Cozy, Inviting, Warm…

If I had to choose three words to describe the feeling I’d like to have in my house, those would be the three.




A cozy reading nook.  A patio at night with a comfortable seating area, candles, and strings of lights hanging around a pergola.  A romantic bedroom.  A comfortable couch where you curl up with your husband, a blanket, and a cup of hot chocolate and watch a movie.  A fireplace in winter.  A rustic ski cabin.

These are all of the images that come to my mind when I think of those three words: inviting, warm, and cozy.

When friends and family walk into my house, I want them to feel right at home.  Like they can just plop down on the couch, put their feet up, and stay as long as they’d like.  Like they don’t have to worry about spilling something or bumping into something or knocking something over.  Nothing in the house should be so valuable that it can’t be touched or sat on or enjoyed.  That’s the feeling I’d like to have in my house.

Here is some inspiration from around the web.  Cozy.  Inviting.  Warm.

{Source: Real Simple}

{Source: Pinterest}

{Source: Aiken House & Gardens}

{Source: Apartment Therapy}

p.s., I apologize for the posting hiatus.  I decided to undertake a stenciling project in my bathroom, had several complete breakdowns over it, decided to give up DIY forever, finally powered through it, and will share some posts soon.

p.p.s., This post is part of the FFA (Fearlessly Finding Awesome) Challenge #1: Catch a Dream from the incredibly awesome blog Vintage Revivals.


New Year’s Resolutions

Well, it’s that time of year!  The blogosphere is filled with everyone’s New Years Resolutions.  What better way to hold yourself accountable than to put it out there for the whole world to see!!  (Yep, just like my failed 12 Days of Craftmas series – which by the way, I will update you all on in a coming post…)

I’ve always been a chronic list maker.  I love writing down lists of things and then crossing off each one as I complete it.  I get some weird satisfaction out of making that single straight line through something, indicating that’s it’s done once and for all.  I’ve even been known to write down stuff I’ve already completed, just so I can cross it off (please tell me I’m not the only one that’s done that?!?!).

New Years Resolutions have always been tough for me.  Generally, they aren’t stated in a way that you can easily point to a concrete objective that can be crossed off when complete.  Things like “spend more time with family”, “exercise more”, or “improve outlook on life” are hard to quantify and determine if they’ve been achieved by year’s end.  I’m much more likely to actually follow through with my resolution if there are clear goals and objectives with quantifiable results (yep, there goes my engineer’s brain – always having to quantify things), such as “devote one night per week to family time” or “go to the gym twice a week”.  So here are my personal New Years Resolutions, in quantifiable form (mostly):

  • Learn to use my sewing machine
  • Make time for knitting (complete at least two new projects)
  • Complete my wedding album
  • Attempt to make a souffle
  • Learn to cook pork belly
  • Visit at least three new places in L.A. (be a tourist in my own city!)
  • Complete my first a 10k race
  • Complete my first triathlon
  • Make time for at least one backpacking trip

Okay, I had to add a couple fluffy, hard to check-off resolutions as well:

  • Keep in better touch with out-of-town friends
  • Focus on the positives and all the things I have to be thankful for
  • Be okay with sitting and doing nothing once in a while

So how is everyone doing with their New Year’s Resolutions so far?  Any failed attempts yet? (It has been five days already!).  Anyone else like to write down tasks just so they can cross them off?

On the 2nd Day of Craft-mas…a Homemade Coupon Book

Last year, my husband and I decided that we wouldn’t get each other Christmas gifts.  We had just spent a ton of money on our wedding and honeymoon, and we were flying across the country to spend Christmas with my family (not a cheap plane ticket!).  But, I just couldn’t imagine not giving him something, especially since it was our first Christmas together as husband and wife (awwww….).  So I decided that if I spent essentially nothing, it would still adhere to the spirit of the no-gift agreement.

Earlier in the year, I had seen a lot of ideas for “coupon books” for Mother’s Day, which is where I got my inspiration (found here and here).

I figured that I could easily adapt the coupon book idea for my husband.  The only real costs would be for the paper and the printing.  And lucky for me, I had a bunch of leftover supplies from our wedding that I could use!  I actually used some leftover business cards that I had used to print our registry information and include with our wedding invitations.  These are the kind that I got: Avery Two-Side Printable Clean Edge Business Cards for Inkjet Printers 8876, Ivory, Matte, Pack of 200.  They are listed on the Avery website for $17.91, but I think I got them from Office Depot or Staples for about the same cost.  Unless you’re really ambitious though, you’ll have plenty of leftover cards for other projects, so the cost really isn’t that much.  What’s really cool about this product though, is you can download a template for Microsoft Word right from the Avery website.

