Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Teacher Gift - School Supply Jar

Update:  It's last day of school/teacher gift time again!  YAY Summer!  The kids and I made a school supply jars for their teachers last year and the teachers LOVED it!  It's something they can use AND it doesn't have to go home (cluttering their house).  I like this idea because it's something that the entire class can use and give the teacher a bit of a jump start for her next school year.

School Supply Jar
 Like Diaper Cakes a few years ago, School Supply cakes are all the rage right now!  (They're all over pinterest)  I'm not a teacher, but I LOVE this idea as an end of the year teacher gift.  Or even a first day of school teacher gift.
Diaper Cake

School Supply Cake
The problem with these gift cakes is that they can get pretty expensive.  PLUS, I feel like they leave too much waste.  Realistically, not a ton a waste, but more than I'm comfortable with.

My idea of a perfect gift is:

* Useful
* NOT wasteful
* Fun
* Hand made
* Not too expensive to make

I set off to Walmart to buy everything I'd need to make a School Supply Cake for my kids teachers.  (School is not out for us until the end of June).  Because it's not "back to school" season school supplies are not on sale.  That means the price of supplies can (and will) add up quickly.  PLUS I discovered that I'd need to buy infrastructure items to hold everything in place, make it stand up properly, etc that are (in my opinion) wasteful.  They'll look good on the finished product but are not really useful.

That's when I decided to use a cracker jar.

Honestly you can fill the jar with just about anything.  I filled mine with:

- 4 packs of  8-count crayons
- 4 dry erase markers
- 4 large erasers
- 4 mini post it notes
- 4 glue sticks
- 4 hand sanitizers
- 1 pack of wet ones
- 6 pencil top erasers
- handful of large rubber bands
- 1 pack of M&M's  

Everything (including stickers to decorate the jar) cost about $30.

Glass Cracker Jar Decorated with Star Stickers

Filled with Glue Sticks, Hand sanitizer rubber bands and more!


We added a candy treat for the teacher

Star Stickers complete the look

 No teacher gift is complete without the most important part!  A thank you note for the teacher from the kid!
Kid Made Thank You Note

Nice Note for the Teacher

Kid Art

 Have a GREAT summer!

For more crafty ideas, click HERE!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Bottle Carrier

Martha's Bottle Wrap
In the spirit of full disclosure, I TOTALLY stole this idea from Martha Stewart!   We go to a LOT of parties and often the hostess says "just bring a bottle of wine."

I needed  a way to easily carry bottles (wine or otherwise) to gatherings and so I stole Martha's idea.

My Bottle Carrier
 Let me back up for a minute and start at the beginning.

I was invited to a Scandal Season 4 finale party.  Guests were told to wear Red (for the blood shed this season) and bring a bottle of wine.  I don't drink wine so I figured I'd bring something fun to drink.

Ruby Red Lemonade with Custom Scandal Labels

I used my computer to create wine labels with a Scandal Theme.  Then I filled 2 flip top bottles with a Ruby Red Lemonade.

Flip Top Bottle
Now, I'm ready to roll!

Ready to Roll

Martha says to use a piece of fabric that is 36"x36".  I used a beach sarong.

Lay the bottles on their sides  

Wrap the sarong around the bottles

Roll until you reach the end of the cloth

All Rolled!

Stand the bottles up and tie a knot
That's it!  So easy!

Now all I had to do was to get over to the party!  

Scandal Party
A good friend of mine has a party planning service called Pearls and Peanut Butter.  She throws AMAZING parties for every occasion!  Her Scandal party was no exception!

Here are a few pix!

Body rolled in a rug

Cupcake station
Vermont Jam for Liv and Fitz

From Smelly Mellie (Fried Chicken and Uggs) 

Props for the Selfie Wall

Food Table

Me at the Selfie Wall

Eating Fried Chicken a the Selfie Wall

For AMAZING Parties check out Pearls and Peanut Butter!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Help - My Kitchen Sink is Clogged! - Snaking (yet another) drain!

Time to Snake the Drain - Here's a tutorial!
You'd think I'd be used to dealing with plumbing problems at my house.  The truth is that I kind of am, but they still annoy me!  In this blog we've covered a variety of leaks, snaking drains and other home repair jobs.  Today, we're back to snaking.  This time it's the kitchen sink.  While this isn't as bad as snaking the toilet, it can still be a stinky, greasey job, so prepare yourself.


