You’ve Come an Even Longer Way

It’s been almost 6 years since I gifted my parents with some very special Garden Art in You’ve Come a Long Way… and it was in need of an update. Sign Side-by-Side

In addition to adding “Penang, Malaysia” to their list of Places-Lived, they purchased a vacation home in North Carolina, aptly named Hakuna Matata for the abundant serenity, beauty, and relaxation it offers—in addition to providing the space for memories, family, friends and fun. #happyplace

Hakuna Matata Collage

Meanwhile, last Christmas I was gifted with a Cricut Maker* and have slowly learned to skim the surface of its possibilities.

*Although I use affiliate links, meaning I’d get a couple of pennies if you purchased this from me, Never Have I Ever earned enough to actually receive compensation.

So for my Dad’s birthday this year, I decided to give the gift of an updated, double set of signs using my Cricut Maker. One set for their home in Leander, the second set for Hakuna Matata.


As a frugal crafter, I prefer to use materials already on-hand rather than purchase anew. Because the table saw scares me, I voluntold my husband to cut some thin plywood that we had in the garage (maybe 3/16 thickness?).

IMG_4755As a problem solver, I chose the time-saving spray paint option rather than hand-painting with acrylics. And frugal means I used cans we already had… if I had it to do over, I would have replaced the dark blue (Yeadon and Penang) and dark purple (Limerick) with brighter colors.

I also pre-drilled two 1/4″ holes in each sign so that the wood wouldn’t crack when attaching it to the sign-post.

The only supply that I purchased for this project was Oracal 651 Premium Outdoor Vinyl. 


I chose several different fonts that look more like fancy handwriting rather than computer generated. (Here’s the Cricut Pin for this project)

And I used the same website from my original creation to determine distances between each location:

Big, important lesson when using Cricut: the width of the project cannot be greater than 11.5″ unless you want to purchase the super long mat, the scroll of vinyl, or assemble several pieces. I’m frugal with both my crafting time and my money, so I edited the width of each sign accordingly.


Once I transferred the words to each sign, I used the sharp weeding tool to shape the vinyl around the pre-drilled holes so that when attaching them to the sign-post (with 1″ screws) the vinyl wouldn’t get snagged. And then sprayed a glossy finish.

The Garden Art looks fantastic and was a well-received surprise!


Halloween Craft: Jar-o-Lanterns

Here’s another Creative Solution that uses recycled materials to make a Halloween craft called a Jar-o-Lantern.

Originally, I saw the Jar-o-Lantern craft in a Women’s Day magazine about two or three years ago; now it’s also all over Pinterest.  My kids love to do it every year because it’s so simple, easy, and fun.  Of course, part of the Creative Solution is to adapt it according to your needs/desires.  Some suggest decoupaging orange tissue paper onto a jar… others suggest painting… Some focus only on pumpkins… others suggest the same varieties of characters that I painted in the Carnival Cans Craft.


Supplies Needed:

  • Jars – clean inside and out
  • Paint & Brushes – Definitely use Acrylic paints!  Tempra will peel off.
  • Votive or electric candles

Jars: We recycle a ton of jars (from peanut butter, pickles, and salsa).  I started saving the jars and found that it’s easier to remove the label and glue immediately rather than waiting until I am ready to use them later… old glue is harder to remove and I’m less likely to actually follow through on the project if I have to spend the time to clean all the old jars.  While there’s a ton of suggestions for how to remove the label and glue, I find the easiest is to simply soak the jar in a container of hot water with some blue Dawn dish detergent overnight.  Then label scrapes off pretty easily and I wash it before storing.


Paints:  The first time we painted the Jar-o-Lanterns, we did all pumpkins.  This time we painted the jars similar to the Halloween Carnival Cans Craft.

  • Decide on your painting scheme, and apply the base coat in your chosen color.  You only need one coat of paint, the thinner the better (since these will be luminaries and glow).
    • Orange for pumpkins
    • White for ghosts
    • Green for Frankenstein’s Monster
    • Purple (or lavender) for Dracula
  • Let the jar dry completely.
  • Add decorative details… let it dry.

Light: Add either a tea light candle or an electric votive (usually available in a 2-pack for $1 at the Dollar Store).  My boys love keeping theirs in their bedrooms, in which case the electric version is the way to go.


Halloween Craft: Carnival Cans

I’ve been intrigued by this old-school carnival “Knock Down the Cans” game, which uses recycled materials, since I first saw the Halloween Cans on Pinterest two years ago.  So I finally sat down to follow through on doing it this week.  The Pinterest link is broken, so I just went with the images and did my own thing.

