Back-to-school: Easy DIY lunch bag

There are so, so, soooo many things that I miss about being in school (yes, all you kids out there who can’t wait for school/college to be over. Be warned! School is cool — and not just because it rhymes). I miss the classes. I miss the schedule. And man oh man, how I miss shopping for school supplies. Not surprisingly, this time of year brings back all those I-wish-I-could-put-on-a-backpack-and-organize-my-locker feelings in full force, and I’m left to reconcile how I can savor the back-to-school season despite my non-student status. I suppose I should call myself a student of life, and then all will be right with the world. Then I’d have an excuse to head to Target pronto for a pack of pens, a ruler and some fresh, new notebooks. Swoon.

OK, let’s be serious. I have no use for a new ruler these days (poor little guy is used far more frequently for measuring rolled-out pie dough than deciphering tricky math problems). And I guess those fresh, new notebooks are not a necessity either. But what about a new lunch bag? Everyone eats lunch, right? So what if I nosh my mid-day meal in the comfort of my own home rather than a school cafeteria? Isn’t the act of lunching itself a good enough reason to pack it in style? I think so. And to that I say, woo hoo!

I got the idea for this lunch bag from a tutorial I found on Pinterest by The Purl Bee. Don’t let all the steps intimidate you. It really is super easy if you take it one step at a time. So pick out a fun fabric, and get to work! Back-to-school season is for everyone.


DIY Lunch Bag

What you’ll need to get started:
• ½ yard of fabric
• needle and thread (a sewing machine makes it super fast)
• button
• measuring tape
• pen
• scissors

1. Cut two 13-by-9 ½-inch fabric panels.

2. Sew a finished edge on the top 9 ½-inch end of each panel by pinning the end over about ¼ inch and then sewing the fold in place.

3. Pin the panels together with the right sides facing each other, and sew them together, leaving a ½ inch seam around the edges. Backstitch at the beginning and end of the seam.

4. Once the panels are sewn together, fold the bag so the two long seams meet in the middle and diamond shape forms at the bottom of the bag. Iron the diamond shape flat.

5. Find the place on the top and bottom ends of the diamond that measures 3 inches across, and draw a line to mark it. Sew across the drawn lines, then cut the extra fabric off of each point, leaving about ½ inch of fabric from the stitched line.

6. To make the button loop, cut a 1-by-5-inch piece of fabric. Fold it in half lengthwise, and iron the crease. Then unfold the fabric and fold in both raw long ends to meet in the middle at the crease. Fold it again lengthwise, and pin the fabric in place. Stitch the piece closed.

7. Sew the loop to the top of the back panel, about ½ inch down from the center. Attach your button to the front panel, about 3 ½ inches from the top, centered. Now all that’s missing is the lunch!


How do you savor the back-to-school season? Are there any DIY projects on the agenda to kick start the school year? Let’s hear it!


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A DIY for the ’do — the baby’s ’do, that is

Typically, I wouldn’t consider watching hair grow a very fun activity. In fact, it’s probably ranked somewhere in between waiting for paint to dry and waiting for water to boil. Sooo slow and soooooo boring. As a new parent, however, a whole bunch of seemingly mundane tasks are suddenly way more exciting with a baby added to the mix. Jared and I are still unbelievably impressed by everything our wiggly 4 ½-month-old says and does. Sure, she’s not boiling water yet or dazzling us with her Monet-like abilities, so drying paint and boiling water are still pretty dull, but our little Beany’s hair-growing (and hair losing, as the baby hair journey would have it) is top-rate entertainment around our house.

When Beany was born, she brought with her a fairly impressive mop of brown hair. By Christmas, though, most of that brown hair had left her head for the comfort of her hats or sheets. We traveled back home to Missouri for the holidays with a lovely bald baby, save for the long-ish strip of brown fringe that decided to stick around on the lower back part of her head. She had male-patterned baldness, my older brother said. Already before we made the trip back to North Carolina, though, that little bald head started sprouting a full head of light brown hair — and it grew perfectly upward in little brown spikes. For a solid two months, we’d wake up in the morning to find a smiley baby face under a quickly growing standup ’do, something akin to those groovy flat-tops all the kids were rocking in the ’90s. First she looked like a G.I. Joe, then a Chia Pet, then when it really got going, she looked just like her daddy (Jared has the world’s coolest, spikes-up-perfectly-and-stays-there-morning-noon-and-night hair, by the way, which in no way resembles a Chia Pet). Sadly, Beany’s spikes just recently disappeared now that enough weight is there to flop it all over, and she’s well on her way to growing a thick mop of bangs. But you know how girls are. Over one trend and on to the next.

