Sunday, November 12, 2017

Add a Hanging Loop to a Kitchen Towel

I love having my kitchen towels hanging off my stove door, ready to use. Being a high-traffic area though, someone was always knocking a towel onto the floor. My mother and I came up with this solution: sew on a hanging loop.

This sewing can be done my machine or by hand and is a quick and easy way to make hanging your towels much easier. You can also customize some towels as a gift for someone for a house-warming, wedding, shower, birthday, or Christmas. I also did this on the towels in our holiday trailer so that I can easily hang them on the cupboard knobs.

My kitchen is mostly red and white, so I chose tape and ribbon in those colors. I love ladybugs and managed to find grosgrain ribbon with ladybugs on it. It looks adorable with my ladybug hand towels. I also have some towels with a red and black ribbon and some with white twill tape.

- towel
- twill tape or ribbon
- thread
- scissors
- measuring tape
- sewing notions

1. Cut the twill tape or ribbon approximately 8" long.

2. Fold under 1" on each end of the tape/ribbon.

3. Center the tape/ribbon on the edge of the towel just below the hem. This will be the top of the towel when it's hanging.

4. Sew the ends of the tape/ribbon to the towel. DONE.

Now you just hang the end with the loop over wherever you want to hang the towel and tuck the other end through your newly-sewn loop. Enjoy the convenience of your towels being exactly where you need them or get a kick start on your holiday gift preparation.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Pony Pinata

Wondering what to do with all that leftover Halloween candy? Here's a fun little project that will take care of that for you: a pony pinata. This technique can be adapted to make other shapes and animals too.

As I've said before, pinatas are great at birthday parties. Kids love them and adults get the enjoyment of watching the kids bash them and collect the goodies. My niece's birthday is coming up soon, so I'm making this pinata as part of her birthday gift from me. As long as you use candy that will last, pinatas can be made well ahead of time.

Pinatas are also a lot of fun at other events where kids will be present. They are both a fun activity and a great way to give candy and small toys/items. Add a real "bang" to your New Years Eve celebration, some genuine Mexican flair to a Cinqo de Mayo (May 5th) bash, or some extra "pop" to a family reunion.

- cardboard
- tissue paper
- string
- marker or pencil
- scissors, exacto knife
- glue gun, sticks
- white glue
- candy, toys, hair accessories, other goodies for inside the pinata

1. Decide on the shape and draw it on a piece of cardboard. Keep the lines fairly straight and the design simple.

2. Cut out the shape. Flip it over and trace around it on another piece of cardboard. Cut out the second piece.

3. Cut a bunch of strips of cardboard. Mine were 3" wide.

4. Use the glue gun to glue the strips vertically along the edges of the pony shape. I didn't do the ear.

5. Fill the pinata with goodies.

6. Cut a bunch of tissue paper strips approximately 2" wide.

7. Snip along one side of the strips approximately 1" deep with approximately 1" spacing. This creates a "fringe".

8. Starting with the stomach and bottoms of the feet, white glue the non-fringed edge of the tissue paper strips to the pinata. 

9. Continue working from the bottom towards the top, overlapping the strips about 1".

10. Continue until you have the entire pinata covered.

11. I added some strips to the back end the look like a tail.

12. Carefully poke holes through both sides of the pinata centered along the back at approximately 1" down from the top edge.

13. Cut a 6' piece of string and feed it through the holes. I used a piece of wire to do this. Tie the ends of the string together. I also tied another knot about 6" up from the pinata.

DONE! Have fun watching the kids smash all your hard work. ;-)

Monday, October 23, 2017

DIY Home Security

Every year, around the holidays, I post on my social media accounts a few tips on preventing thefts and improving your home's security. I wanted to help my friends and family members avoid the horrible experience of having their property stolen. This year I wanted to expand my audience, so here's a full post on things that you can do to keep your home and family safer from criminals.

Security systems are certainly an option. They come in a variety of prices and many different styles and options. If you're handy and good with technology, you can purchase items like cameras and set them up yourself, but there are also many companies who specialize in home security who can help you find exactly what you need. Make sure you "shop around" and find a company with a price and options that you're comfortable with.

Some security companies also offer other options that you might find useful, such as home security assessments and vacation monitoring. An assessment would involve an individual visiting your property to make suggestions and recommendations of things you can do to reduce the chances of criminal activity. Vacation monitoring (there are different terms for it but the basic principle is the same) is when you're going to be away from home for a period of time and hire the security company to make regular visits to your property to check on things and ensure that your home doesn't look empty (turning on lights, collecting mail, mowing the grass, moving the curtains, shoveling snow, etc.).

Here are the things that I recommend, most of which are things you can do yourself or hire someone to do for a reasonable price. This isn't an extensive list, but hopefully you find it helpful.

