Tuesday, May 31, 2011

$3 Dinner: This Tastes too Good to be Budget Fare!

Not familiar with Senora Verde and Coburn Farm brands?
These came from Save-A-Lot and are just as tasty as the
name brand products. (And yeah, I did have some fun
with photo-editing on this picture.)
So, as you know, I ascribe to the idea of being "infinitely creative" in the kitchen; however, I also like to save money, and, let's not forget, eat some tasty food. I was proud of myself today because I think I lived up to all of those ideas. Dinner tonight was pretty thrifty. A mixture of leftovers, garden fresh produce, and some inexpensive grocery store items produced a really tasty taco salad. The breakdown is as follows:

Leaf lettuce -- from the garden
Green onions -- from the garden
Tortilla chips -- leftover from party
Colby Jack shredded cheese -- leftover from party
Salsa -- leftover from party
Ranch dressing -- leftover from party
1 lb ground beef -- approx $2 from store
Taco seasoning -- approx $1 from store

I browned and seasoned the ground beef, cleaned and chopped the lettuce and onions, and mixed the salsa and ranch dressing (there wasn't enough of either to make it worthwhile, but together they make a yummy salad dressing). On a bed of lettuce, I added the meat and cheese, crumbled on the tortilla chips, spooned on some dressing, and tossed in a handful of green onions. Next step: wolf it down! A delicious dinner for the family for a grand total of $3. You can't beat that... or can you?

Share your thrifty recipes or money saving secrets in the comments below! How do you save money AND produce tasty and/or healthy meals for your family? Inquiring minds want to know :)

Another $2 T-Shirt

We just got the star patch in the mail today to finish this shirt up. It would have been a good Memorial Day shirt, but he can still wear it for 4th of July or whenever he is feeling patriotic and wants to support our troops.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Wow, Now I Can Blog From My Phone!

Testing, 1 2 3... Well folks, I finally went to the dark side and purchased a 'smart' phone. I still think I prefer my handy-dandy net book, but in a pinch this will do. If I ever need to blog on the run, I sure can now! (It will just take me 5 times as long to type it up.) On that note, I will end this post.

Okay... so I edited this on my PC so that I could add a caption
to this pic... This is me taking a picture with my phone of my
phone in my PC camera with the blogger page in the background.
Nice, huh?  

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Project Ideas: $2 T-Shirts Are... Awesome!

And what can I do with this.... Hmmmmmm......
From my name, The Cardboard Crafter, you can infer that I love a craft project... and also that I love love LOVE low cost materials. Lately I've been scheming to combine both. The only thing that's been holding me back is waiting for my materials to arrive. Why wait, you might ask... Well, I've ordered half my materials from eBay, and the other half are from the Dollar Tree, so I had to wait for my packages to arrive and plan a trip to the store (a difficult prospect when travelling alone with 3 small children). Last night I finally had enough of my materials to start my project, and I'm pretty pleased with the results. Check it out:


Blank T-shirt -- $1 at Dollar Tree
Iron-on patches --$0.50 to $2 on eBay
Contact paper -- on hand, or $2
Scissors -- on hand
Permanent marker -- on hand
Acrylic paint/brush -- on hand or price varies
Fabric -- on hand

Plain T-Shirts from the Dollar Tree, $1 each. I call this a stack full of potential.

Iron on patches from eBay. These can vary in price, but the ones I purchased
range from 50 cents to $2. I have a few more on the way (Transformers, Buzz
Lightyear), but I had enough to start this project.

I planned to use the skull and scorpion patches on the black T-shirt, but I
also wanted to have a skull on the front. The best way I've found to get a really
crisp image is to use a stencil. Contact paper is great for making one-time use
stencils for fabric. Acrylic craft paint does not wash out of fabric, so that's
what I used here. (You could use fabric paint, but I had this on hand.)

A roll of contact paper costs about $2, but it has so many uses. We only
used a small section here, about a 10 inch square. Using a permanent marker,
I drew my design. Remember to keep it simple enough to cut out, and you
will need to keep the negative parts of the image.

Peel the backing and adhere the contact paper to your T-shirt. You will need
to put a piece of cardboard between the two layers of T-shirt fabric so the paint
doesn't bleed through.