OK, OK, I promise there is a reason I went on for a solid 350 words about my baby’s hair growth. It’s headbands! Yahoo! Through the ups and downs of Bean Bean’s hair journey, she still managed to amaze passersby with her snappy accessorizing. This easy DIY project was another Pinterest-inspired creation, and it’s fast enough to throw together during nap time (unless you’re napping, too, in which case you’re one smart cookie). I like using the felt because it holds its shape so well, but I’m sure you could experiment with different fabrics, too.


DIY Baby Headbands

What you’ll need:
• stretch lace or elastic (anywhere from 13 ½ to 17 ½ inches, depending on the age of the wearer)
• felt
• hot glue gun and glue
• scissors

Start by measuring the size of your child’s head where you’ll want the headband to rest. Cut your stretch lace or elastic 1 inch smaller than that measurement.

Cut a strip of felt about 12 inches long by 1 ½ inches wide. Then cut a second strip that is 3 inches long by 1 ½ inches wide.

Find the middle of the longer strip of felt, fold one side in toward the middle and then fold the extra felt back toward the outside.

Repeat this step with the other side, and make sure that the folds on either side look even. Place a dot of glue in the center to hold both folds down.

Glue down one end of your smaller strip over the center of the back of your bow.

Wrap the small strip tightly around the bow and glue firmly in place at the back.

Cut a triangle shape out of the ends of the bow for a more finished look.

Put a dot of hot glue on one end of the stretch lace or elastic, and glue the two ends together.

Put a strip of hot glue on the back of your bow, and glue it to the stretch lace or elastic. Allow it a minute to dry, then marvel at your baby’s cuteness!


What crafty business have you been up to lately? Any fun projects to share? And how about your baby hair stories? Any other spike-growers in the bunch? Do tell!


2012 is coming. It’s calendar time!

Happy day after the day after Christmas to all! It’s hard to believe the holiday came and went so quickly. We had tons of fun celebrating the Bean’s first Christmas this year, and the fun’s not over yet! Our family keeps ringing in the holiday cheer well past New Year’s, so there’s still plenty of holly jolly ahead of us. Oh happy day!

Speaking of New Year’s, the end of December means that it’s time to broach the old how-will-I-continue-to-keep-my-life-in-order-when-January-1-comes-and-my-calendar-runs-out-of-pages dilemma. Despite my reliance on computers and love of iCal, there’s something about the old-fashioned method of day planning that I find incredibly satisfying. I like to make notes of important days, write down my to-dos and revel in the unreasonably fulfilling act of checking things off as I complete them. And now that I have the Bean occupying a good 90 percent of my brain power and energy, I’ve found that having those important days and to-dos noted on a calendar is only half the battle. If it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind. And my mommy mind is a mite bit sleepy these days.

Alas! I found a solution! This handy DIY calendar is super simple to put together (seriously, just five easy peasy steps and you’re ready to roll), and it’s cute enough to hang up right there in the open. Just a frame, some fabric and a bit of open wall space. Voila!

What you’ll need:
• frame with glass front
• ½ yard of burlap, twill or other heavy, textured fabric
• thin permanent marker
• dry-erase marker
• ruler

1. Cut your fabric 1 inch longer and 1 inch wider than the size of the opening in your frame (the extra length will allow the fabric to stay taut once the frame is put back together).

2. With the fabric turned vertically and starting at least 2 inches down from the top edge, use your ruler and marker to make a calendar grid that’s seven boxes wide and six boxes tall. [Note: This might take a little bit of unwelcome math to get a uniform look. To keep things simple, I went with 1 ½-by-2-inch boxes, which meant I started by tracing one large box that was 10 ½ by 12 inches, then marked one row every 2 inches down and finally one column every 1 ½ inches across.]

3. Use the marker to write the corresponding days of the week above each column. You can also use the ruler and marker to add a larger box above the grid that will serve as a place to write the changing name of the month.

