Monday, December 31, 2012

thrift store finds: vintage intercom speaker

I found this $2 intercom speaker box at Bring a few weeks back while the kiddo and I were hunting down parts for an upcoming project.

I challenged the Mister to find some way to turn it into an iPod speaker for the sake of our project, because though I knew I could probably muddle through and scare up some on-line diagrams and eventually research it into completion, he has years of practice building and repairing computers and I figured he could skip the research phase.

An hour later (maybe less?) he had removed the old guts, hunted down a scrap cord, and finished off the inside of the box so that my iPod wouldn't get scratched up. After that, it works like any other iPod speaker; just plug it in and turn on the music!

("Science is Real" by They Might Be Giants available for purchase on iTunes.)

I love that it sounds like an old a.m. transistor radio; just what I was hoping for. The iPod tucks up inside the back, the plate slips on to conceal it, and all done! I regret I don't have a step-by-step diy for you; the Mister was responsible for all but the idea, so I don't have any in-process photos.

Basically, he removed everything from the inside of the intercom box except for the speaker parts and the wires that attached them. Then he connected the ends of those wires to the wires + micro plug from a dead set of earbuds. After that, it's just a matter of plugging the iPod in to the speaker and turning it on! I tried to find a similar project on-line to link to, but this is the closest I came: an Instructable on making an iPod speaker from earbuds and some old computer speakers. Anything with a speaker in it probably works in a similar way. But admittedly, that assumption may be way off base.

Also: the knob and dial still turn, but they don't actually control anything. For the sake of our project, though, they'll lend that extra bit of detail that'll make it shine. Stay "tuned"! There'll be more about this in a couple of weeks. Until then, it's a total cliff-hanger.  Bwa-ha-ha!

Linking Up to:

Creative Things Thursday

Junkin' Joe Fabulous Finds

Sunday, December 30, 2012

post christmas craft-a-thon, part 1

After Christmas, when everyone's holding their big post-Christmas clearance sales, I like to spend a little gift card cash on some marked-down craft kits for a change-up to the daily finger-painting and coloring we do.

This little spin art kit in a very nicely designed box came from Bed, Bath, & Beyond and cost under $3.

It came with twenty-five circular sheets of paper, three little bottles of paint, and a "spinner", which is essentially a top.

Of course, if you're working with a not-quite-three-year-old, you're gonna burn through the supplied paint in just five art pieces, but I'm okay with that. The kiddo stayed interested for a half hour (shockingly long these days), and thinned-down tempera paint can substitute for the other stuff. Overall, a nice way to spend a bit of our afternoon.

If you pick up (or build) a similar kit, work inside the box as recommended to avoid spattering walls etc. And experiment with different speeds of spin and different amounts of paint; the results can vary wildly.

What post-Christmas craftiness have you and yours been up to? I've got a couple of competition projects and some birthday stuff in the works, which is good; the holiday projects didn't all come together in time, but I'm finishing stuff and feeling good about my progress.

Thanks for reading!

p.s. you can make these photos larger just by clicking on them, but you probably already knew that.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

hometown tourist: the barn light

A few months back, I saw this little place called The Barn Light on Kickstarter, and sponsored their decorating project. It's a really fantastic space designed by locals Leah Fuller and Charlie Deese. The menu is pretty good, too.

We like the cafe atmosphere for lunch during the day; in the evening, I hear it's a great bar scene. Most lunch menu items are $6 and come with a little jar of house-made pickles.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, December 21, 2012


I felt so lost. I couldn't do anything to set right the murders of sweet little kids in Connecticut. The mall shooting here in Oregon got to me too, of course, but the magnitude and youth of those babies weighed heavily on my mind. It still does, in those moments when the Christmas bustle calms enough for my mind to settle there. I have a toddler to remind me to put on a cheerful face, to distract me from more wordly concerns; I can solve problems like tiny cars that aren't lined up just right, food that's too hot, potty accidents. Those are things I can handle.

To say I was feeling blue would be an understatement. Our kids deserve a better world than this one. A world where things are fair. A world where goodness outweighs the evil. And when terror breaks through the wall of happiness I've worked so hard to build, my first inclination is to retreat from the world further, to pull myself and my sweethearts back into our cozy little cave and  just say "f-you!" to the rest of the world.

As it happens, I subscribe to PostSecret's Facebook page, and a the day before the horror in Connecticut, Frank Warren (creator of PostSecret) posted this:

Part of a holiday letter I wrote to my daughter . . .

If you ever catch yourself feeling blue, as we all sometimes do from time to time, here are ten things that if you do three days in a row (I promise) will make you feel better.

1. In the morning write down five things you are grateful for.
2. Think about a random act of kindness you can do for someone that day.
3. Eat well (you know what that means); drink well (no coffee, soft drinks or alcohol).
4. Exercise hard for 20 minutes.
5. Write an old friend an email or better yet a letter.
6. Actively relax, meditate or pray for 10 minutes.
7. Take a walk in the sun.
8. Watch a John Hughes movie like "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" or "The Breakfast Club".
9. Sleep deep and long.
10. Remember that you are loved (I promise).