So I then went about thinking up coupon ideas.  Coupons for your husband are very different from coupons for your Mom, so I had to think up a lot of new ideas.  I decided to keep things clean, although a more racy coupon book might have been fun too!  I tried to think of things that my husband would like (massages, date night, etc.) as well as things that he hates doing that I could help with (dishes, taking out the trash, laundry, ironing, etc.).  I came up with 14 total ideas for coupons, but some I printed multiple times (I gave him 3 back massage coupons, for example).

  • One Load of Laundry
  • Ironing
  • Washing Dishes
  • One Back Massage
  • One Foot Massage
  • One Car Wash
  • Breakfast-in-Bed
  • Being the Designated Driver
  • Guinness Cupcakes (had to share the link for this recipe – it’s amazing!!)
  • Taking out the Trash
  • One Movie Date Night
  • One Date Night
  • One Household Chore
  • One Weekend Dog Walk

All of these items had further qualifiers, such as the back massage is good for up to 30 minutes, and the ironing is good for up to 3 garments.  I didn’t want him taking too much advantage of these!! 😉

I first created a design that I liked, just using one of the basic starburst shapes in Microsoft.  I then found a clip-art image that represented each coupon and placed that image in the background (I faded it, so that you could still read the coupon text).  Finally, I wrote in what each coupon was for.  Here’s an example of the design for the ironing coupon:

I also created a design for the front of the coupon book (and printed a plain red business card for the back of the book as well):

Finally, I printed these all out on my home inkjet printer, punched a hole in the top left corner of each, and made them into a booklet using a leftover small key ring that was just sitting loose in our key drawer.  And viola!  An almost free gift, that my husband absolutely adored.  He went through the coupons faster than you can even imagine.  My hands were definitely tired of giving massages the couple weeks after Christmas!!

On the 1st Day of Craft-mas…a Gift for a Tea Lover

The first installment of the the 12 Days of Craft-mas series features a homemade Christmas present, perfect for a tea drinker.  I love giving meaningful, personalized Christmas gifts, and what better way to do that (and save some money!) than to go the homemade route.

My mother is a big tea drinker, so last year, I made her a Chai tea kit.  (I know, it’s kind of cheating to use something I did last year, but I can’t exactly write about gifts that I haven’t given out yet!  That would certainly ruin the surprise on Christmas morning…)  Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of the result, since it’s already in my mom’s possession (and hopefully all used up by now!).  But here was my inspiration (from Purpose Design):


As much as I love supporting Etsy businesses, the $40 price tag was a bit steep for me.  So I mosied on over to The Container Store to look for a perfect partitioned container.  I purchased a clear plastic box, which was divided into eight different compartments, found here.

I then went over to my local Sprouts Farmers Market, where they sell bulk spices and loose leaf tea pretty cheaply.  I picked up all of the required ingredients for Chai Tea: star anise, cloves, allspice, cinnamon bark, peppercorns, cardamom, and several kinds of black tea. Another good source of bulk spices and loose leaf tea is Monterey Bay Spice Company.  I discovered them a few months ago when Groupon had a $15 for $30 deal and I needed to restock my tea supply.  Their spices and teas are very reasonably priced, but the shipping can start to add up.  Word of warning: a pound of tea is a lot of tea (probably should have realized that, but now I have probably a year’s worth of tea to drink…).

I then created a label for the outside of the tea kit, with the recipe.  I made this in Powerpoint (of course), and printed it out on some label paper than I had leftover from my wedding.  I made it the same size as the top of the box, so that it would cover the entire top.

I also created individual little labels for each compartment, to identify what each item was.  I placed these labels on the underside of the box cover.

And tah-dah!  A personalized Chai Tea kit for around $10.  Not quite the sleek stainless steel look of the one sold on Purpose Design, but pretty cool nonetheless.  And a perfect gift for a tea drinker.

The 12 Days of Craft-mas

November is over, the Thanksgiving leftovers are all eaten (or thrown out by now, I hope!), Black Friday and Cyber Monday have passed, and now it’s time for Christmas!!!  The lights are going up all around our neighborhood, the Christmas tree vendors are setting up in empty parking lots, and I have at least 5 office holiday parties on my calendar already.

This year for Christmas, I will be presenting a series of posts called “The 12 Days of Craft-mas” (clever, no?).  Between now and Christmas day, I’ll be blogging on twelve different Christmas crafts (ack, that’s one every other day!!!).  Nothing like throwing out a deadline to the whole world to keep me on schedule!  These will include decorations, ideas for homemade gifts, and maybe even some cooking thrown in for fun.  And all will be quick, easy, and low-cost.  After all, we’re all on a budget and constant time crunch, aren’t we?

