editing completely on my own – Bear is occasionally around to push the record button – and it just hasn’t been possible for me to get too up close for my tutorials. I need about four more hands to film and craft at the same time.

I looked into all kinds of film equipment, but I couldn’t find anything that would suit my small scale purposes. I really didn’t need a crane. So after a lot of thought, I came up with a simple and dirt cheap way to get those overhead shots that make such a difference in showing how to make something. All you need is PVC pipe and a way to cut it.


DIY Dyed Poetry Pants

Resist Dye Poetry Pants
I have been so blocked. I have so many projects all made up and photographed and videoed and ready to share, but I sit down just to type up instructions – the simplest part of the whole thing – and it feels overwhelming. I’ve gotten so much better health wise, but there’s a lot of trauma of the last year to heal from and all my words seem to be on the other side of that wound. So what better time than now to bring out the poem and project that always gives me strength.

I found this poem, For Strong Women by Marge Piercy, and I wept when I read it. It got right to the heart of my whole life experience. I am a strong woman, and I’m proud of my strength, but so many people react to me as if I never need help, never get weary, never pay a price. To those people I always shake my head and ask, “Have you read my blog?” I don’t know if it’s possible to talk more about the cost of everything I do and yet so many people only see what they want to see. They put people like me in a special “strong” category so that they can have some comfort that maybe our troubles won’t befall them. I get really mad at this because when I do need help and ask for it, people don’t hear. Or when I am just killing it they dismiss it as some innate character trait instead of giving me credit for what I’m slogging through every day. Each of us wants to be seen as a whole person and this poem dug into my heart at how it expressed that true strength comes from proceeding DESPITE the fear, not without it.

So I took this poem that meant so much to me, and I wrote it on my pants so that every time I wore them this message would walk with me.

Step 1
The poem is quite a long one, so I picked out a few stanzas that I wanted to use. Then I got a pair of white pants and wrote the poem write on them with Elmer’s blue gel glue. My pals at RIT dye informed me that this is the best glue to use for a resist project, and they would know.

Step 2
Let the glue dry completely, then flip the pants over and keep writing on the other side. If you really hate your handwriting you could use stencils or stamps, but boy would that take forever. Plus, I think the messier your handwriting the cooler this project would look.

Step 3
When the glue is totally dry, dunk the pants in a cool dye bath. You don’t want to use a stovetop dye method for this one or the glue will just melt away. Let it get a couple shades darker than you ultimately want it, and then wash and dry in the machine as normal. For the first time through the washing machine, wash it all by itself. There will be some dye that comes out in the wash the first few times, and you want to spare the rest of your clothes from picking that up. Some colors wear better than others, but I’ve found that this Pearl Gray color I used is really good and fixed. I just toss these pants in with all the rest of my laundry now and don’t give a thought to any dye transfer.

Poetry Pants
Every time I leave the house in these I get compliments. It might be because they look so cool, but I think it’s also because when I wear them I can’t help but strut. The message they carry is my own little secret boost to get through the day. I swear, they’re better than caffeine.

For strong women

by Marge Piercy

A strong woman is a woman who is straining.
A strong woman is a woman standing
on tip toe and lifting a barbell
while trying to sing Boris Godunov.
A strong woman is a woman at work
cleaning out the cesspool of the ages,
and while she shovels, she talks about
how she doesn’t mind crying, it opens
the ducts of her eyes, and throwing up
develops the stomach muscles, and
she goes on shoveling with tears in her nose.

A strong woman is a woman in whose head
a voice is repeating, I told you so,
ugly, bad girl, bitch, nag, shrill, witch,
ballbuster, nobody will ever love you back,
why aren’t you feminine, why aren’t
you soft, why aren’t you quiet,why
aren’t you dead?

A strong woman is a woman determined
to do something others are determined
not to be done. She is pushing up on the bottom
of a lead coffin lid. She is trying to raise
a manhole cover with her head, she is trying
to butt her way though a steel wall.
Her head hurts. People waiting for the hole
to be made say, hurry,you’re so strong.

A strong woman is a woman bleeding
inside. A strong woman is a woman making
herself strong every morning while her teeth
loosen and her back throbs. Every baby,
a tooth, midwives used to say,and now
every battle a scar. A strong woman
is a mass of scar tissue that aches
when it rains and wounds that bleed
when you bump them and memories that get up
in the night and pace in boots to and fro.

A strong woman is a woman who craves love
like oxygen or she turns blue choking.
A strong woman is a woman who loves
strongly and weeps strongly and is strongly
terrified and has strong needs. A strong woman is strong
in words, in action, in connection, in feeling;
she is not strong as a stone but as a wolf
sucking her young. Strength is not in her,but she
enacts it as the wind fills a sail.

What comforts her is other’s loving
her equally for the strength and for the weakness
from which it issues, lightning from a cloud.
Lightning stuns. In rain,the clouds disperse.
Only water of connection remains,
flowing through us. Strong is what we make together,
a strong woman is a woman strongly afraid.