Paint! You may wish to dab the paint to decrease the wrinkling of the fabric.
Wait for the paint to dry (20-60 minutes, usually) and apply a second coat.

When the paint is dry (or before if you are careful), peel the stencil off your
T-shirt to reveal a crisp, graphic emblem.

Apply your patches according to the directions. I used a hot iron and a
handkerchief between the iron and patch to keep from burning my shirt.
You can anchor patches on with a few hand stitches if they are not

My little man modeling his new T-shirt. He said, "Mommy, I look like
Sid!" (from Toy Story). I told him that was okay, as long as he acts
like Andy.

I have plans for a few more shirts, but I am still waiting for the patches and iron-on transfers to arrive. It can take weeks if you order from overseas, so if you are an impatient sort of person (you know who you are), you might prefer to buy patches at your local craft or fabric store. You might spend a little more money, but given that you could spend $10-$20 on a nice T-shirt, it will probably still be worth it. And if you do this project with your kids, you will be creating memories and your child will wear his or her T-shirt with a sense of pride and accomplishment. So, this is a great project all around. 

I started a second T-shirt, but am still waiting on an additional patch to arrive, so it's not finished yet. Thought I'd give you a peek anyhow.

I decided to use the military style patches on a khaki-colored T-shirt. I had
a little camo fabric left over from turning a pair of too-short pants into shorts
for my son, so I thought I'd integrate that as well.

It's best to wait until you have all of your pieces before you start (but I'm not
that patient). When you have your pieces, you can lay them out on the shirt
to see how they will look best. That's what I was doing with these patches.

I sewed on an extra patch of fabric for balance before ironing on the patches
that I have. I am still awaiting a gold star that will go on the top, right corner
of the red patch. When the shirt is finished, I'll post a picture of it on the model.

Friday, May 27, 2011

What Are You Wearing, Tin Foil?

Stylin' at the Princess Party.
I recently inherited a lot of fabric and costume supplies from my grandmother, great aunt, and the lady across the street. When digging through the boxes and bags, I found a silver dress that I'd say originated in the 80's. This dress had costume potential, that much was immediately apparent. In fact, I wore it at the first costume opportunity: the Princess Party. The dress was a perfect fit, and it seems kind of sad really that I won't be able to use it again anytime soon... Or will I?

It occurred to me that 80's style has made a recent resurgence, and the silver dress (with a little modification) could be rendered wearable again. So today I put the dress on my dress form and got to work. With the assistance of my handy-dandy seam ripper (if you don't have one already, you NEED one!), I was able to remove the sash and bow and loosen the crinkled part around the top. I was pleasantly surprised by what I found underneath, a finished silver bodice.

I haven't cut anything or sewn a stitch, but I think I've accomplished the impossible: bringing this dress into the 21st century. Take a look, and tell me what you think:

I forgot to take a "Before" picture when I first put the dress on my dress
form, but here is a picture of me in the dress at the princess party (with
the two princesses... I think I had cookies ;)

(Forgive the visible bra and the padding I used to stuff it with... My dress form isn't as
"blessed" as I am.) I've taken about a foot or more off the length and pinned it in a bubble
hem. Without the sash and giant bow, the dress looks a little more slender through the
waist. I've tucked the crinkled fabric in around the top for a sleeker detail. I'm toying with
the idea of a ribbon belt, although this particular piece of ribbon is discolored, so far it's
the most satisfying solution I can find. The dress needed something, just not a giant
silver bow.

So, I could really use feedback on this one. What do you think? Is this dress wearable, or am I delusional in thinking that I could wear it in public, possibly to a wedding? Any other ideas on finishing it up besides the ribbon belt? I was considering a beaded applique on the hip, black lace around the midriff or a black belt. I imagine I'd wear this with a pair of black 3" heels and a chunky necklace. Any other ideas for styling? Please comment! (I'd rather get a warning from the Fashion Police BEFOREHAND than get picked up for a violation AFTER I've worn this in public.)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Craft Project: Barbie Doll Bedroom Set

Barbie has ordered a bedroom set. Now all she needs is a
nice quilt for the bed. Yeah, that's on the list.
I have a habit of saving small boxes and scraps of cardboard with the idea that someday I may have a use for them. (Remember the cardboard rounds from the pizza I used for the decorative knight's shields?) Today I put some of my tiny boxes to use. This Easter, the Easter bunny got my kids some small boxes of Russell Stover candy. I have been hoarding the empty boxes, looking at them every day trying to decide what to do with them. At some point, and idea began to gel: small chest of drawers for Barbie to go beside her bed. Which brings up the next problem: Barbie doesn't have a bed.

