Friday, August 26, 2011

How to: Mod Podge Tiles

Hola! Sorry to disappoint; no Sara update, just another craft how-to. Today, I will be creating, reviewing, and giving you fresh ideas for a craft already featured on another website.

Kristy from Light Refreshments Served created this awesome project simple, easy-to-do coasters that you can make for your friends and family. However, unlike Kristy, my family members are not coaster users. I don’t know why (actually there are three reasons; husband, daughter, dog) but everything in my house looks like it went through some type of tropical storm. Worrying about glass rings on the furniture would be akin to me approaching a homeless panhandler and telling him that he really should get that nasty little hangnail looked at.

So I went in to this project with some other ideas, mainly the possibility of making some sort of ceramic table top. And also wall hangings. I love scrapbook paper but I am the worst scrapbooker in the world. I am just really bad at projects that take long amounts of time to finish…so here was a nifty little reason for me to continue my addiction to scrapbook paper WITHOUT the pain in the arse of creating beautiful family memory keepsakes!

First off, a list of the things you will need:

• Ceramic tiles – you can get these as singles at any home improvement store. I did the 4 x 4 inch tiles but also considered doing smaller and larger for different projects.

• Mod Podge – you can buy this crafting glue at just about any craft store, generally in the glue or “things that you use for sticking” aisle.

• Scrapbook paper – OR cool ads you found in old magazines or old papers, etc. Also, I am toying with the idea for taking some of my own pictures and printing them out to see how that goes.

• Some type of glossy clear protective enamel spray paint – you will also find this at a home improvement store or places like Kmart.

• Little round felt pads (if you plan on making coasters).
• Foam brushes.
• Soap and water for clean up.
• Well ventilated place for enamel spray paint.

Let me say this took A LOT more mod podge (henceforth referred to as MP) action than I initially thought it would. You stick the scrapbook paper to the ceramic tile using MP. Then you also brush over it with MP and leave to dry. You do this MULTIPLE TIMES. The more you build up, the more protected the scrapbook paper is from peeling off the ceramic tile at a later date. After a few go rounds I thought it would be better to cut the paper down slightly so it doesn’t go all the way to the edge of the tile. This might be a useful technique especially since the tiles tend to be rounded on the edges. This means to get the paper to be ‘flush’ to the tile you essentially have to build the tile up with MP over time, covering the sides over and over again and waiting at least 15 minutes between drying sessions. On each go round you want to make sure you are using even coats of MP and don’t let anything (like all the free floating glitter in your craft room) accidently fall into it!

That is technically the only really intense step. After the tile dries (when it is no longer tacky to touch) you can spray it with the enamel. Glossy enamel will take a good deal of time to dry. The longer you let it dry, the better. In my house I have a built-in app timer called my husband who likes to sit there and remind me not to touch things that are drying with glossy enamel paint on them. If you don’t have this built-in appliance, you might want to look into downloading it.

Overall, this is a pretty easy craft as long as you don’t mind walking away from it and then re-starting throughout the day. MY next step was to take a little ugly table that my husband made from odds and ends (back when he was living in a single dirty room in the mountains, just waiting for the right woman to come along and clean up after him) sand it, paint it and give it a funky ceramic table top!

Behold ugly little table!

Much had to be done to this little table including the sanding and painting. I also had to cut and add molding that hid the plywood sides, and created a tray-like table top that defined a natural stop for the grout. Next time I will ask my husband to make an ugly little square table!

Grouting down the ceramic tiles was the part I was most worried about, as I wasn’t sure how well the MP and enamel would hold up to grout. But in the end it worked pretty well.

I recently pulled up our bathroom tile, which was just a lovely shade of baby poop blue in teeny tiny tiles that were prone to coming loose. I refinished the bathroom with large beige tiles, so I already had all of the stuff needed to complete this project.

In case you want to take the project this far you will need:
• Sponges.
• Thin set mortar and grout (you can buy both grout and thin set mortar, pre-
mixed, in smaller amounts in buckets it runs around $20).
• Grout laying tool.

I had to go through MANY lessons on tile laying from my built-in app (aka, husband). Lucky for me, when it comes to little table-like crafts like this project, he is a lot less anal and therefore it is a lot less complicated.