Number two remembered itself to me the next day.

I was more than blue; I was horror-struck, depressed, angry. And so helpless. But here's the thing: I want a better world for my son. I want a better world for my son. And I don't get a better world by being afraid to go out in the world, or by being angry, or by languishing in helplessness. All that gets me is a child who grows up afraid and withdrawn. The answer must be to go out and do good in the face of bad; to commit random acts of kindness that, while they can't erase the random acts of evil, can blunt the edge of the terror I feel and begin to balance the way I see the world.

If there are people (like me) out there committing small acts of kindness, it can't be all bad.

You might have seen this quote somewhere in the past several days; I saw it posted a couple of times on Facebook, and I reposted it myself:

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother's words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.—Mister Rogers

Needing to feel like a helper, I did a few small random acts of kindness that Friday afternoon. It really did make me feel more grounded, less adrift. The boys and I went bigger that evening, and that helped too. The trick is not to stop. Whether it's giving another customer a spare coupon, or handing a sack lunch and clean new socks to a homeless guy at an intersection. Whether it's buying a toy for the Wishing Tree at the mall so a kid can have a Christmas present, or dropping some cans of food in a donation barrel. We can all do small things to make the world one full belly or two warm feet happier.

Please, whatever kind of help you can give, be a helper. Smile at someone on the street. Express your appreciation to your server at a restaurant. If you have a spare, pass it along to someone who needs it. Don't just hope and wish and pray for a changed world; be the change.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

rusty robot "vintage" door sign diy

This post was my recent project audition for "So You Think You're Crafty" and guess what? I was lucky enough to make it into the regular competition phase. To all of the amazing competitors I was up against, well done. I hope I'm up to the challenge of meeting the bar you've all raised. The weekly competition is anonymous and starts in January; I'll let you know when the voting starts for the first round!

I don’t know about you, but I have pin boards full of so many projects over on Pinterest that I’m sure I’ll never get to all of them in this lifetime. I’m gonna have to start farming stuff out. You busy? ;)

One recent love that I’ve been pinning (over and over and over again) is vintage signage. I love old typography, vintage graphics, and weathered finishes. When my love of vintage signs recently dovetailed with my need for a fireplace fix-up, I ended up picking up a pair of vintage army green sheet metal panels from Bring (the local re-building store) for 50 cents each . . . and then, because I tend to eyeball things rather than measuring them, I had a whole panel leftover.

I decided to make my sweet kiddo a sign to go above the door of his room with the leftover panel. Since he’s two and a complete nut for robots,  his room is now labeled a “ROBOTICS LAB". He loves it! In fact, the rest of the afternoon he was sing-songing "robotics lab" over and over again and dancing by the door of his room. Win!

I hope you like my kiddo's rusty robot sign as much as we do! I'll consider it high praise if you sing about it later.

I have a second, similar project I'll be posting soon. In that post, I'll go into more detail about each of the steps, but I hope this photo collage tutorial will help you get started if you're someone who just needs a little push in the right direction. Basically, start with a surface that's a little gritty and old,  paint, then roughen it up and help it rust!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

mural painting at mom's house

I found these old photos the other day from maybe five years ago. The mister and I were visiting my mom's house, and she suggested that we paint a tree mural on the guest room wall together. Just the kind of project I like working on!

First, I used a nice, soft pencil (or possibly charcoal?) to sketch out the tree.

Then Mom and I used artist's acrylics to paint in the bark together. Lots of chatting, too, of course.

I'm pretty sure we were done in a day. Of course, that was before I had my kiddo. If I were to have attempted such a thing with my sweetheart in tow, I imagine it still wouldn't be done. ;)

I hear tell that Mom's since added leaves to the tree, but I haven't been out lately to take a peek for myself. There's a set of bunk beds in there now too, for the grandkids, that I always picture looking just like a treehouse.

So: what kind of projects have you collaborated on? Ever take on a big project with a parent?

Thanks for reading! If you're interested, here's a link to a previous post I did about the blue tree mural I painted in my kiddo's room. It took more than a day, as I recall, but then, I was a new mama working on my own, so I try to go easy on myself.

And here's a link to a post I wrote about repairing the mural, after my busy toddler tried to peel all the paint off his wall during nap time one afternoon.

p.s. you can make these images larger just by clicking on them, but you probably already knew that!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

freezer paper stencils + flour sack towels

The night before my sweet cousin's wedding, I had a major 11th-hour craft fail in my family's hotel room. My screen printing project fell all to pieces.

Returning home after the wedding, I dusted off my butt and set aside the silkscreen for awhile, turning instead to freezer paper stencils to make my cousin and her fiance' a set of personalized, woodsy kitchen towels.