Among the gifts my daughters got for their birthday was a crate of plush fruit and veggies. Don't worry, the making of the doll bed did not involve destroying the kids' fruit. I wouldn't do that. No, this matter involves the crate: a cardboard box with a woodgrain finish. Knowing my kids, if I gave them the crate to play with it would be smashed in 10 minutes, so I rescued that for my own nefarious purposes, after all, it was a really neat cardboard box.

The boxes that inspired the project, before I tampered with them.

I started by removing one of the end pieces from each Russell Stover lid.
The lid will be the drawer support that the box "drawer" will slide in and
out of when the chest is finished.

From my stash, I found a piece of cardboard that I cut to size for the sides
of the chest of drawers. I glued the three lids to the first side, upside down
with the open side flush with the front. Hot glue is best for cardboard.
Repeat with the other side, back, and top.

I used button replacements from the dollar store as drawer pulls. These are
pins that fasten with a metal clip on the back, but are a little loose to just
fasten that way, so after I finished with the surface treatment, I hot glued
them in place.

When the construction was complete, I covered the whole thing in contact
paper, sealing the edges with packing tape because contact paper doesn't
adhere well to cardboard. If you try this project, you may prefer to paint the
surface or cover with scrapbook paper using glue or Mod Podge. The drawers
slide easily in the finished dresser.

Hmmm.... the bed looks a little short..,

I made legs using some stiff scrap cardboard, folding them for extra strength.
Hot glue holds them in place.

A bit of eyelet lace glued around the bottom edge makes a pretty bed skirt
and hides the non-woodgrain cardboard legs. I glued a piece of print fabric
to the bottom of the bed for a sheet and sewed a matching pillow case which
I stuffed with some polyester fiber fill. Barbie still needs a quilt, and to be
honest, the bed's a bit short for her (although it might be perfect for Skipper
or Stacy), but I think this made a pretty nice looking bed, with a good firm
mattress for back support :)

When my son saw the finished product, he really wanted it for his GI Joe house. I think, however, this might be more appropriate for my niece who has a birthday coming up. Maybe the next project will be for the Joes... and on that one, we'll leave off the eyelet lace.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sighs of Pleasure and Relief, A Tale of Happily Ever After

Lady Katie and the Masked Bibby.
There's nothing quite like the feeling you get when a project comes together. Pride, joy, euphoria (and no, it's not the caffeine speaking!), whatever you want to call it, it's a natural high you can't find in a bottle or a pill. All the hard work, loss of sleep, stress, and thought is worthwhile, even while I look at the debris littering my house in the aftermath of The Party.

Yes folks, today was the big event, the Princess Masquerade Ball. I have been cleaning house all week, and although I didn't get it as clean as I would like, at least all the public rooms in the house were straightened, vacuumed, and wiped down. Decorations were put up, cakes were baked, and party trays were assembled. By me, I might add... While caring for 3-4 kids, depending on the day and the hour. Yes, I am patting myself on the back a little bit. But hey, somebody's gotta do it, right? I'm just saving you the trouble ;)

Seriously, though, I was pleased that most of my guests dressed up and really got into the spirit of things. If only I had a ballroom, we could have really done it up nice. Can you imagine, all the skirts swishing around to the melodious chords of a string quartet as we waltzed around the room? Well, in a different time that's exactly how it was done. There was no dancing today, except when Katie and Claire did the happy dance after opening all their presents (which I had the guests deposit in a large treasure chest, in keeping with our theme). All three of the kids were happy to receive TONS of new toys. They will be entertained for weeks. My only problem: where to put it all. A problem which I am happy to have. It reminds me how blessed I am.