It's pretty darn easy to tell when the sink is clogged - the sink is filled with standing water.  The real trick is to figure out when a clog is coming.  Plumbing varies from house to house.  Plumbing problems in our house ALWAYS come with a warning sign.  Learn the signs for your plumbing and a clog won't sneak up on you.

Stage #1 - A few weeks before we get a clog our kitchen sink burps.  It doesn't burp everyday.  It doesn't burp all the time.  Just from time to time in the weeks before a clog I'll hear a low burp-y grumbling sound coming from deep in the pipes below the kitchen sink.  If I snake the drain when the sink begins to burp the clog usually doesn't happen.  

Stage #2 - If I ignore the burping, the next stage is what can only be described as back wash.  Back wash starts off sounding like a burp and is followed by waste water from another drain in the house washing into the kitchen sink.  Again - it doesn't happen every day.  It happens from time to time.  Water floods the sink and then goes back down the drain.  The smell of the water usually tells me where it's from.  Shower water usually smells like soap.  Bathroom sink water usually smells like toothpaste.  Dishwasher water smells like garbage.  Really, the source of the water doesn't even matter.  Once I see (or smell) backwash a true clog is eminent.  If I snake the drain when I see backwash a true clog doesn't arrive. If I ignore the backwash, I'll have a clog in less than a week.

Stage #3 - Full on clog.  The pipes had been warning me, but I was busy and tired and not in the mood.  Honestly I'd hoped that it would go away.  But alas I woke up Sunday morning to a full on clog.  The sink was full of dishes from the night before.  The dishes were surrounded with water that smelled like toothpaste.  That means that water for where I brushed my teeth had likely back washed into the sink.  The pipe was clogged enough that the back wash could no longer drain on its own.

And so - now it's snaking time!

For this job you will need:
Gloves (I didn't use any, but they're helpful)
Snake (I prefer electric, but you might be able to get away with using a manual/hand crank snake)
Goggles (especially if you put drain cleaner down the sink)
pipe wrench (optional)
strap wrench (optional)
wet vac (optional)

Important TIP!  If you're going to snake the drain DO NOT pour drain cleaner down the drain!  It's a waste of time and money and it can be dangerous.  The last thing you want is a face full of water and Drain cleaner. 


1.  If you can, remove everything from the sink (dishes, water, etc).  Scoop the water into a bucket or use a wet vac.  It's okay to skip this step, but skipping it means you'll be really wet later.

2.  Determine the best route for snaking the drain.  My kitchen sink will not allow me to run a snake down the drain from the sink.  I have to go underneath the sink to snake the pipes.

My snake won't fit down this drain
If you have a wide drain opening in your sink, you can run the snake directly down the drain (lucky you!)  If you have a wide drain, ship to "Snaking Time"!
Sink with wide drain opening

 PLACE A BUCKET UNDER THE TRAP.  The trap is the pipe under your sink that's shaped like a "J".  Suit up girl, you're about to get very wet!  The water will be gross, but don't worry about it - plumbers get wet!

Underneath the sink, remove the trap by loosening the 2 slip nuts that hold the trap in place.  If you have old pipes you may need to use a wrench.  My pipes are newer PVC so no tools are necessary to remove the connectors.  

Loosen slip nut #1

Loosen nut #2
As you begin to loosen the nuts, water from the sink AND the pipe will begin to fill the bucket.  Even a little bit of water can seem like a lot and it may spray.  Just be patient.  Once the sink (and pipe) are empty, the water will stop coming.

TIP:  DON'T LOSE THE WASHERS!  Washers for PVC pipes are clear/white.  They're SUPER easy to lose in the craziness of snaking the drain.  Keep them in a safe place.

TIP:  Now that they're off, inspect the washers and make sure that they not cracked or broken.  A broken or cracked washer can cause a leak!


My first snake was a manual/hand crank snake.  Manual snakes are inexpensive and work great for small clogs.  Expect to pay about $20.   

These work great for smaller clogs 
   For tougher clogs I prefer an electric snake.  The electric snake is a manual snake that attaches to a drill and clears tough clogs QUICKLY!  Expect to pay about $30.

My snake attached to my drill.

Slowly feed the snake down the drain until you reach a stopping point.  The stopping point may be the clog, or it may be an elbow in the pipe.  Slowly begin to crank the snake (or run the drill) moving the snake slightly back and forth until you're move past the stopping point.  

