DIY Custom Party Banners

I was at Michelle‘s Nerdy 30 Birthday (actually, I was helping her get ready for it a couple days prior) and I realized she was asking her boyfriend to buy a custom banner for the party. I thought “WHAAAAAAAAAAAT?! THOSE EXIST?!” So yes, they exist. Their party had a wonderful foil banner that said “TALK NERDY TO ME” on it. Here’s a photo I stole from Michelle.

And that got me thinking about banners in general. Now, we’re not going to make one *quite* like this. Then at work (my previous job) a while later I saw a banner that said “WE ♥ VOLUNTEERS” and I inquired about it. Then I got to work.

You’ll need:
– some string or twine
– cardstock or posterboard of one colour (that contrasts with the wall)
– paper for the letters of another colour
– a hole punch (or clothespins. More on that later)
– 2 thumbtacks
– a glue stick
– scissors

First, you need to decide how long you want your banner to be, and which wall it’s going on. If you want to say “HAPPY BIRTHDAY AND MERRY CHRISTMAS AUNT MATILDA SORRY YOUR BIRTHDAY IS DECEMBER 25!” on a banner, you’ll be there with your gluestick a while. I suggest one word (Welcome, Farewell, etc) or “Happy 50th Matilda.”

Cut the rectangles out for how many letters you have, and don’t worry about the spaces between the words. I’ve always cut them so they have two points on the bottom. You can do triangles or circles as well if you’d like. Ensure they’re tall enough that you can secure them to the twine without obscuring the letter. In other words – leave a bit of space empty at the top.

Make the letters. If you have access to a stencil or a computer printer, I suggest using that and not making all the letters freehand. It adds considerable time to your project. I always seem to need a “W” and it takes me half an hour to make one.

Glue the letters onto the square pieces.

Punch two holes in the top of each square piece. Alternately, you can place the twine against the square piece and clothespin it on. You might want something thicker than twine if you go that route.

Thread the twine through the holes. When you put it on the wall, pull it taut enough that you can move the letters around freely to position them properly, but that they stay in place without all gathering in the 1

And finally, if you have a number of words, you can leave the spaces as spaces, or you can seperate them with the same thing you used to do the letters. I just used a  square here. photo 3

Voila. A quick(ish) decoration for any party or occasion. I made this one for a coworker’s birthday and she absolutely loved it.IMG_0577


Make Your Own Nailpolish

I’ve been painting my nails a lot more lately – I have a bit more time in the evenings, AND I’ve been cruising Instagram and Pinterest for ideas. I usually paint them something interesting and then promptly take it off and paint them something solid and boring. I’ve been making my own colours by mixing them in a bottle cap and painting with dollar store paintbrushes. The thing with that is that if you like it, or if you need to touch it up… you’re out of luck.

So I went on ebay and ordered five empty bottles for $4.99. They arrived at my door today and I went right to work mixing up a couple of colours. One worked out just as suspected, and one… not as much. I’ll share the former.

I have a greyish pink colour and wanted to see if I could make a light grey by combining it with white. THIS IS VERY BASIC CHEMISTRY, SARAH. Here’s what it looked like before shaking it up. Also, thanks to my sister in law for that killer box I’m using as a backdrop. It’s got a hinge in it and it was a bath product gift set. It’s been the perfect two-level box for my nail products. It turns out I couldn’t get the colour I wanted, so I had to add some black in there as well. When you put your colours in, make sure you have lots of room in the bottle to add more of one, or (apparently) third colour completely.

After shaking, a lot of shaking, I applied two coats to my nails. It’s pretty much the perfect colour, but because I combined different nailpolishes at different stages in their perfect-to-goop life, my new grey didn’t know what consistency it wanted to be. I like it though, far better than the opulescent blueblack that I created on my first go-round, although that one is still alright.

make your own nailpolish

Overall, I really liked doing this. Maybe because I’m a painter’s daughter, maybe because I’m annoyingly creative. The opportunity for screwing up your colour is very high, so I’m not sure how long 5 bottles will last me, or how I will clean them out completely if I mess up big time. I never use the nail polish before it goes goopy though, so if I end up wasting a bit here or there, I won’t be crying.

