Oct 182013



As promised from my article, The Easiest Way to Make Money, I am going to show you how to make a simple photography light box. Most people will find having a  light box useful for photographing items for eBay, blogging, taking stock of their personal inventory for insurance records or to enhance their photography hobby. For my son, who made me the light box, it was originally an assignment at school. I encourage you to find the items below in your home and re-use them. If you don’t have something on the list you can improvise. For example, instead of tissue paper, use an old thin sheet that isn’t useful for bedding anymore.

What you will need:

  • A large cardboard box (mine was approx 24″x 24″ x 22″)
  • Shipping or duct Tape
  • White tissue paper or white fabric (like an old sheet)
  • X-Acto knife (a.k.a. box cutter)
  • 2 Daylight bulbs —(see tips below for specifics)
  • 2 utility lamps w/ clamp bottoms
    (we bought lights like these)
  • matte poster board or something similar that is approx twice the length of your box (needs to be able to curve without creasing)
  • pen or pencil
  • right angle ruler or just a large ruler

supplies for a light box


The first thing you need to do is measure and mark a 2 inch border on the edges of 3 sides of the box.

light box directions

Proceed by cutting out the the marked sides with your box cutter. Be careful.

instructions for light box

Next cut off the box flaps.

box for light box

Cut your poster board to match the width of your box, but wait to cut the length. When you’re happy with the fit, insert poster board backdrop. It will stay in place due to the tight fit. If not, staple the poster board to the box. You will have a seamless background now. This sounds complicated and confusing but it’s not.

making a light box with poster board

Now tape the tissue paper to the outside of the 3 box openings. (trim to fit if needed)

tissue paper for light box

Next find some random household objects to attach your utility lights to. We used small ice buckets filled with random junk like sunblock that were laying around. Place one on each side of the box. If you happen to have a third light to use on the top of the box that would be great. It’s not necessary though. We just happened to have a ceiling one above our pool table where we set up. It worked out perfectly.


You officially have a working light box!

diy light box



  • You can use regular table lamps instead of utility lights as long as you change the bulbs out to be the right kind.Light bulbs will make all the difference with your light box color. You want clean white.  After 3 trips to Home Depot you might want to take our advice. we bought bulbs similar to these
  • Be sure the bottom surface of your objects is always clean.
  • You can change out the white poster board for black or other colors.
  • Use chairs to hold the utility lights.
  • You can move the lights closer and further to the box to adjust lightening.
  • Do not leave lights on unattended. The tissue paper can get hot!
Special thanks to my “Macgyver” son for making me this super cool light box!
Jun 252013
Make your room feel like a five star resort!

Make your room feel like a five star resort!

Whether you’re looking to lay low or you’ve had to cinch your financial belt,  a staycation is the perfect solution for you. What is a staycation? A vacation spent in one’s home country rather than abroad, or one spent at home and involving day trips to local attractions. I will be highlighting the latter. Just like you would spend time and energy researching hotels, airlines, etc…staycations require planning and budgeting as well. Here are my tried and true suggestions for having a successful and fun staycation:

  1. Plan and budget your itinerary  – Simple enough, plan a budget and stick to it. When you know what your funds are,  go get a guidebook from your local bookstore or find websites that share things to do in your area. I live in San Diego and Sunset magazine had a great article on top hiking spots. (relaxing and free) Go on a picnic. We did and loved it! We live just 45 minutes from one of the most famous beaches, Coronado. Do we ever go there? No! So of course, that went on our San Diego staycation itinerary. We live an hour from Disneyland. That didn’t make our list but it was an option to consider. Write out a list ahead so you aren’t trying to figure things out the week of your staycation. That will only make it stressful and less enjoyable.
  2. Treat your home like a hotel – This might be the most important rule to make your vacation feel real. If your budget allows, hire a housekeeper at the beginning and end of your staycation. This will help you resist temptation to clean on your staycation. Invest in new sheets or pillows, fancy soaps and crisp white towels. We put a mini fridge in our bedroom filled with waters and bubbly. On our dresser, we had fresh flowers, a coffee maker and snacks. Since we have a pool, I put out books, sunblock and towels. It’s these small details that are easy to implement that make it feel like you’re staying in a special hotel. Gather your local take out and delivery restaurant menus so they can be on hand. It’s as good as room service! Eat in your bed just like you would at the hotel.
  3. View it like a real vacation – This means get the time off from work and let friends and family know you will be on vacation. Mark your calendar no differently than if you had non-refundable plane tickets purchased. If you don’t do this, you risk treating it too casually and it may never take place. This might be hard, but resist doing any household chores. Remember you’re on vacation so limit your phone and computer use.
  4. Splurge – Since you’re saving so much by staying home for your vacation, splurge where you can. We went to a few local eateries that we had been wanting to try. I also stocked the house with a few bottles of wine that normally is out of our budget. This would have been a splurge but we happened to have gift cards to use. Go get a couples massage! That was a fabulous part of our staycation!
  5. Take photos – Whether you use your Smartphone or camera, take photos! We took pictures everywhere just like we would on a vacation far away. It makes you look at your local area with a whole new perspective, as well as capture priceless moments together. As an added bonus, create a mini photo album or slide show at the end.


  • If you have children,  hire a sitter and go out for a special dinner.
  • It’s all in the details…for instance add umbrellas to your drinks or fill your house with fresh flowers.
  • Have music playing throughout the house or in the yard. (Pandora is your friend here)
  • Hit local happy hours to save money while still getting to go out.
  • Take turns cooking a meal for each other and then make a meal together. My husband and I love making dinner together.
  • Use gift cards that have been piling up. We had Starbucks, a dinner certificate and massages that we cashed in!
  • Hit your local farmers market or swap meet to pick up fresh produce and staycation souvenirs.
For more  activity ideas check out my date night ideas post.

Jun 152012

Today I’m sharing my latest repurposing project that’s perfect for your next party! Take old records and melt them down to bowls. They not only look groovy, but are very functional. My sister made these for her son’s graduation party recently. His party theme was the Beatles, so these were the perfect accessory. The process to make them is very easy too!



How to get your groove on:

  • fill them with snacks and candy (be sure they’re wrapped food items for safety)
  • a great storage for t.v. remotes
  • loose change anyone?
  • “where did I put my keys?”…a thing of the past
  •  place your small gift or gift card (think iTunes) in the bowl and wrap with cellophane

If you don’t have any unwanted records laying around in your attic, you can pick them up for next to nothing at a garage sale or thrift store. Have fun and don’t forget to crank your tunes!

Mar 262012

cork magnet succulent planters

This latest creation has been made by a modern day Martha, my sister, Colleen. Well, she’s a lot more hip than her, but you get the idea.

It all started when she gave a friend of ours a bottle of wine for their 25th wedding anniversary. She wanted them to be able to have a little memento from the evening. After the bottle was empty, I sneaked the cork in my purse(it’s not stealing, because she got it back!). From there my sister worked her brilliance! The couple she was making it for love two things in life, wine and gardening. (yes in that order, jk!) That’s when she remembered being inspired by a photo from Piccsy. A mini cork succulent planter magnet. Does it get any cuter? I don’t think so! It’s sentimental, compact, practical, green and stylish.


  • Corks made from cork not plastic
  • Magnets
  • Potting soil
  • Very small succulent cuttings
  • Puncher
  • Paring knife
  • Glue gun

How to:

  1. CAREFULLY, hollow out the center of a wine cork with the puncher and knife until you’ve hollowed it out halfway.
  2.  Glue magnet onto cork.
  3.  Fill the hole with potting soil and add the succulent.
  4.  Use an eyedropper to water.
  5. Put on your fridge and enjoy!

WARNING: This might not be a craft for a child or a clumsy adult!