Here’s some inspiration I’ve been digging up over the last couple of months (yep, that’s right, months – I’ve been pinning Christmas stuff since July).  And I also have some other secret ideas up my sleeve…


  1. Christmas magnets
  2. Homemade liqueur
  3. Spray painted vases
  4. Christmas coasters
  5. Mod Podge Christmas frame
  6. Etched snowflake glasses
  7. Pine cone wreath
  8. Toilet paper tube glitter snowflake
  9. Glitter foam trees
  10. Photo taken at a thrift store in Martha’s Vineyard
  11. Painted pine cone centerpiece
  12. Cranberry garland centerpiece
  13. Joy Christmas frame

Think Big, Shop Small

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving full of good food, family, friends, and of course, football!

Was anyone able to fight off the turkey-induced food coma to get up at 3am for some crazy Black Friday deals? Oh, fighting off thousands of crazed shoppers to get some good deals doesn’t sound like fun to you?! Well, here’s a great alternative: Small Business Saturday! Instead of (or in addition to) purchasing items at big box stores, think about supporting a small, local business instead. And if you have an American Express card, you can register your card and get $25 from AmEx if you spend at least $25 at a small business this Saturday.

In honor of Small Business Saturday, here are some of my favorite online small businesses that I have purchased from in the past:

Art Shark Designs

Paper Acorn



These Are Things

And here’s a shout-out to a few of my favorite local small businesses in or near Pasadena, CA (there are plenty others I love, but I can’t fit them all!):

A Thanksgiving Trip Down Memory Lane

With Thanksgiving just a week away, I thought it would be fun to revisit some of my favorite Thanksgiving crafts that I did as a child.  I’m sure many of you will remember doing a lot of these things in your younger days…has anyone kept up any of these traditions with their children?

And now, a trip down memory lane…

Remember the hand turkey?  This person really spiced theirs up with some felt attached around a painted paper plate (found here):

And did you ever think that you could turn the hand turkey into a cookie?  Well, you can (found here)!

Did anyone dress up as pilgrims and Indians in school?  We definitely did that in Kindergarten – although I wonder if that’s even politically correct anymore.  Anyone remember making pilgrim hats (found here)?

And did you know that you can turn pilgrim hats into cookies too (found here)?!?!

And finally, here’s a nice tradition that my family didn’t do, but something that I’d like to start with my husband.  It’s a thanksgiving “thanks” jar, where every day you write down something you’re thankful for and then place it in the jar.  And then you get to read them all at once and get warm fuzzies all over.  Here’s an awesome example from Young House Love.

Any other fun childhood holiday traditions that you’re continuing with your kids?  Or ones that you can’t believe were actually allowed?!

Happy One Week Until Turkey Day!!!! 😀

Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

It wasn’t too surprising that I decided to create a homemade gift for my husband for our first wedding anniversary (seen here and here), especially since “paper” lends itself quite well to a homemade gift.  What did surprise me is that he created a homemade gift as well!

For a long time, we had been talking about creating a world map pin board to keep track of all the places we’ve traveled.  We both absolutely love to travel, and have actually been to a surprising number of places together since we’ve known each other.  We are also planning a five-ish month round-the-world trip for next year, so we definitely wanted somewhere to keep track of all the places we are going to visit.  And that is exactly what my husband made for me for our anniversary!

He bought an inexpensive cork pin board at an office supply store and ordered a 99-cent map of the world on Amazon.  (He actually ordered two of them, in case he messed up the first – smart man, because he did in fact need to use the second one.)  His plan was then to glue the map to the cork board and be done.  Unfortunately, the map was a little larger than the cork board, so he had to cut it down a little.  Hence why Hawaii and Alaska are half missing:


But alas, those are the trials and tribulations of DIY!  (Did I really just say “alas”?!?!)

So far, we decided to just put pins on the places we’ve visited together (red) and the places we’ve lived together (yellow).  Just looking at the pictures below, I’m already noticing a few places we forgot about (like San Diego, which we’ve been to a million times together!).  Which brings up another reason this map is fun – it helps you remember all of the fun trips we’ve been on, when otherwise, those might just accidentally get deleted from our memory banks.  We’re debating placing pins on all the places we’ve been independently as well, since our board is a little sparse right now.  Maybe we’ll save that project for a rainy day…

And finally, here is a picture of our sunroom, where we proudly hung the world map pin board, so that we could see it every day.

Anyone else’s husband ever surprise them with a homemade present?  And one that turned out surprisingly well?  I didn’t even know my husband had it in him to be so crafty!!