Whaddya think? Does this interest you? What colours would you like to (a) have for yourself, or (b) see me make? AND HELP ME NAME MY NEW COLOUR! As it stands I might be naming it “My Favourite Cardigan.” Let me know!

Grocery Shopping Organization

About 10 months ago, my husband and I took a step back and looked at our weekly dinners. And by dinners, I mean panic to nourish ourselves before we either pass out or hanger takes over. It was clear to us – we needed a plan.

Now, perhaps meal planning is for another post or series of posts. Or for a post that will never happen because I don’t have it figured out even a little bit. But one thing about meal planning is grocery shopping. OH THE GROCERY SHOPPING. Now, when writing things down on a list (even a segmented one), you still get quirks and whatnot with your local grocery store that your list doesn’t account for. Is the deli on the left or the right? Which entrance do you usually go in? Is the milk on the far far left or at the very back? If there’s one thing I hate, it’s walking back and forth across the grocery store to get the things I forgot, or missing an item on the list because I’ve scratched off everything around it. So I thought what I think when faced with most problems: there has got to be an app for this. And there was. There’s a free and paid version of the ShoppingList app (note: I am not affiliated with ShoppingList and this post was not sponsored in any way. Other than by the Coalition for Grocery Shopping Sanity) So I downloaded it and this is what I did –

1. Go to the grocery store and take a photo of every aisle sign – usually hanging in the middle of the aisle.
2. When you get home, take those photos and make them into categories in the ShoppingList app on your Apple device. The first category being where you START shopping (Deli or Fruit/Veg, usually) and the last category being where you finish shopping (Frozen).

Don’t use my categories, use the aisle signs you photographed. Also, if you shop at a few places, this is ok. Most of these things are often together, so it’s still better than a list scrawled on the back of a receipt. Use the store you shop at most often.

These are my categories – It’s important to enter them in in the ORDER YOU SEE THEM IN THE GROCERY STORE. Sorry, am I yelling?

  • Deli
  • Breads
  • Fruit/Veg
  • Bulk Bins
  • Candy/Crackers/Nuts
  • Baking/Pancakes/Spices
  • Soups/Canned Fr & Veg
  • Mexico/China/Rice/Sauces
  • Pasta/Oils/Sides/Tinned
  • Coffee/Tea/Juice packs
  • Meat & Fish
  • Chips/Pop
  • Cereals/Breakfast
  • Kleenex/TP/Pets
  • Cleaning/Laundry
  • Dairy
  • Pharmacy
  • Frozen

You can even break up the meat (if it’s at the end of the aisles) to illustrate which meat coincides with the end of which aisle, and make it into two or three separate categories.

When you put something into a category once, it remembers the category. On this example, I tapped the “Lemon” listing that I had previously put in, and it tells me I want the Fruit/Veg department and then I click save, or add, or whatever the button is that happens to be at the top. This example makes me look like an idiot, because obviously lemons are in the fruit/veg department, but you get what I’m trying to illustrate here.

So you put in all your items, and go off to the grocery store, jauntily strolling through the aisles with your mobile device in hand, loaded with an immaculately organized list, tapping the items as you go. This list below is a list I made specifically for Rockin’ Moroccan Stew – so I’d always know what we needed for it.

Then you can clear the done items as you get to the ends of the aisles. If you find something in a different aisle, you put it in the appropriate category and, next time you purchase that item, you know just where to find that damned lemon juice (note: NOT in the Fruit/Veg department) or elusive can of water chestnuts. No walking back and forth to get numerous different items.

And if you want your spouse to pick up a few things on the way home, you can send them a handily categorized list in their email so they can take advantage of your killer organization.

And just like that, saved from pulling my hair out, rushing around while hungry and trying to find those stupid items that you buy every two months and can never remember where to find them.

