DIY RAG RUG FROM OLD JEANS AND T-SHIRTS

Happy Earth Day! I hope you are doing your part to promote a clean environment. It doesn’t matter if you live in a big city, a small suburb, or somewhere in between – every little bit helps! As part of my commitment to the modern environmental movement of Earth Day I started in my very own apartment. 

A big part of helping the environment is reducing waste in our landfills. As I was going through some old clothes, I came upon a bunch of pairs of jeans that were too worn out to donate to charity, but I didn’t want to just throw them away. What a waste! So I decided to make them into a crocheted rag rug.

I ended up using about four pairs of old jeans and six t-shirts. However, I’m a bigger gal, so my jeans are big…so you might end up using a bit more if you’re using smaller jeans. Once I had all my strips together I started crocheting. I hadn’t crocheted anything in a while, and prior to this rag rug the only thing I had ever crocheted was a scarf. For the very best crochet rag rug tutorial I suggest this tutorial from Sugar Bee Crafts. She actually has some videos on that page that show the most simple crochet stitch as well as tips for starting/shaping the rug.

I’ll tell you this, if you start with denim, the beginning of the rug is going to look like a hot mess at first. Like a big denim blob. But eventually it starts looking REALLY good.

I alternated two rows of denim with three rows of t-shirt strips, and then I alternated the blue t-shirt strips with the green. I really like how the rug turned out. It’s not perfectly shaped, but just seeing it every day and knowing that I MADE it out of old materials – it’s so satisfying. And the dogs like it too!

WEIGHT LOSS WEDNESDAY: OPTIFAST DIET

I’ve been putting off this post for a while. Every Weight Loss Wednesday I try to focus on losing weight in a healthy way, and unfortunately, many people are going to think what I’m about to talk about is decidedly un-healthy.

My husband and I started a diet in January with  just one specific rule: no eating out. And we did a pretty good job of it. Except for one meal a week, we ate all our meals at home (or ate food from home in the case of work). The problem was that my husband was losing weight but somehow I was still gaining! So I decided I needed a change. I had done the Optifast liquid diet in the past and it worked for me, so I decided to go back into the Optifast program.

What is Optifast?

Optifast is a nutritionally complete meal replacement that you drink five times a day instead of eating. That’s right, you don’t eat…at all. When you do the Optifast diet program correctly you can lose a large amount of weight very quickly. To be enrolled in the program you have to undergo a physical first and you must check in with the doctor once a week to ensure you’re still medically sound.

The Optifast shakes contain all your necessary daily vitamins and you can actually live off of the shakes without food for a pretty long time. The problem is that many people just don’t think it’s healthy to not eat. For that reason, I haven’t told many people that I’m doing it. I know that the program works. I’ve lost weight with it before, but I’ve also heard all the negative feedback before. “Oh, that can’t be healthy…” “Why don’t you just eat a little something…” “It’s going to be too hard to keep up…”

Yes, the program IS very hard to keep up. You don’t know how many times I’ve stared longingly at a cheeseburger ad on TV or regretfully sniffed the air as my husband cooked his dinner in the other room. You don’t want to know how many times my stomach has rumbled and I’ve thought to myself, “Maybe just one little bite won’t hurt.” But I don’t! Because when I weigh in every week I see my weight going down and I know that all the hard work and tenacity is paying off.

So far I’ve lost about 25 pounds in less than 4 weeks! Yes, some of it is water weight, but some of it is fat too. I already notice my pants are looser and my face looks slimmer too. So I’m going to struggle on with the Optifast diet and hopefully will continue to be successful.

PEACOCK PAINTING

One of my craft goals for 2013 was to create more original paintings – not just painting what people show me how to paint. I’ve been to a lot of wine and painting events, but so far I’ve yet to branch out and do my own paintings…until now.

Well, sort of. I went to another wine and painting class to paint this peacock. And this is what it looked like after the class.

It just didn’t look complete to me. A peacock’s gotta be bold and beautiful…and it’s gotta have purple, of course. So I added in some purple paint and some gold paint as well – both of which I had left over from my Mardi Gras craft. I like the finished product so much better, and I think this is definitely a step in the right direction to painting some completely original artwork.

OSCARS PARTY DECORATIONS

Who loves watching the Oscars? This girl! It’s so fun seeing what everyone’s wearing, cheering for the movies you’ve seen, and even cheering for the movies you haven’t seen. If you’re having an Oscars party this Sunday, you’re going to want to take a look at this centerpiece.

I started with just a plain vase from the dollar store and I painted it gold. I just used some watered down acrylic paint and painted it from the inside so that it would still maintain a shine from the glass on the outside.