4. Put the frame back together with the grid-marked piece of fabric lined up behind the glass opening.

5. Using the dry-erase marker, write the name of the month in the space above the grid, and number the boxes to match.

And that’s all there is to it! How do you plan to keep track of your busy schedule in 2012? A write-it-all-down day planner? Totally digital? A haphazard stack of Post-its? Do tell!

Looking for more calendar fun? Check out last year’s calendar here. Yahoo, organization! 

Houston, we have a crib skirt.

It’s amazing the amount of preparation that comes into play during the last few months of this having-a-baby business. The last few weeks in particular have involved a flurry of thoughts and discussions about bottles and diapers, the merits of various binkies, the importance of breathable swaddling blankets and whether we really need to spring for that Cadillac of a jogging stroller (I’m thinking yes — it just looks so sleek and zippy!). OK, so I’m sure my increasingly forgetful and distractible mind is much more occupied with baby gibber gabber than Jared’s, which is currently in the throws of starting grad school and gobbling hundreds of pages of looks-and-sounds-more-intellectual-than-baby-talk reading, but still, our house is on hyper baby drive (not to be confused with hyper-baby drive, which comes later I suppose).

To keep sane amidst this planning and preparation time, I’ve resorted to my old pal — list-making. I’ve got lists for everything these days: things we still need to buy for baby, things we still need to make for baby, non-baby-related things to get done before baby, groceries Jared will need to pick up right after baby. I even planned out my Thanksgiving menu last week. I know, I’m out of control. Ironically, the things I’ve been most apt to check off my lists are probably the things that aren’t as immediate of necessities. Hence my continued obsession with this sewing machine. Sure, the Bean probably won’t be using her room much until she’s at least a few months old (we’re planning to have her in a basinet in our room for a while. Jared’s college experience wouldn’t be complete without a noisy roommate, right?). But somehow it gives me an undeniable sense of calm to see her nursery come together bit by bit, piece by piece. And so I keep on sewing. That room will definitely be ready for her by the time she’s ready for it.

My latest sewing project was a skirt for the lovely crib that Jared’s parents were nice enough to gift us for their grandbaby to be. My mom gave me the genius idea to save on fabric by using a white sheet as the base of the skirt that goes under the mattress, then just using the cute patterned stuff for the part of the skirt that shows. It worked out really well, and I definitely recommend that method to anyone who decides to tackle one of these in the future (whether baby-sized or otherwise). In reality, this crib skirt is not only the easiest thing I’ve whipped up so far (can’t argue with straight lines and easy seams), but it’s also probably been the biggest money saver. Quality crib skirts can run you anywhere from $30 to $80. After our on-sale fabric and basic thread (plus an old white sheet I already had on hand), ours costs a whopping $10. Woo hoo!


What you’ll need:
• fabric (2 to 3 yards should be more than enough)
• matching thread
• flat white sheet you’re willing to part with (a.k.a. cut into pieces)
• pins
• measuring tape (to get your measurin’ on)

The first step for making the crib skirt is figuring out all your measurements. I was working with limited fabric, so I actually planned to make my skirt three-sided instead of four (I figured the back side will always be up against a wall, so there was no reason to waste extra fabric on an angle that could never be seen). So I had four panel sizes I needed to measure: the white-sheet base that goes under the mattress, one long end (the front of the crib) and two shorter ends (the sides of the crib). Here’s what I came up with:
Base: 28”-by-52”
Long side: 21”-by-52”
Short sides: 21”-by-28”

To make room for ½-inch seams all around, I added 1 inch to each measurement for the fabric panels themselves, which meant I needed to cut my fabric to these dimensions:
Base panel: 29”-by-53”
Long panel: 22”-by-53”
Short panels (2): 22”-by-29”

I’m pretty convinced at this point that cutting out the fabric pieces is about the trickiest part of the sewing process, so I like to get all of my cutting done before doing anything on the machine. Just like when cutting out fabric for the throw pillows, I used the fold-it-over-and-measure-half-the-width-you-need technique. Take your piece of fabric, fold it in half, then measure half your width all the way down and secure it with pins. Make your cut using the pins as guides. Then once that’s done, do the same thing in the other direction. Fold your fabric in half, then measure half the length, mark it with pins and make your cut. Then repeat the process until all of your panels are cut and ready. Easy peasy!