IMG_0151Honestly, it required a bit more effort than I imagined, simply because the cans required 3 to 4 coats of paint.  While I do use cheap acrylic paints, four coats is a lot.

  • Save and clean at least six 28 ounce cans.
  • Decide on your painting scheme, and apply the whole base coat in that color until you no longer see the can. (Like I said, it took me 3 to 4 coats.)  Definitely use acrylic paint;tempra will flake off.  Be sure to let it dry completely between coats
    • Orange for pumpkins
    • White for ghosts
    • Green for Frankenstein’s Monster
    • Purple (or lavender) for Dracula
    • (not pictured) Black for Cats
    • (not pictured) Brown or Red for Owls
  • Add decorative details… let it dry.
  • Spray finish in Rust-oleum Crystal Clear Enamel (note: if you don’t do this finishing spray, the cans will quickly chip, and the color won’t be as bright… trust me: you want to do the finishing spray).

IMG_0149 IMG_0136

Total time: 2 – 3 hours, paced over the course of a few days.  Cost: $0 (because I had all the paint and finishing spray on hand).

I plan on using this game at a Halloween party we have with family friends before trick-or-treating, but decided to test it out one afternoon that my boys had a friend over.  This old school fun was a HUGE hit!  Definitely worth the time to create.

Halloween Decorations & Crafts for Windows and Doors

Here’s a couple Creative Solutions for decorating your windows and doors for Halloween that are inexpensive and pretty easy.

1.  The Monster Door (as seen on Pinterest)


This was super, super easy.  Using leftover streamers, masking tape, and paper plates, I put this together in less than 15 minutes.

  • Hair: adhere some streamers to the top of your door with masking tape.
  • Eyes: paint black dots on a couple of white paper (or foam) plates, adhere those to your door with a loop of masking tape… add angry eyebrows with more masking tape.
  • Mouth: more masking tape… one across and several shorter pieces slanting in different directions

Since I already had all the supplies on hand, this cost me $0.

2.  Picture Window Pumpkin (Julie Original Creative Solution)


We have a 9-panel picture window in the “formal living room” that we use as the boys’ playroom. I decided to cover the window panes by making a pumpkin face using bulletin board paper from the Teacher Supply Store (Lakeshore Learning).  With the help of my 6 1/2 year old, this project took about 1 1/2 hours total.

  • Measure and cut the paper (30 minutes)
  • Paint the face on the appropriate pieces (20 minutes to paint, another 20 min to dry)
  • Hang the pieces on the window using masking tape (20 minutes)

The Pumpkin Window looks great during the day and glows at night.  Total cost: $6 – $7 for a roll of paper; I already had the masking tape and paint on hand.

IMG_0161 IMG_0158


Monster Jeans

My boy are rough on the knees of jeans, wearing through them far before they outgrow them.  I’ve seen cute ideas on Pinterest (like this one) for patching holey knees, but in reality, my sewing skills are mediocre at best.  And I detest hand sewing.  So here’s a Creative Solution is for a boy-friendly No-Sew Patch that we affectionately call Monster Jeans.


Materials Needed:

  • Heat-N-Bond (iron-on adhesive) which can be found in the Notions aisle of a fabric store
  • Red material for the patch; I use felt because it’s inexpensive, thick(ish) and feels soft(ish) on the kids’ knees.
  • Fabric paint (or Acrylic paint plus a fabric medium) – white and black
  • Iron
  • Holey Pants/Jeans
  • (optional) Fray Check


1.  Turn the jeans or pants inside out.


2.  Cut a square-ish fabric patch that has at least a 1″ perimeter larger than the hole.  (Why?  Look at step 3.)


3.  Cut enough Heat-N-Bond to create a perimeter around the patch.  Pro Tip: You don’t want the glue from the Heat-N-Bond to be on top of the hole… only around it.  Otherwise it gets messy, since the glue will stick through the hole to the “right side” of the jeans.

I can usually find Heat-N-Bond in two widths… I didn’t have any of the thinner 3/8″ width handy, so I just cut the 7/8″ in half when I made my perimeter.


4.  Flip the patch, carefully placing the Heat-n-Bond strips around the hole, and iron.  The Heat-n-Bond directions say to use your iron on the steam setting.  Do that.


5. Let the patch cool… I usually do several pairs of pants at once, so this is the time to repeat steps 1-4 with the other pairs.