Next feed a little more snake into the pipe and run the snake again.  Continue feeding the snake into the drain until you run out of snake or until you believe you've passed the clog.

Me snaking the drain
 Even if the snake is just a short distance inside the pipe, I usually snake 25 feet (the entire length of my snake).  I don't want to break up a clog only to have it move deeper into the pipe.


Flush the sink.  If you've removed the J trap you'll have to reassemble the trap to run water down the sink.  Flush hot water down the sink and allow it to run for a few minutes.  This will flush any remaining bits of clog out of the pipe.

If the drain is not yet clear, you'll need to snake it again!

Once you're sure that the pipe is clear, clean up your mess and you're good to go!


Retract the snake.  Most snakes need to be retracted manually.  That means that you're pulling the snake out of the dirty drain with your hands.  You might want to use gloves for this (especially if there was drain cleaner in the sink).  

TIP:  I don't use drain cleaner so I prefer to retract the snake with my bare hands.  That allows me to feel what's on the snake.  If the snake is greasy I know that grease may have been part of the reason for the clog.    

No more clog!

I like to inspect the tip of my snake.  Whatever is tangled on the tip of your snake is what was clogging the drain.

My snake tip was filled with hair and brillo!  First - YUCK!  Second, the brillo was an interesting find.  My husband has recently taken to cleaning EVERY-DOG-GONE-THING with brillo.  I love that he's into scrubbing things clean, but I had no idea that brillo would clog a drain.

Maybe this clog would have happened anyway, but we WILL NOT be purchasing more brillo!

I hope this tutorial was helpful for you.


Leave a bucket under the sink to check for leaks
If you removed the J trap to do this job, leave a bucket under your sink for a day or 2.  The bucket will catch leaks if you didn't get everything tight enough.  If after a day or 2 the bucket is dry, you're golden.  If the bucket has water, make sure that your joins are tight and all washers are in good repair.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Refashion - Upsize A Skirt - Plus Size Refashion!

Readers of this blog know that I'm a plus size refashioner.  I'm a size 16/18 but many of my thrift store finds are, well, not.  The best I can usually do is to find a large and upsize it.  In this blog I'll cover tips and tricks for making a too small dress into something wearable.

We'll go from here:

Too Small for me!

From Size L

To here!

To size 16/18
The original dress was WAY too small (in the chest area) for me to try on at the store.  There was no real way for me to know if the skirt would actually fit.  I had to look for sizing hints.  The biggest hint is deep pleats.

Box Pleats

Deep pleats (also called Box Pleats) use a lot of fabric.  If a dress or skirt has small pleats you can usually upsize the garment by 1 to 2 sizes.  If the garment has box pleats you can easily upsize by 2- 4 sizes.

Check for deep pleats
The next step is to carefully remove the waist band.  Usually I would just cut the dress off at the waist.  Because this is a short dress I don't want to lose any length so the waist band must be removed carefully.

To remove the waistband, turn the dress inside out.

To remove the waistband, turn the dress inside out
Then carefully cut away the waist stitching.

Cut as close to the stitching as possible.

Waist line stitching removed

 The goal is to leave as much fabric as possible with the skirt!

Zigzag stitch the cut end

Now you're ready to make the skirt.  Add elastic to the waistband and, viola, upsized skirt!

Add elastic at the waist

I used stretchy/lycra fabric for this project, but it would have worked with any fabric with box pleats.
The finished garment is actually pretty loose.  I'm going to wear it a few times before I decide if I'll take it in.

I've actually given this tip before, but it certainly bears repeating.  If you're one of my big booty sisters, or a woman with wide hips, look for a mullet dress.

What's a mullet dress you ask?


Mullet Dress

A mullet dress (or skirt) is a dress that is longer in the back than it is in the front.  These dresses usually annoy me (I'm getting cranky in my old age) but they work REALLY WELL when making or refashioning a plus size dress.

Dress Rides Up in back :(
 Hippy or big booty women already know that sometimes a dress or skirt will lift in the back creating an uneven hemline.  You can cut the dress to create a slightly longer hemline in the back eliminating the problem.  I find that if you start with a mullet dress, the added fabric is already there.  Simply the trim the mullet to the desired length (1" - 2" longer than the front) and you're golden.

A Little extra fabric in the back = even hemline.

In the case of this skirt - it already had a slight mullet so all I needed to do was add elastic to the waist - Jackpot!

Check out my other Refashion projects HERE!.