 

I found some Hollywood-themed decorations at Party City and bought some napkins with gold star prints on them. I then cut out the stars as well as gold starbursts that were on the napkins and then glued them on the vase.

 

Add a gold and silver balloon weight inside the vase and you have a quick and easy centerpiece for your Oscars party!

5 MINUTE $5 ST. PATRICK’S DAY WREATH

If you’ve been reading this blog from the beginning, then you know that I love discount crafts. Of course I like my crafts to look nice and high-quality, but if I can get the craft supplies for cheap, even better! Throw in a super-quick assembly time, and this St. Patrick’s Day wreath is my dream craft.

How did I make this wreath for only $5? I started with a wreath form and two St. Patrick’s Day scarves from the dollar store. Then, I found this amazing green sequined bow at the dollar spot at Target. I was originally going to use foam clovers to finish off the wreath, but then I stumbled upon a spectacular find. A wooden shamrock “Welcome” sign. Can you believe I got it for just $1.30 at the Salvation Army? Well, believe it!

 

Now, how did I assemble the wreath in five minutes? First, I cut the wooden shamrocks apart from each other. I wish that they had the awesome patterns on each side, but unfortunately, when I turned them over they were just plain green. But they still look super high quality, so it was all good.

I wrapped the wreath form with the two scarves and then glued the bow to the top. Next I glued the wooden clovers on, and I was done! That was it. Really! It was that simple. If you need a wreath for St. Patrick’s Day and you’re in a hurry, this is your go-to craft! I know the wooden St. Patrick’s Day sign was a one in a million find, but you could easily use the foam shamrocks from the dollar store in its place and it would still look totally fun and festive!

PUMPKIN CRAFTS: WINE CORK PUMPKIN

I’ve been saving up my wine corks for crafts for a while, and finally decided to make something with them – my first pumpkin craft of the season!

Not counting my fall bucket list 2012, this is also my first real craft for autumn (the bucket list doesn’t quite count because I did it all on the computer). This pumpkin wall art was so quick and easy – just gather your corks and cut them in half so you have a flat surface to glue down. I assembled them as I cut, just so I didn’t use too many corks.

I then painted the corks using watered down acrylic paint. I wanted the designs on the corks to show through which is why I watered down the paint (about one part paint: one part water). Then is the fun part! I glued the corks down to a piece of burlap-printed scrapbook paper and then framed it.

This was definitely a home run in terms of pumpkin crafts – so easy, and very fun!

A LABOR DAY DESSERT

In honor of Labor Day weekend, here is a quick and easy dessert — that’s no work at all and perfect for any barbeque or get-together.

I’ve seen some variations of cheesecake treats online that use no-bake cheesecake mix, but most of them are pretty big, or involve little cups and spoons that I’d rather not deal with. I’ve found that the no-bake cheesecake mix is pretty sweet and rich, so I wanted to make a variation that was smaller and easier to handle.

These cheesecake bites are sooooo easy and quick to make – they literally take about 15 minutes to put together – and they’re a hit at parties, barbeques, etc.

Ingredients:

  • One box of no-bake cheesecake mix
  • Graham crackers (I recommend the Honeymaid brand because the generic kind can be hard to cleanly break apart)
  • Assorted fruit
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (non-fat CAN be used to lighten it up a bit, but feel free to use any kind)

Start by mixing up the cheesecake filling with the milk (the kind I used called for 1 1/2 cups of milk but check the box just to make sure). Stick the filling in the freezer, and while you’re waiting for it to set, break the graham crackers into quarters and lay them out on the plate or platter you’ll be using.

I also use this time to chop up the fruit I’ll be using as decoration. This is pretty much the most time-consuming part of making the dessert, and it really only takes about 10 minutes!

Once the cheesecake filling has set (give or take 10 minutes in the freezer), I put it in a sandwich bag and cut one corner off the bag to make a “pastry bag” of sorts. I then pipe the filling onto each cracker.

Last but not least, I top the cheesecake bites with fruit. For Labor Day I made a festive flag design using strawberries and blueberries. On the plain pieces without fruit I sprinkled a bit of graham cracker crumbs from the cheesecake mix just so they weren’t completely plain. This dessert is so fun and versatile, you could make it and decorate it for pretty much any event or holiday.

Just a few tips:

This DOES contain milk, so if you’re bringing it to a barbecue on a hot day, I would try to keep it refrigerated as long as possible.

The graham crackers can get soft if they stay too long in the refrigerator, so make these as close to consumption as possible (AKA this is not a make-the-night-before dessert).