6.  Turn the pants/jeans right side out and use either a small scissors or seam ripper to cut away the white fringe… possibly making the hole a little bit bigger so that the red is exposed.



7.  Paint the whites of the eyes.  If you don’t have fabric paint, you can just use acrylic… it may fade/chip over time, or it may not.  I have the fabric paint handy, so it was no big deal to use that.


8. Let the white paint dry.  Don’t be impatient; they will smudge if they aren’t dry (don’t ask me how I know this).  Then go back and dot your eyes in black or blue or whatever color your Monster wants to have.



9.  The first time I did these, I used Fray Check around the mouth so it wouldn’t get all frayed… but the whites of the jeans end up looking like Monster teeth, and they really don’t fray all that horribly… so don’t worry about it.  Use it or don’t… it’s optional!


10. Let the paint fully dry (overnight is best, so it sets really well) before letting your kid wear it.  Wash the jeans as you normally would.  Feel free to add more patches as needed.


Aren’t these Monster Jeans just adorable?!


Letter Picture Signs

Photo Letter Art is a crafty Creative Solution where you take pictures of letters and spell-out a word or name.  I recently decided to try doing this using letters in my neighborhood to spell out our last name.


I biked around my community and snapped photos of street signs, businesses, parks, etc., using my iPhone 5s camera.

It took me three separate trips because some letters didn’t come out in focus, especially when I wanted to obtain a letter from a specific place and that sign wasn’t cooperative.  For instance, I really wanted a letter from my Church… but none of the signs were cooperating and the images weren’t working.  Finally I got the idea to take a pic of the cross in the stained glass for the “T,” which worked really well.

If you want to try this, I’d suggest:

  • Write down the letters in the word/name you’re trying to spell out (somehow I forgot to account for the two “E’s” in my last name).
  • Take at least 5 different photos of the different letters (again, the out-of-focus problem).

I printed the letters at my neighborhood CVS on 4×6 paper.  With 8 letters in my last name, that meant I’d need a board to be more than 32 inches long (8 prints x 4″ wide prints = 32″ + board).

My husband cut a 1×8 board 35″ and routed the edges.  I painted the background in the color of our exterior trim, mod podged the letters on to the board (with a homemade 50-50 water and glue solution), coated with poly, and screwed eye-holes into the top for hanging.  It hangs on our back patio (and I love it!).

It turned out so well that the kids each asked to have their first names done for a name plate on their bedroom doors.  They helped find the letter “X” for each of their names by biking around the neighborhood with me, which they loved.


IMG_0965For these, I decided to make the letters smaller.  Using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, I “printed” two 4×3 images on each 4×6 print, cut, and assembled.  For the boys’ Letter Art signs, I used scrap wood that I painted with leftover latex paint from their bedrooms. Then mod podged and poly as before.  I mounted their signs on their bedroom doors using Command 3M strips.

IMG_0967When I made the boys signs, I also created a second Family Name sign for our front porch, which hangs above the mailbox.  This is also the smaller 4×3 size letters, so it’s a smaller board.

IMG_0969This is a pretty versatile craft, since you can spell out any word or name by using the signs you see in your neighborhood every day.

Kids’ Valentines Using Toys

Looking for a Creative Solution for Valentine’s cards for your kids’ classmates that has a personal touch?

Use their favorite toys and take a picture!

Valentines Card 2014-2_wm

My boys love LEGOs, so we spelled out our greeting on an extra-large base plate.  My older son built the heart.  My younger son selected the minifigs and helped find the bricks.  Then my husband snapped the pic.  We don’t attach treats or toys to our V-Day cards; it’s just a fun message of love for friends and classmates.

Valentines Cards 4

I equipped each boy with his own roll of double-sided tape and a large bin of neglected scrapbook paper so that each could create his own cards.

Valentines CardsValentines Cards 2

The end result was far from Pinterest-looking-precision, but the kids actually had fun doing them… and it was also a far cry from last year’s bout of misery, nagging, and day-drinking.  


The reason I think this Creative Solution worked is because:

  1. They were involved in the creative process–not just the handwriting part.
  2. It involved their favorite toys.

Happy Valentines Day to you!

Valentines Card 2014-1_wm

Valentines Decoration

Valentines Craft-001

This Creative Solution is a cute, easy, fun, no-sew Valentine’s decoration that cost less than $5 to make.