1st Anniversary Gift – Runner-Up

Last week I shared the first anniversary photo collage I created for the Pinterest Challenge.  Before creating the collage, I actually created a different “paper” gift, based on some items I had seen on Etsy (from Joanna Ramage Photography & Design, Art & Photography of Derek Cooper, and Diana Plauche Photography):


I thought I could easily make a similar collage with my last name and our wedding date.  And again, what powerful design tool did I use?  Yep, you guessed it, Powerpoint.  It was as simple as collecting letters and numbers (all found here), inserting them into Powerpoint, making them all the same size, and then lining them up in a grid.

And here is the result:

I chose the colors to go with the accent colors in our living room, since I figured that’s where we’d display it – they weren’t chosen as a reflection of our wedding colors (although our wedding colors were sage green and chocolate brown, so not too far off).  I’m pretty happy with how it came out, but it just didn’t speak to me like the photo collage idea did.  I also felt bad giving a gift that I literally spent 15 minutes creating.  I don’t know why, but that made it feel cheap.  Even though my hubs wouldn’t have known!  I thought afterwards that it would have been more meaningful to use letters and numbers from around our house or our town, but being the procrastinator that I am, I definitely would not have had time to pull this together!  Don’t tell my husband, but I made the photo collage the day before our anniversary.

Anyhow, maybe I’ll hold on to this for a future anniversary.  Or just print it and frame it for fun one of these days.

1st Annivesary Photo Collage Tutorial

Last week when I posted the photo collage I created for my husband for our first wedding anniversary (and for the Pinterest Challenge), I promised a follow-up tutorial with step-by-step instructions.  As an engineer, PowerPoint tends to be my weapon of choice, whether for engineering presentations or crafty home projects. Word of warning: there is probably a much easier way to do this, but this is just how I tackled the project.  It just made the most sense to my brain and with my PowerPoint skill set.

Step 1: Use Word Art to create a large number 1 (or any other number, depending on the milestone you’re celebrating!) that is to your liking.  Play with the font, type, size, etc.

Step 2: I then used the custom curve tool to trace the number 1 as close as I could to create a custom shape (you’ll see why in the next step).  I basically just clicked every inch or so, making sure to place some extra points in the corners.  FYI, you can easily edit the points after the fact if you don’t quite like how it turns out (but that’s for another tutorial).  The picture below shows tracing the “1” in progress.  The red outline was the original Word Art “1” that I chose – the blue is then the part I’ve traced out so far.  I know this sounds tedious, but it’s actually pretty easy and takes less than a minute for a simple shape like this.

Step 3: In PowerPoint 2010, you can create custom shapes by adding, subtracting, intersecting, or doing a union between two or more already existing shapes (here’s a tutorial, if you’re interested).  (If you have an older version of PowerPoint, sorry, this won’t work.)  In my opinion, this is a fantastic addition to PowerPoint 2010, and makes it much more powerful for home design use.

I started out by making an 8×10 inch rectangle (which is the final desired size that I wanted to print) – I left it shaded in blue, just so you could see that it’s actually there.  I then placed the custom-shaped “1” at the center of that rectangle (the “align” tool is great for this).  I then selected both the rectangle and the “1” and chose Combine Shapes –> Shape Subtract to subtract the 1 from the rectangle (FYI, this tool probably won’t appear standard in your toolbar and you’ll have to add it – the tutorial I link to above tells you how to do that).  So basically what this leaves you with is a filled in rectangle with a “1” cut out of it.

Step 4: I then started bringing in pictures.  I went through my Picasa album from the last year and found fun pictures that would remind my husband of all the fun things we did during our first year of marriage.  I decided to give these a border with knotched edges.

Step 5:  Start placing and resizing the pictures so that they roughly follow the shape of the “1” opening in your rectangle.  You can bring some pictures to the front or move some backwards to create a layered collage effect.

Notice that I filled in my new custom shape in white, instead of the blue shown above.  You could choose any color, however, to add some pizzazz or to match your decor.

Step 6: Once you’re happy with the placement of all of your pictures, group them all together and then send them to the back.  They will now show up “behind” your rectangle and only the part inside the “1” cutout will appear.  You can always make adjustments at this point if parts of your pictures are cutoff or if there is any white space showing.

At this point, you can also play with the fill color and borders.  I chose to just have a white background, and a thick black outline (notice that the black outline is not only around the “1” but also around the rectangle – so you can crop this out later if desired, which is what I chose to do).

And that’s it!  You have a personalized photo collage to give as a gift, using nothing more than PowerPoint.

I’ll be back later this week to show you what my runner-up gift was.  It was also a photo collage of sorts made in PowerPoint, but I decided that I liked the “1” idea better.

Happy PowerPointing!!! 🙂