The next step is to make sure the patterned panels all have nice, crisp seams around the edges because those will show on the finished product. One long side on each of those panels ends up getting sewn to the white sheet base, so that means that you only have to worry about adding three seams (the two shorter ends and one longer end). To do this, use your pins to fold over the edge of the fabric ½ inch on each of the three sides.

Now it’s just a matter of sewing them in place. Using a reinforcement stitch at each end, slowly sew a straight line along your pinned edges, carefully removing the pins as you go. When you get to a corner, lift up the sewing machine pedal, turn the fabric 90 degrees, put the pedal back down and keep on sewing. Once you reach the end of the third side, add another reinforcement stitch to seal the deal.

Pretty easy, right? You do this same process with your three (or four if you’re being less lazy than me) patterned panels. By the end of this step, you should have three crisp seamed edges on all of your patterned fabric panels and one rough edge on each (remember, your one rough edge on each should also be one of the long ends on each). Now all that’s left to do is sew it to your white sheet base.

[Note: As an added step because I was only sewing on three patterned panels to my skirt, I did a quick seam on the back side of my white panel base, just like the seams I added to my patterned panels. It helps give a finished look if you’re only using three patterned panels. If you’re using four patterned panels, though, there’s no need to worry about it.]

To piece the puzzle together, I stitched one panel at a time to my white sheet base. To do this, I lined up the edges (meaning if I was stitching on one of my shorter panels, I lined it up next to a shorter end of the base) and pinned them together, allowing for another ½-inch seam. When you’re lining up the fabric, make sure that you have both “pretty” sides of the fabric facing in because you’ll want the seam to be hidden on the bottom when the fabric panel is flipped back over and hanging down the side of the crib.

Use the machine to sew the width of the panel, using a reinforcement stitch at each end. Voila! Now just repeat this step with your remaining panels, give the whole skirt a good iron, and you’re home free!


I’m super duper happy with how this thing turned out. The straight lines are way easier to work with than adding a bunch of ruffles, which definitely worked in my favor, not to mention I think the streamlined look of it all really complements all the modern twists and patterns we have going on in the rest of the nursery. My only foreseeable dilemma is going to come when the Bean gets big enough that we have to lower the mattress (the crib has three different mattress height options, and we have it on the highest spot right now). I’m contemplating the use of Velcro dots when that day comes (I know, Velcro. But so far it seems like the most convenient and removable option). But it will be a while until she’s able to sit up and monkey her way out of the crib anyway, so we still have time to think about it.

Happy September to you! Fall is right around the corner! Weeee!


Lantern DIY: Let there be light!

DIY lanterns

I joined a Pinterest a little more than a month ago and have been slowly falling in love with it ever since. Does anyone else use the site? Seriously, it’s crazy nifty and can easily fill hours and hours of your time with great ideas and tons o’ eye candy. I’ve started a few boards, and though they’re by no means filled or finished, I’m acquiring quite the collection of inspiration at lighting-fast speed. Love, love, lovity, love.

At the same time I was embarking on my newfound love of Pinterest, I was also on the hunt for an outdoorsy DIY project to make for the June/July issue of Columbia Home. I quickly landed on two adorable yarn-ball-ish lantern projects (check them out here and here) and decided to combine the two techniques for my own version of lantern loveliness. And oh happy day, this is by far my favorite DIY project to date. Fair warning, it’s a super duper messy project — like you’re-hands-will-be-covered-in-sticky-goo-and-your-work-space-will-be-speckled-with-gluey-drops-of-glueness kind of messy — but the mess and cleanup are well worth the effort. Just invest in a cheapo plastic drop cloth and a pair of plastic gloves, and it’s not too big of deal.

Here’s what you need for the lanterns:
• 5 to 6 balloons, blown up to whatever size ball or lantern you want to make
• large plastic drop cloth
• scissors
• twine, hemp or cotton yarn (I used hemp because it seemed a little tougher for outdoor use, but next time I might go the white yarn route for a lighter, brighter look.)
• 4 ounces basic white glue
• ½ cup cornstarch
• 1/4 cup warm water
• petroleum jelly
• clear, fast-drying spray paint
• lantern lights or white twinkle lights (I like the twinkle lights because they have that twinkly, magical look, but lantern lights would be nifty, too.)