1. Lock everything
- lock your deadbolt on all your house doors when you're away from home, outside but can't see your doors directly, and at night or when you're home alone; thieves have been known to strike while people are away from home briefly, are in the shower, are asleep, or even while they're mowing their lawn or working in their garage

- lock your garage and any sheds
- lock all vehicles and never leave valuables in your vehicles (wallets, purses, ID, cash, etc.)
- lock up larger items such as bicycles, lawn mowers, snow blowers, etc. either inside a garage or shed or with a chain

- install longer screws in your deadbolt and door hinges so that the screws go deeper into the door and door frame, making it harder for criminals to pry or kick open the door

- lock gates, especially back gates, to keep intruders out or slow them down; there are even locks available which allow easy access from the inside but require a combination to be entered in order to unlock from the outside

2. Reduce darkness, shadows, and other hiding places
- install outdoor lights that come on at night and/or are triggered by motion
- cut trees and shrubs back from doors and windows

3. Keep your keys secure
- don't leave spare keys in obvious places outside, such as under the mat or in a plant pot beside the door; invest in a secure key box that mounts to your fence and only opens with a combination or use a keypad lock on one of your doors
- don't hang your car keys or other keys just inside your house door or anywhere else that is obvious; if a criminal breaks into your house, they'll have easy access to your vehicle
- when you're in public or even at work, keep your keys out of sight rather than on a desktop or tabletop where they are easy for a criminal to pick up

4. Your garbage doesn't lie
- if you're going to be away from home and have curbside garbage pick-up, have a neighbor or friend move your garbage can to/from the curb so that it's not obviously left in the same place for days
- after purchasing or receiving an expensive item, such as a TV, DON'T leave the box out with your regular garbage; this is just an advertisement to criminals that you have something new worth stealing, take it to the landfill or recycling facility yourself

5. Don't post it on social media
- avoid posting about a vacation until you're home; don't advertise to criminals that there is or will be a window of time when you're not around to catch them stealing your stuff
- don't post photos of your expensive or valuable items, stacks of Christmas or birthday presents, or other temptations for criminals on social media, even in the background of your photos
- even posts about shopping at electronics stores or finding great sales/deals can alert potential thieves about items you may have that they want
- check your settings on your social media pages and set them to share your posts with only your "Friends"
- don't add "Friends" who you don't actually know, even if they're "Friends of Friends"
- avoid tagging "Friends" in posts, as this allows their "Friends" to see your post
- ask your "Friends" to remove the tag if they tag you in a post
- if you own a home business, make sure your social media posts don't let potential thieves know you'll be "on holidays" and thus away from home

6. Make it your own
- engrave or write your name, phone number or initials on your possessions; this makes it easier to identify items if they are stolen and recovered by the police
- take photographs of your vehicles and other possessions, especially distinct marks, decals, etc.; this both helps you identify items and helps the police to press charges against thieves (keep the photographs digitally online or printed in a safety deposit box or other secure location)
- keep your receipts or credit card/bank statements that show a record of your purchased items for large, expensive or valuable purchases; these are proof of ownership

7. Know your neighbors
- try to meet all your neighbors and familiarize yourself with them and their vehicles; this will help you spot any potential criminals who are walking or driving around your area looking for targets
- if something or someone looks suspicious, write down everything you can about them (description, clothing, tattoos, vehicles, license plate, activity, date, time, etc.) and even take a photo of them or their vehicle; these details can help the police if you or your neighbors do experience a break-in or theft
- if your neighbors experience a theft or other crime, be extra vigilant
- start or join a neighborhood watch group or COP (Citizens on Patrol) group

8. Keep your property well kept
- caring for your property (mowing the grass regularly, keeping shrubs and trees trimmed, picking up garbage, maintaining windows and fences, etc.) shows criminals that you care about your possessions and will discourage vandalism and theft
- if you are a victim of vandalism or a break-in, clean up the mess and repair the damage as quickly as possible (once the police and insurance company allow it) in order to discourage future incidents
- report vandalism in your neighborhood to the police and encourage the property owner or town/city officials to get the vandalism cleaned up and/or repaired

9. Own a dog
- I ABSOLUTELY DO NOT ever encourage ANYONE to own an aggressive dog or to own a dog they are not able to handle or care for properly, but, dogs are another set of eyes/ears in the house or on the property and can alert you of troublemakers nearby
- a dog that will bark when someone is near your home or yard is a good deterrent against criminals, no matter what size or breed the dog is

10. Secure your windows
- windows that are low enough for someone to get in from the outside should have extra locks or even bars to discourage break-ins
- keep shrubs, etc. away from windows so that criminals don't have a place to hide while planning to enter your window
- close your blinds/curtains when it's dark outside so that passersby can't easily see inside and scope out your possessions (not just your TV, etc., but also the gifts under your Christmas tree, etc.)
- lock your windows when you're away from home and ensure all low windows are locked at night
- add a block of wood in the track of sliding windows and doors to prevent them from opening

I genuinely hope that you never experience a theft or break-in. It's unfortunate that good, honest people have to guard their hard-earned property from criminals, but I hope that these tips help you to avoid and discourage crime.