Well, before I really start to ramble (it's almost 1 AM and I'm getting a bit loopy), I'll let you see some more pictures :)

Thrifty spread: all the food was purchased at the Dollar Tree and Save-A-Lot.
The table cloth is a few yards of polyester fabric given to me by my neighbor,
the "silver" trays came from Dollar Tree, the vase was a Goodwill find, and the
roses came from outside.

Remember this? I didn't get the chance to shorten the rod, but I did find a
way to hang it without putting any new holes in the wall. (Instead, I nailed
a couple of small nails into the ceiling beam.)

I wanted to incorporate the pool table into the theme without using it as an
oversized banquet table. (My husband would kill me if we spilled salsa on
his felt.) Add gold tiaras, jewels, goblets, and ring pops and ta-da: instant
treasury, fit for a princess. (or two)

My son's swords and his knight shield from halloween
add a nice touch above the mantle, I thought. And don't
worry, the candle on top of the TV is electric, so we don't
have to worry about wax running down the screen.

These were hung on existing screws already drilled into the wall. Although
they were not ideally placed, they looked alright here.

The prince and his Great Aunt dressed in their finery.

Fair Claire riding her royal chariot.

The Great Aunt has been busy also on her sewing machines. She, however,
knows what she's doing and has made these beautiful wall-hangings for the
girls' room.

As usual, I gave up on taking pictures after a short effort. I'm not much for looking at life through the lens of a camera (although I love to look through pictures). There were more costumes, a few more decorations, and a lot more smiles. Perhaps tomorrow I will have more pics, stolen from other party guests. Well (**yawns**), I think I may get some rest now. Tomorrow, I'll have more housecleaning to do ;)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Princess Party Preview

Busy, busy day! Shopping, house cleaning, cooking, and party prep, all with a house full of sick kids. I'm hoping that they feel better tomorrow because I'd hate to see them all miserable at the princess party. Yessiree, tomorrow is the big day, and still so much to do. Here's a preview of what's to come:

Birthday cake! Topped with a tiara and decorated with cute marshamallow
figures. We'll say it's to evoke the story of "The Princess and the Frog" and
other fairy tales.

Golden goblets. A donation from my sis-in-law's church friends. Thank
you all, these will be perfect! (And perfect for my budget. I was drooling
over these, but loathe to spend the $$.)

I'm thinking of making a royal treasury, complete with extra tiaras, ring pops,
and gold foil covered candies. These will do nicely.

The mantel above the fireplace is decorated to look kinda castle-y...

Considering hanging some of Eli's swords and his shield on the wall as
well as the round shields we made earlier.

More pictures to come! Wish me luck with all the prep tomorrow (I'll need it).

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sew Far, Sew Good...

This is similar to the first sewing machine I used to make
doll clothes at my grandma's house.
I have been playing with sewing machines for years, starting with my grandma's antique, mini, hand-crank machine and graduating to my own Brother sewing machine and Singer serger in my craft room/studio. This said, I would still like to take a beginning sewing class. Sure, I can thread both machines, I know to remove pins before I run the fabric through, I know how to select the length and width of the stitch and change from zig-zag to straight, but I have no idea how to set the tension or diagnose the cause of a machine malfunction. Sewing denim always seems to screw up my machine, and I know there must be a way to avoid that. Sewing satin or stretchy materials gives me fits. I don't have the patience for cutting out patterns or hand stitching, and half the things I sew have a fit problem. I would love to take a beginner sewing class, and that desire is especially acute when I am trying an ambitious project, like my current endeavor: princess dresses for my twin princesses.

I started the green dress weeks ago, but I have screwed up the skirt again and again because I just haven't been able to get the fabric to fall right. I have taken out the stitches, re-sewn the waist line, and cut it off again, each time inventing new ways to make the green over-skirt look horrific. I think I'm going to have to bite the bullet and hand sew it, but first I have to pin it on straight... The bodice, of course, I made too small, but spent so much time hand-sewing an applique onto the front that I refuse to turn back. Add grommets and lacing, and it will expand just enough to still be usable. I think.