Blow up balloons to desired size. Keep in mind that the size of your balloon dictates the size of your lanterns balls (it’s also helpful not to blow up the balloons all the way; a bit less air makes for rounder balloons).

If you plan to place a lantern light in your finished lanterns, draw a circle on the top of each balloon large enough to accommodate the lighting fixture. If you’re not planning to light the lanterns or you’d prefer to stuff them with a simple strand of twinkle lights, you can skip this step (just make sure you leave enough space while wrapping to stuff the twinkle lights inside).

Lay a plastic drop cloth over your work surface, and set up a place where balloons can be suspended from the air to dry. I draped the plastic drop cloth across the bathroom floor and into the bathtub so I could hang the balls on the shower bar.

Mix glue, cornstarch and warm water in a large container until all lumps are gone, then cover each balloon in petroleum jelly (using rubber gloves for this cuts down on the mess).

Feed the twine through the glue mixture until it is coated, then start draping it around the balloon.

Wrap the ball vertically to a comfortable tightness, then horizontally. Once ball is wrapped to your liking, use a piece of twine to suspend it from the shower bar (or drying space of your choosing).

Allow balls to dry for 24 hours. Then, pop the balloons. It’s like magic! Spray the balls with clear, fast-drying spray paint. Once they’re dry, insert the lights, and you’re ready to party like it’s 1999! Woot!

And that’s really all there is to it! Totally adorable and totally easy (albeit totally messy as well).

Have you done any DIYing lately? Any new projects on the agenda? And have any of you fallen if love with Pinterest, too? Let’s hear it!


Poor little reindeer: An adventure in glue

Have you ever had one of those days when you feel like you have all your little ducks in a row and everything is in crackerjack order and then all of a sudden the universe jumps in and reminds you that perfect order and lined-up ducks are just a bit too boring? That’s my optimistic take on the strange chain of occurrences that have been happening in Casa Jared and Katrina lately, one of which involves the poor little reindeer pictured above, with his poor little broken antler.

For Christmas this year, my little brother gifted us with this adorable salt and pepper shaker set from Pottery Barn. And I looove them. Given my obsession with white ceramic and love of all things holiday-related, this gift could not have been more perfect. Mix that with the fact that it’s a gift that my brother picked out specifically for me (awww…), and it’s probably one of my favorite presents ever.

So Santa and his reindeer were sitting happily on the table a few nights ago (yes, I still have holiday decorations out; I have to let go slowly), when Jared decided to clear the space so he could do some work. A few minutes later, we both heard the tiny “clink” and instantly knew what happened. It was only a few days earlier when Jared told me that we’d have to be careful with the reindeer’s antlers because they could break off so easily. And by we, I’m pretty sure he meant Katrina, given my history for breaking things. The poor guy felt terrible when he realized the break that he had predicted occurred on his watch, by his hands.

The “clink” was pretty sad, but I couldn’t be too upset because just a week and a half earlier, I did this:

Yes, that’s one of our brand-new Pottery Barn dishes. And yes, that’s a dime-sized chip on the outer rim. Argh.

And the misses didn’t stop there. In the days following the reindeer debacle, we had what should have been a 30-minute DIY project that completely flopped and took six hours to semi-salvage (details coming soon). Then for dinner, I tried out a new soup recipe that was not so bueno and watched in total shock as Ella munched half a grilled cheese sandwich that she, for the first time in her entire puppy life, stole right off my plate. Ooph. On the other hand, I suppose it was a really good day for her.

Weird chain of events, right? I was feeling minorly mopey about all of this last night, but I’ve made the conscious decision to put an end to this madness. This week will be a good one, and it all starts with Gorilla Glue.

This morning, I used said handy dandy glue to fix our poor-no-more reindeer. Just a dot of glue…

And a few minutes of holding it in place, and he’s good as new. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the plate, but I’m still counting this as a win. It’s all about perspective.

Have you been practicing your fix-it skills lately? Are there any projects that you checked off your list this weekend? Any DIY mishaps or recipe flops you’d like to share? Do tell!



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