Supplies: freezer paper, craft knife, brown Tee Juice dauber, + iron. And, not pictured, cotton tea towels and pencil.

Sketch your design onto the dull, unplasticized surface of the freezer paper, then cut it out with your craft knife. I chose to print one of the towels with a woodgrain pattern and a "carved" heart with their initials inside. I drew this freehand, but if you're not sure where to start, you can find images on-line to inspire your pencil.

A more involved design like mine will require careful handling and ironing.

Iron the stencil on to towels carefully, adding separated elements (like the letters in the "carved heart") after everything else.

Using the Tee Juice dauber, go over the entire design.

After letting it dry for awhile, remove the freezer paper and iron the entire piece to set the dye. Wash and dry, then iron flat.

The second design was the same process but a different graphic: a stand of trees, their state, and their initials.

Thanks so much for reading! Wanna make the photos larger? Just click!

Linking up to:

Six Sisters

Be Different, Act Normal

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

coffee sack tree skirt

Hey, here's a project you can make with all those pretty coffee sacks over in my Etsy "supplies" shop (you can also check out a past project here).

A reversible coffee bean sack Christmas tree skirt! It's not too tough, just a little cut and sew.

I started with a vintage sheet with a vaguely woodgrain-ish pattern for the flip side. A twin size will do.

You'll need two standard coffee sacks for this project. When you get them, take out the stitching to make two large panels.

I used a permanent marker tied to a two-foot length of string as a compass to trace semi-circles on each panel. You'll want to zig-zag or serge the edge of each panel.

You'll probably find you're happier if you treat the sheet the same way, cutting two semi-circles instead of one big circle. It's easier to handle the compass when you're not trying for an entire circle, and it leaves you the right amount of seam allowance at the slit.

Cut out the centers and zig-zag the new edge.

After stitching the two burlap halves together on one center seam only, do the same for the backing.

(Please excuse the lack of photographs for this next part; it's exactly like sewing a pillow case.) With right sides together, stitch the burlap and sheeting together around all edges with a 1/4-inch seam allowance, leaving an eight-to-twelve-inch space to turn it all inside out.

Turn it inside out, pin and press flat, and reinforce by stitching all edges.

Depending on the sheet you use for the flip side, you can get really Christmas-y, or leave it more neutral so that BOTH sides can be used with any color scheme.

You could dress this project up with rickrack, ribbon, or trim. I'll leave that to you. This one, I kept simple.

Of course, if you'd rather buy than make this close to Christmas, you can always jump over to my Etsy shop and snap this one up! Or start collecting supplies now; this project is pretty quick (maybe three hours, total) so you totally have time to order your coffee sacks and still get it stitched up weeks before Christmas. Use the code "CAFECHRISTMAS" at checkout to get a 25% discount on all coffee sacks in my supplies shop between now and December 25th.

But enough about me; what are you working on for the holidays? Any big projects you're trying to tackle?

Thanks for reading!

p.s. you can make these photos larger just by clicking on them, but you probably already knew that.

Linking up to:


Petite Hermine

Friday, November 23, 2012

thanksgiving pretzels

My kiddo has a deep, abiding love for our red KitchenAid mixer. I hadn't planned to do much baking for Thanksgiving, but he made a special request to bake today, so we got the mixer down and pulled out the old BHG New Cook Book intending to make rolls . . . and somehow ended up deciding on pretzels instead.

And since kiddo wants everything to be green lately, he asked for food coloring to be added while we were kneading the dough.

Recipe similar to the one in the cook book can be found on the Better Homes & Gardens website.

Combine 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour and a package of active dry yeast in mixer bowl.

In saucepan, heat 1 1/2 cups of 1% milk, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and 1 teaspoon salt and whisk until warm (between 120 and 130 degrees F).

Add warm milk mixture to flour + yeast in mixer bowl; beat on medium speed for 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl. Beat on high speed for 3 minutes.

Add up to 3 cups of all-purpose flour. (I used my white paddle attachment rather than the whisk attachment to my mixer for this step.)

Turn onto floured surface, add food coloring, and knead for 6—8 minutes. Roll into a ball then place in a greased bowl. Make sure top of ball is greased too, then cover with a towel and let rise for 75—90 minutes (till double in size).

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. Punch dough down, then leave on a floured surface and let rest for 10 minutes.

Start a pot to boiling 3 quarts of water + 2 tablespoons of salt.

Roll dough into a 12x20 inch rectangle, then use a pizza cutter to cut 20 half-inch strips.

Twist into pretzel shapes, then bake on greased baking sheets for 4 minutes. Reduce oven temp to 350 degrees F.

Boil partially-baked pretzels in water for 2 minutes, flipping once, then drain on a towel. After putting back on baking sheet, brush with beaten egg white and sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes, until golden brown.

Taa-dum! These are best hot from the oven.

Here's hoping your Thanksgiving was a happy one, American readers! Happy Thursday, everyone else!

Thanks for reading.