Easy and Cheap Paper Bag Princess Costume

How to make a Paper Bag Princess costume (from the Robert Munsch story) for next to nothing.I’m not sure how popular Robert Munsch is these days – if his books are timeless or just a fad from when I was a child. I’m sure all schools have probably banned his books because of his rocky personal life, but that’s a rant for another time.

I decided I wanted to be the Paper Bag Princess a couple years ago for Halloween, and boy, was it easy. And free. It probably won’t be free for you, but it will be cheap. I also did it again this year for the Blissdom Canada costume party. I built the crown a slightly different way this year, which was cheaper and easier.

Things you’ll need:

– a piece of gold foam paper (for the crown)
– a thin headband
– single hole punch
– a large leaf bag
– something to make your hair look ragged. I used hairspray, which worked for about 3 minutes and then my hair looked normal again. Maybe try some of that “Backcomb in a Bottle” stuff.
– packing tape

Depending on how scandalous you’d like your costume to be, you can add in tights and a tank/tee/long sleeved shirt of some kind for underneath. Also, you’re wearing a paper bag. Pretty much the flimsiest costume known to man. Keep that in mind when deciding what to wear under it.

1. Cut bag up one seam and across the top seam.
2. Turn inside out and apply packing tape to the inside and outside of the seam. This will hide the big logo that’s on the outside of the leaf bag. If yours doesn’t have one or you don’t care, skip along.
3. Cut a hole for your head.
4. Cut holes in the sides for your arms.
5. If you want to have it come in to fit your body in any kind of shape, I suggest using packing tape when it’s already on you, as your bag will not give at all like fabric does if you taper it in at the waist and it will rip while you put it on.
6. Make sure you reinforce a lot of the bag (bottom, seams, back end) with packing tape so it will withstand being worn.
7. Cut the bottom a bit to look somewhat frayed/tattered/abused

2. Cut your crown shape out of the gold foam paper ($2 at Michaels). Tall and skinny, with bobbles on the end. Ensure you’re working with the paper in PORTRAIT orientation, not landscape. You want it to be tall.

5. Curl it into a crown shape and secure it that way. Tape, staples, whatever.

6. Use a hole punch and punch a hole in each side of the crown and thread the headband through. Stick on your head.

Below is a photo from my 2010 costume, followed by a less-happy photo from my 2012 costume. I had been through a very traumatic fire, after all.

Congratulations, you’ve made a $7 costume and everyone will think you to be a genius.



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How to Dress Western When You Have Nothing Western to Wear

For new Calgarians, people visiting Calgary, those on a budget, or just really poor planners (the Stampede happens every year. It’s safe to plan for it in advance), the 10-day “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth” comes around and everyone panics. What do I wear?!

Well I, a seasoned Calgarian, (for a while longer anyway) am here to rescue you and show you how to use what’s in your closet to create a passable drug store cowboy look for your event. To help yourself out, go and buy a $1 bandana from the dollar store. But wash it first because the dye will rub off on your clothes. In any case, if you get called to an event last minute, these below items will be western enough so you’re not mocked, although they won’t win you any spirit awards.

Things that I’ll assume you have are a belt or two, a bandana, and some kind of other items in your wardrobe. I’m also assuming you’re a woman. If you’re a man, wear a button up shirt and jeans and call it a day. Click the photos to make them larger.

Button-up shirts
Most folks have one or two button-up shirts in their closets. Pull it out, iron it, and tuck it in to any pair of jeans. Ok, wait. Put it on first. Then tuck it in.  Roll the sleeves up to the elbow for extra points.Any white dress
Other than your wedding dress, slap a belt on any white dress that isn’t satin and you’re good to go.

Anything with ruffles
If you have a dress or shirt with ANY kind of ruffle on it, throw a belt over top or tuck it into your jeans.

Any denim
Red or yellow, black or white, any kind of denim taking any form will help you cruise to outfit completion in no time. Unless it’s a denim baseball cap. With mirrors.