Perfect For:

  • Hostess gifts
  • Special occasions
  • Wine lovers
  • Green lovers
  • Me
  • Thank you gifts
  • Green thumb friends
  • really, anyone!



Jan 162012

I love monograms. Today I’m sharing a few diy projects that I’ll be making on my next rainy day. (I’m afraid that might this weekend!) I hope they inspire you to get your letter on!

Diy Monogram Mugs by Design Moms. She got this idea when she spotted some mugs at Anthropologie. She shows you how to turn this it into a perfect gift with Happy Hot Cocoa inside.








Diy Monogrammed Cork Letters from Green is Universal. Now this is my kind of project. Corks and a glue gun. It doesn’t get more rainy day fun than this!

cork letters







Initial Necklaces by Design Dazzle. I love the modern, custom vibe of these letter necklaces. I think it would be cool to have a poem, sentiment, or even birth stats as the backdrop. Add a small white feather charm and a chunky chain to give it a more flair.

Nov 212011










Don’t throw that can out! Give them a new lease on life with some innovative ideas. I was inspired after buying an extra large can of tomatoes from Costco. After the can was empty, it seemed a shame to throw it out. So I put my creative cap on, followed by some cyber searching.

The obvious, but simple thing to do is use them as pots for plants. It’s the perfect centerpiece for an outdoor bistro table.










Take things a step further and make a hostess gift using an old can.

What to do:

  • Clean the can thoroughly. Poke holes on the bottom if you plan on having it drain your plant. Place your plant or flowers in the can. (leave the label on or take it off, both ways have their own unique cool look) Ideally I would have put a tomato plant in the can but they’re not in season. If you can use a plant that matches the can label, that would be a fun touch.
  • For your gift tag, get a packet of seeds. Take some paper and write or print out your message to the host. Get some double sided tape and adhere it to the seeds. Slide the seeds through the teeth end of a plastic fork and insert into the soil of the plant. (if you have single vintage forks laying around, that would be even better)


















Other ideas I found & loved:


Cork cans by The 3R’s Blog.

A kitschy wine rack from Real Simple.

Pendent lights from Shelterness.

Picnic cans found at Sweet Paul Magazine.

Finally, if you’re feeling more practical and adventurous, try building a camping rocket stove from leftover food cans. Learn how at Lifehacker.



Nov 012011











Wine boxes are not only cool looking, but they may hold some sentimental value for us. What can we do with them? My husband had a kinda genius idea. This past year we made a rule to give each other handmade gifts. Since I’m a foodie and a winey girl, he came up with this idea for me. (I’m still having trouble believing he didn’t get some help! wink,wink)

What’s extra amazing is he killed two birds with one stone on this diy project. Check out my old technique for storing my recipes…










Yes, I had recipes on napkins, index cards, Post-it notes, magazine pages and print outs. You could find them in any crevice of the kitchen too. I’m notorious for sticking Post-it’s inside my cabinet doors with recipes. Not exactly the ideal organization technique. Because I would just set the recipe papers next to me while cooking, they are covered in every ingredient imaginable. Just look at my favorite recipe…










I could re-write it at this point, but I love the character it shows from all the years I’ve been making it. Think wrinkles for recipes. In fact one day it might be fun to frame it. But for now, it is protected in one of my binder pages neatly organized under the appetizer section.

















I just store my wine box on my kitchen counter. It not only matches the decore, it’s practical and serves a daily purpose! All this thanks to my genius hub












Tutorial Here


  • This makes a great wedding gift. Gather recipes from friends and family to add to the binder. Mod Podge their wedding invitation on the top of the recipe book or on the inside of the box somewhere.
  • If the box comes from a winery you visited, line the bottom (see tutorial) with a map showing the vineyard location.
  • Add a “take out” menu binder to store in the box along with the recipe binder. There’s plenty of room for both.