And the purple dress, well, as of this morning, it was still a piece of uncut stretchy, fake velvet fabric, a type of fabric I swore to myself I'd never work with again after the battle I had with a similar piece making a birthday dress for my sister. I'm planning something much simpler for this one, but of course, it is hard to make something to fit a wiggly two-year-old when you can only work while she sleeps. I spent a little time between scrubbing bathrooms and changing diapers on this dress, and just when it was almost finished, my serger ran out of thread. (The one thing from my birthday list I didn't get: serger thread.) So, I have devised an alternate plan for finishing up the neckline: a ribbon sewn to the edge (crap, that means more hand-sewing). Oh, and I just gave all my ribbon to my sis-in-law because I never use it... So, instead of ribbon, I will be using more parts of the purple shirt (which you may remember from the Roman soldier costumes). I used it to make the sleeves, so a bit of dark purple around the neckline will help to finish it off. But, alas, one of my girls is awake and I must once again put the crafting on pause. Not good, my deadline is in 2 days.

Well, although I can't sew and keep an eye on my little princesses, I certainly can blog and watch babies, so here are some pictures of the progress so far:

The green dress will be Katie's and the purple is Claire's. I still haven't tried
them on yet... (crosses fingers)

I will have to re-pin the green skirt higher so you can't see the white underskirt
above it before I sew it on. I was considering using the piece of trim to help
camouflage the seam, but I don't really love it.

I think this dress turned out pretty well. It, at least, should fit and even if I
don't get much more done with it, it looks princessy.
The girls are excited to have their "Pincess" dresses, and here's hoping Mommy can get the job done! I work best when the deadline is closing in, I like to think, but I'm not going to lay odds either way.

Update: I got the dresses finished in time (just barely) and was so excited when I finally tried them on the girls: they fit perfectly!

The girls acquired matching beads to wear with their gowns.

The back of Katie's dress turned out so much better than I hoped. The trick: a piece of
elastic, grommets, and a gold ribbon from a gift bag.

These pictures don't do them justice, but the girls looked just adorable in their dresses.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Gunning for Some Cash, or Nerf Gun + Paint = eBay Hit

This is one of the nicer eBay Steampunk Nerf guns that
is currently available. Many of them still have the word
"Nerf" clearly visible and do not have any gauges added.
I've been playing on eBay a lot lately, looking at toys for the kids and toys for me. I've learned that eBay can become addictive, time flies when I'm looking through auction listings. It's my go-to place for discount electronics, clothing, costume pieces, and toys, and I've come to rely on it for certain purchases. I love eBay so much that when I hear that someone I know has never used eBay my heart stops for a moment, and I immediately plan an intervention.

Lately I've been paying particular attention to what price items are selling for, looking for a possible opportunity to turn my crafting skills into cash, and I think I've found something. Steampunk Nerf guns. To be fair, it was my husband who pointed out the price difference on eBay between regular Nerf guns and those that had been repainted and decorated in Steampunk style; some of these babies were selling for upwards of $50. Basically, the artisans who convert the Nerf guns repaint them so they have a metallic look, distress them, and add gears and gauges for a more steam-powered look. (Nerf guns are air powered, so it's practically the same thing, anyway.)

Eli and I decided we'd do something similar with his water guns today. We've only completed step 1, repainting for a metallic look, but that was simple as pie. We suspended his gun from a piece of thread and used a can of metallic spray paint to give it an overall coat. I figure we can use black acrylic paint to add contrast and age the look of the metal. The only thing I haven't figured out yet is what kind of glue we should use to glue gears and such to plastic. Hot glue is out, it doesn't adhere well to plastic. Perhaps some kind of clear drying epoxy? Not sure. This may take some experimentation. (Any suggestions you have are welcome.)

Regardless of whether I ever sell a Steampunk Nerf gun on eBay, I know I will never buy one because it is something I can fashion myself. If you're like me, you hate to buy something that you know you could make for less.

These are squirt guns, and all we've done is paint them, but they
definitely have Steampunk potential.

Interested in making your own Steampunk gear? Here are some great ideas from All Things Crafty. Notice the Nerf gun she incorporated into her arm band.