DIY Costume: Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes, the world's greatest detective, is a classic figure with many incarnations that remains easily recognizable thanks to one main item: a Deerstalker cap. This hat is so linked to Sherlock that it's often simply referred to as "Sherlock's hat".

I really enjoy the BBC television show "Sherlock" and decided that I wanted to use it as inspiration for a costume. Although Sherlock doesn't always wear a Deerstalker in the show, he dons it for a few episodes, so I wanted to start with the hat and build my costume from there. I wanted my costume to be obviously "Sherlock Holmes" to everyone, whether they had seen the BBC show or not.

I received a lot of positive comments on both my hat and costume, and I hope this post inspires you to come up with your own "Sherlock" outfit.

Basic Sherlock Holmes:
1. Deerstalker cap
2. Dark-colored coat

BBC Sherlock:
3. Blue scarf
4. Purple dress shirt

Accessories like a pipe and magnifying glass for a classic Sherlock Holmes look or a smart phone and skull for BBC's Sherlock also make great touches.

1. Deerstalker cap
I made mine out of an old coat that I bought at a second hand store. I searched for patterns online and did a lot of trial and error, but am very pleased with the result. Patterns and tutorials exist for those of you who wish to take sewing one. There are also tutorials showing how to modify a baseball cap by gluing a piece of cardboard onto the back as a second "brim" and then covering the cap with fabric or painting it with acrylic paint. Deerstalker caps are also available to purchase online and in costume stores.

2. Dark-colored coat
I scored this charcoal grey wool coat at a second hand store. Depending on where and when you'll be wearing your costume, you might want a warmer or cooler coat. I wore mine outside to take my kids trick-or-treating, so I wanted it to be warm. A dark-colored trench coat might be more comfortable if you're attending a party or event that's indoors. Coats of every size and color are available online or at second hand stores.

3. On the BBC show, Sherlock always wears a blue chenille scarf. Dollar stores, clothing stores, and second hand stores often have scarves available. I purchased mine online for a few dollars.

4. On the BBC show, Sherlock dons a purple dress shirt in one episode. I stole mine from my husband's closet - hopefully he's not reading this ;-) - but I've seen them at second hand stores also, and I'm sure you can get them at clothing stores and online too. This isn't a crucial item, but I thought it was a nice finishing touch for my costume.


"The game is on!"

Monday, October 16, 2017

DIY Cardboard Halloween Lantern

Since Halloween is coming soon, I thought I'd make a little cardboard lantern to decorate the table. This is a fairly easy craft that kids can definitely help with, but I recommend that an adult do the cutting and gluing.

You can make all four sides the same or different. I recommend not choosing really complicated "creatures", but the choice is yours. Bats, witch hats, pumpkins, cats, skulls, owls, the letters "B O O"... There are tons of possibilities.

- cardboard
- tissue paper (I used yellow, but you can use orange, green, purple, or whatever color you prefer)
- black acrylic paint, brush
- scissors, exacto knife
- glue gun, glue sticks
- white glue (optional)
- black ribbon

1. Cut a piece of cardboard that is 21" long by 5" wide. This will make a lantern that is a 5" cube with a 1" overlap to glue it together. Mark and score at 5", 10", 15", and 20".

2. Mark a 3" by 3" square inside each of your sides.

3. Draw your creatures inside these squares, leaving part of the creature attached to the sides of the square so that when you cut it out, it won't just fall out.

Carefully cut around the designs.

4. Measure and mark four triangles that are 3" high and 5" wide at the bottom.

5. Cut out the four triangles.

6. Paint the "outside" and edges of all the cardboard pieces black. Allow the paint to dry thoroughly.

7. Cut a piece of ribbon and tie a knot in it. I used a 6" long piece to make a short loop.

8. Cut four squares of tissue paper slightly smaller than 5" by 5". Use white and/or hot glue to attach the tissue paper squares to the "inside" of each of the lantern sides.

9. Allow the glue to dry thoroughly.

10. Glue the 1" flap to the inside of the far side to form the cube.

11. Glue the ribbon loop to the inside of the top corner of one of the triangles.

12. Attach the four triangles to the top edges of the cube. Glue one, then the opposite, then the other two. Glue between the triangles and fill in along all the edges.

13. Paint along the glue seams with black paint.

14. You can add a bottom to the lantern if you want (5" by 5" square). I wanted to put a battery-operated light inside mine, so I didn't put a bottom on.

15. Add a light inside and enjoy your spooky lantern. DONE!