WEIGHT LOSS WEDNESDAYS: EXERCISING WHEN YOU CAN’T GET TO THE GYM

 

I’m very good at coming up with “good” excuses as to why I can’t go to the gym to workout. I’m too tired after work. I had a late lunch and it’s too soon to exercise. I just walked the dog. It’s too late to go (which is extra silly since it’s a 24-hour gym). My point isn’t that I need to go to the gym more (although I do), but that you don’t need workout at the gym to get some exercise. There are a lot of other options you can choose to get your exercise in every day.

Take a Walk

The first and easiest option is to just go outside and walk. I take my dog for a walk every day, so I count that as 15-20 minutes of my exercise time for the day. Even if you don’t have a dog, you can just go outside and take a nice walk for half an hour or so. You don’t need any fancy shoes or gym equipment – you can just walk! It’s easy.

Go Back to School

Sometimes when I’m feeling motivated (yet not motivated enough to go to the gym to work out), I go to the school near our house. It has an outdoor track that I’ll walk/run on. Some schools may lock up their track or have rules about using it after hours, but I think for the most part it’s pretty easy to find a track you can run on. I even bring Petey with me sometimes. (He’s actually a pretty good runner for a little pug.) Most schools will also have outdoor jungle gym equipment you can make use of, such as pull-up bars, monkey bars, etc. Get creative and you can get a really good workout in!

Stay In

On the opposite end of the spectrum, why not stay home and try some indoors exercise? There are many good exercise programs now on DVD, such as Zumba, 8-minute abs, etc. Or if you don’t want to commit to buying something you might only use once, a lot of TV channels have exercise programs early in the morning that you can DVR (or do live if you’re an early riser). There are also a lot of good fitness programs for the Nintendo Wii and Xbox Kinect. We have a few, but unfortunately there’s not enough room in our living room to move around and do them.

I hope this has given you some new options for exercising. Do you have any other exercise ideas? What’s your favorite way to exercise outside of the gym?

EASY 4TH OF JULY DESSERT

I know I’m a little late on the 4th of July recipes bandwagon, but I promise this Fourth of July dessert recipe is so super fast and easy you don’t need much advanced preparation at all. In fact, I’m going to go so far as to say this is probably one of the easiest of any of the Fourth of July recipes you will find online. A grand claim, I know. But once you read through the recipe you’ll probably agree.

This patriotic red, white, and blue dessert requires the following ingredients:

  • one 10 ounce bag of chocolate chips
  • one 3 ounce package of cream cheese
  • sliced strawberries (or other red fruit of your choosing)
  • blueberries
  • sliced bananas
  • 25 graham cracker quarters (about 1/2 a box of graham crackers)

Start by melting your chocolate chips over a double boiler. You can use any kind of chocolate chips. I used Ghirardelli 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate baking chips, which I really think balanced well with the cream cheese and fresh fruit. Once the chocolate is melted, mix in the cream cheese until thoroughly combined. Place the chocolate/cream cheese mixture in the refrigerator to chill while you do the next step.

 

patriotic-strawberries

Scoop your chocolate/cream cheese mixture into a pastry bag (or if you’re thrifty like me, just use a ziploc bag with one corner cut off). Pipe a thick line of the mixture onto each graham cracker and top with assorted fruit.

 

That’s it! You’re done! So simple, right? It’s great if you’re in a hurry and need a July 4th dessert to bring to a picnic or a barbecue. Just prepared to see them go fast. Kids especially like them. My nephew ate five of them in one sitting and said they were the best “cookies” he’d ever had.

Have a safe and happy 4th of July!

Duck Mosaic Craft

You may or may not have noticed that I didn’t post anything for Father’s Day. Which doesn’t mean I forgot the holiday, it just means I was er… running a little behind. I actually did spend the day before Father’s Day with my dad. It was the day I went to the fair and won the Pillsbury Pie Championship with  my chicken and mushroom pie. It was really cool to be able to share the win with my dad that day, and hopefully it made up for the fact that his present was about two weeks late, haha.

A couple of months ago I asked my dad what his favorite craft on my website was, and he said it was my owl mosaic. I think it’s mainly his favorite because it was one of the very first crafts I put on my website, and it’s kind of what got me started with my blog. But I also hope it’s because it’s a pretty cool little concept. Basically I took a bunch of little foam counting blocks from the dollar store, painted them, and then made them into a mosaic.

This time I painted the foam blocks using acrylic paint and it worked out pretty well. The drying time was much faster, and it was easier to change the colors of the blocks if necessary. Sadly, I went to the dollar store and found out they were no longer selling the foam blocks that I used (thank goodness I had a bunch left over from the owl mosaic), so I’m not sure if I’m ever going to do this sort of mosaic craft again. However, I’m really pleased with how the duck craft turned out. I finished it off with a frame and a button for the eye and I FINALLY gave it to my dad two Sundays after Father’s Day. Better late than never, right?