Reminiscent of those Necco Sweetheart candies from childhood, it’s four hearts marked with our names, hanging on a ribbon.  Got more people in your family?  Use more hearts.  Or mark them with the Sweetheart Candy words, like “Be Mine” and such.  Be Creative.  Come up with a Solution that works for you!  The basic directions are the same.

Supplies needed:

  • 4 (or however many) small hearts from the wooden crafts section of a craft store.  I got these from Hobby Lobby for 79¢ each.
  • Wide fabric ribbon (I had purchased some from the Christmas clearance section of JoAnn’s)
  • Smaller decorative ribbon to adhere to the top
  • 1/2 pipe cleaner
  • 2 popsicle sticks
  • Acrylic paints and brushes
  • Hot Glue Gun and glue sticks


  1. Paint the hearts in whatever pastel colors work for you.
    • After they dry, paint whatever words or names you want in RED capital letters.
  2. After the paint dries, hot glue the hearts to the ribbon… spacing them evenly
  3. Cut both popsicle sticks to be the width of the ribbonIMG_1231
  4. On both the top and bottom, wrap the ribbon around the popsicle stick and hot glue it in place.
    • The top will become the “hanger,” and the bottom just weighs it down so it lays properly.
  5. Wrap the pipe cleaner around either side of the top popsicle stick, bending it into a little triangle hanger.IMG_1230
  6. Make a pretty bow using a second ribbon, and hot glue it to the top (to hide the “hanger” and pipe cleaner).

I used a command hook to hang it on the cabinet in my old house and on the closet door in my new house. Cute, right?

029 IMG_1232

Literary Garden Art Sign Post

So after the Creative Solution I made for my parents “You’ve Come A Long Way,” I finally had the materials and focus to complete the Literary Garden Art Sign Post.


Both my husband and I love to read–a love which we have shared with our boys.  The idea of the Literary Garden Sign Post is to use the fictional locations from stories.

So the first step is to choose the books!  I didn’t want too many signs; I wanted to draw attention to our favorites:

  • Whoville  – Dr. Seuss
  • Rivendell – The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit 
  • The Shire – The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit 
  • Hogwarts – Harry Potter
  • The Emerald City – Wizard of Oz
  • Pern – Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern
  • Narnia – C.S. Lewis
  • Camelot
  • 100 Acre Woods – Winnie the Pooh

In the “Cities/Distance” sign, I didn’t worry about a special font, but one of the unique features of the Literary Garden Art Sign is that each imitates the font from the book cover (or map).

Using scrap wood, a base coat of latex (because that’s what we had out), and random acrylic colors, I prepped the boards.

Place Signs2

Since Pinterest and Google both have several versions available, there are options…

  • Print each sign and mod podge it on
  • Create/use stencils
  • Hand painted imitating the desired font

I toyed with the idea of mod podging, but hand painting with the “homemade look” is more my style. So using Font Space, I found several fun fonts that looked the part.  I didn’t love the Dr. Seuss style font they had, but Melissa at Keep Calm and Decorate did a similar project and suggested this Grinch font, which I loved!

I printed the text and did my best to hand paint, imitating the font style.


Finished with varnish and attached to a pole in the back yard.


And I love the finished product!


A Fun and Functional Key Box for the Dr. Who Fan

Have keys?  Need a more Creative Solution for knowing where they are?  We have had a basic wooden key storage box that we got from IKEA several years ago:  IKEA Pavo

Hanging by the back door, looking plain, it needed a makeover.  Something much more FUN!  My husband is a huge Dr. Who fan, and has had us watching and re-watching episodes with 11th Doctor (Matt Smith).  So when I looked at the rectangular box, I immediately saw a TARDIS.



Making this Key Box into a TARDIS was actually pretty easy:

  1. Paint the box blue with black and white details.  Going with the “intentional homemade” look means there’s no need to worry about crooked lines.
  2. Mod Podge: When I painted my husband a TARDIS tissue box last year, I discovered that it was easiest to paint the black outlines and white windows, but print images off the internet for the “FREE for use of PUBLIC” sign and the triangle top with the lamp.  The “FREE” sign was printed on regular printer paper and mod podged to the door; the triangle was printed on photo paper and mod podged on to the wall.

Free For Public UseTARDIS Top

Since this box actually opens (and it is bigger on the inside), Peter found an image of the T.A.R.D.I.S. Console, which was printed on photo paper and mod podged to the inside of the key box.


ConsoleTARDIS 2

3. Finish with an interior varnish or poly.


Now, what used to just be functional is also fun!   A very Creative Solution!