Anything with any kind of pattern
Any pattern, any pattern at all here, folks. Tuck them into belted jeans or throw a belt over top.

That turquoise jewelery you bought on vacation.
Also works great with any wooden or red jewelery you might have.

Any leather or suede shoe or boot
Extra points for tan or brown.

Anything “native” inspired
Including anything with tassles or beading.

And you’ll fit right in at your last-minute Stampede event. But also, I cannot stress enough, that at the Stampede (and related events), you will be standing and/or walking A LOT. The most important thing is that you have shoes you can do that in and not end up in so much pain that you want to tear your body apart when you get home.

Like this post? Find me over here, you won’t be sorry!

Easy Wall Artwork

I’m not an artist. In fact I’m a procrastinator, as I am writing this post when I really have other things to be doing. Artistic things to be doing. But I came across this photo I took and wanted to share it.

Acting under a burst of initiative one evening, my husband and I put these three frames up on the wall, somehow managing to get them level with the measure-your-own Ikea-wire on the back.

But the frames were empty. We obviously wanted to fill them with photos, but didn’t know what. Our engagement photos would be good, our wedding photos too. But then we realized it would make us that couple. The couple who has nothing but photos of themselves all over their home. So there the frames sat, blank and alone; crying themselves to sleep each night.

And then I had an epiphany! The opening in the frames is 11.5×11.5 and scrapbooking paper is 12×12. I dragged out my book of scrapbooking paper I had purchased at Costco a few years ago and searched for a colour scheme that would look fine (high decoration standards, right here) with the blue/grey walls and our grass-green rug.

You see, scrapbooking paper-making companies often use the same colour scheme with various different patterns. And so I found my scheme, and selected my patterns – three of them – and threw them into the frames. And then we left it like that because we really liked it.


And as a bonus, I was out looking for throw pillows (read: something I didn’t know existed until I started dating Graham) to make the couch a happier place. I was looking for something with blue/green to now make the dining room and living room (all one room) look like they belong together. And I found, not only what I was looking for, but in a polka dotted pattern. Win.


Make Your Own Star Trek Pins

How to make your own Star Trek communicator pins for parties with spray paint, poster board and some pins.I know, right? From bedrooms to Star Trek pins. This post is actually long overdue. As well, I don’t know anything about Star Trek. Nothing. So I don’t even know what these mean, but they’re called Communicator Pins, so one can assume what they’re for. Alls I know is that I went to Michelle’s Nerdy 30 birthday party and she saw this idea on the interwebs somewhere for $10 a piece, and we decided they could be easily made, and so we did just that. They worked out really well (as well as paper pins can) and all the guests were required to wear them.  I give you – Star Trek Communicator Pins.

Step 1 is to draw the oval and the arrow part on the back of two separate pieces of construction paper. We used a piece of yellow poster board that was lying around. It worked well. You can also use foam sheets if you want to give them a bit more dimension. You draw the shapes on the back so when you paint it, you’ll still be able to see where to cut. You’ll need to have a backwards template for the arrow part. A detail we overlooked.

Then you take those babies to a well-ventilated area and spray paint the blank side. We had these cans kicking around from the wedding. I’m actually not sure where the silver came from, but that’s not important. The ovals are gold and the arrows are silver.

Your paper absolutely does not need to be shaped like that deformed silver crown on the ground there. Also, we put them on a large section of newspaper for the spraying. Let them dry for half an hour or so while you work on other things for your nerdy party, like brainstorming over which hashtag to use, for example.

Bring them inside, cut them out and glue them together. I suggest using something stronger than just a white glue stick. It worked, but the pieces had to be handled pretty carefully and a few broke apart at the party.

The last step is to put the pin on. Michelle bought a set of 50 pin backs that were pre-adhesed. Not a word, I know. We should have reinforced this adhesive, but it worked out ok. If you don’t find pre-adhesed pin backs, a glue gun is your best friend.

And voila! Star Trek Communicator Pins!