Oct 192011

I love sharing ways to repurpose different items. Today I’m featuring a classic favorite, mason jars. Here are five ways I’m loving them:

1.Pie In A Jar

Our Best Bites came up with this genius idea. They’re individual serving sizes and can go straight from your freezer to your oven. These pies in a jar are perfect to have on hand for unexpected guests or a sudden craving of sweet goodness! Find the recipe and directions here.

2. Painted Flower Jars

I love this colorful creative way to re-use mason jars. Wouldn’t these make great budget friendly centerpieces for your next party? For step by step directions go to The CSI Project.

3. Bathroom Beauty Storage

Clever! Clever! Clever! Lovely Little Details came up with a great bathroom storage idea.

4. Sewing Kit in a Jar

Whether we sew or not, we all need a mini mending kit. This is a great diy gift idea! Find out how to make these by Martha Stewart here.

5. Soap Dispenser

Heather Bullard made this diy soap dispenser to keep on her potting bench. I think this would be fun in a bathroom or kitchen as well. You could also bring some antibacterial hand sanitizer to a park picnic or party. For a hostess gift, fill a mason jar up with some yummy smelling hand lotion. Find the tutorial on how to make one here.

Oct 032011









From rags…

…to riches!

It’s been a few months since my first post about giving our backyard a little mini makeover. We finally finished most of it. It was helpful that our yard had good bones to begin with. Although there was a lot of work to do, it wasn’t a huge diy undertaking. Our new pergola and paver floors were the only real big projects. We have a few more cosmetic things to do, (hang lights, find our bbq a better location, plant veggies in our new bed, etc…) but does anyone really ever completely finish a remodel? We are really enjoying the fruits of our labor. Speaking of that, a special thanks to our amazing crew, a.k.a. family & friends!

Check out great photographs of our backyard here.












  • Make chaise lounge bolster cushions using hip dish towels. (I bought mine at Target, they’re by Dwell)
  • Dress your faded outdoor cushions with covers made from simple white towels. Easy (if you can sew, or like me knows someone who sews…thanks Con!) to make and easy to clean. I don’t recommend patterned or color towels due to sun fading.
  • Mix vintage/garage sale furniture pieces with new ones. You not only save money this way, but it adds character reflective of you.
  • Shop at your local discount stores and on-line. We purchased our dining table on-line at Pier One and bought our dining chairs at Homegoods.
  • Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Try to be reasonable and flexible when planning your mini remodel. (especially if this is a diy project)  Pick two things that are really important to you. In our case it was the pergola and having a dining room table outside to eat on. After that everything is a bonus!

Sep 292011













Who doesn’t love room service? When I think of relaxation and something special, I think room service. While waiting to have a nice hot meal delivered to your door, you can be watching re-runs of Seinfeld on your dreamy bed. It’s my love of this luxury that made me think of my latest gift creation.

“Room service please” is what I’m calling this customized gift that is perfect for so many occasions, such as an anniversary or a new baby arrival. Basically you’re giving someone the gift of a homemade meal delivered to their front door. Since presentation is everything, so they say, I’ve provided some ideas and free downloads so you can give that perfectly wrapped present!

What to do:

  • Purchase a container whether it be a casserole dish or a cute pot. Be sure it is something that will store your meal.
  • Get ribbons, twine, a unique pencil, mini clothespins, fresh herb cuttings, etc…to wrap up your package. (see photos)
  • Figure out what dinner options you’d like to offer. Then go to my free download below and customize yours. Name your “restaurant” something clever. It was my friends 11th wedding anniversary so I called it, “Bistro Eleven”.
  • To make your door hanger I have also provided a free download below for your convenience. You just need to fill in the blanks.


For the gift I gave, I required 48 hours notice to be given. I also requested for them to put the door hanger on my door with their order filled out. Have them drop the dish off at this time as well. If you prefer, you could have them put it on their door and ask that they shoot you a text when they do. (this really only will work well if you live close to one another) If you think this would be an inconvenience, you can have instructions on the door hanger or menu that tells them to e-mail you their order for example.

Free menu download found here.

Free room service door hanger download found here.