First, you layer thin set mortar on the top making sure to spread it evenly. Then you stick the tiles down however you want. I ended up cutting tiles to make corner pieces, and looking back event that wasn’t enough. I should have resigned myself to cutting more pieces to make the grout lines smaller but I had already ‘made’ the tiles and didn’t know how well they would cut with the paper, mp, and enamel. In the end I have really big grout lines that I had to sink glass into to give the grout something to adhere to because if the grout line is too big the grout will crumble and crack and oh dear god why do I know this?

The pieces I cut I did in the garage with a power toll BUT if you don’t have or aren’t comfortable doing that then mark up your pieces and take them back to the hardware store you bought them from, typically they will have a ceramic tile cutting machine and staff that can cut for you. Let the thin set and tiles cure for 24 hours and then grout the tiles with the grouting tool. Then use the sponge and clean the excess grout off of the tiles. Let it set for another 24 hours before you begin using it.

So there you have it. You can use this cute ceramic tile idea as coasters or you can use them as beautiful pieces for larger projects!

Out on the back porch!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Birthing Experience: 1st part of the upcoming series

You may have noticed P&P's last post was by my dear friend, Natalie (aka Zombie), who will be guest blogging with me. She is absolutely correct that with my pregnancy, I've become crazy about crafting. However, I must admit that I used to be a crazy crafter in my youth, even working at a quilting fabric store, a Michaels Store, and a Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts. And I'm not ashamed.

Or not that ashamed.

In addition to bringing you "How To" posts on fun crafts or reviews of children's toys/books/music, she and I will be starting a series on the birthing experience. I recently completed a prepared birth class, which gave me a lot of information, and I am eager to share the information from my prepared birth class with her actual experience. This series will lead up to my actual delivery.

The point of the series is to share and discuss how pregnancy and birth affects women differently. I would like to note that mothers of multiple births have told me that every pregnancy and birth is a different experience, so this exercise is not a comparison. There is no right way to handle pregnancy or delivery. We hope this is an interesting perspective on how vastly different this whole process can be! 

Following this week's class, I am now very excited to deliver and meet my baby in person. First, I don't think I do pregnancy well. While living in DC years ago, I remember seeing this beautiful woman in a short black dress and extreme high heels standing in front of me on the Metro escalator at the DuPont stop. She was with her husband and I could hear them talking about their date night plans. As she disembarked from the escalator, she turned, revealing this massive pregnant belly, which shocked me because no part of the rest of her looked pregnant. I thought and hoped I would be as sophisticated and stunning in my pregnancy.

Photo courtesy of
 My feet are so swollen I can't even dream of being in kitten heels. :(

Also, I whine a lot about my pregnancy. This baby needs to be born just to shut me up.

Second, there is a lot of unknown about the pain attached to labor and delivery. It's normal to be freaked out about pushing a bowling ball out of a vag. The class reinforced how difficult it is; however, the class reminded me that a baby will happen and there are many ways to manage the pain (even if you don't want to use medication). The instructor never let a moment pass without reminding expectant mothers that we have the deep instinctive energy and power to deliver a baby. It gave me a strong earth mother vibe.

She-Ra courtesy of One Hundred Days of Happy

Oh yeah. I'm going to be She-Ra in the delivery room! (Or not. Natalie has told me, "There are no heroes in the delivery room.") Granted, She-Ra is no earth mother but you get my drift. . .

Even if I'm not She-Ra, I will be stylish. I share the following with you.

Pretty Pushers (c) disposable delivery gown. has beautiful, easy-to-access gowns to modernize (or at least beautify) the delivery experience. The gowns retail for $28-22 and are disposable after use. You can purchase gowns directly from Pretty Pushers or via Styles include I dream of Mai Tais (the one I am getting), I dream of coffee, and I dream of sushi.

Sophie Gownie (c), by Baby Be Mine Maternity.
Baby Be Mine offers a hospital gown for that postpartum hospital recovery period. Continue to feel comfortable and beautiful while getting that much needed rest and check ups at the hospital. Easy back closures and a front flap that allows for quick breastfeeding access.  Retailing for $30-$50, you can order online from Baby Be Mine or Amazon.

Monday, August 15, 2011

How To: Bottle Brush Trees

Hi, I am Sara's friend Zombie (Natalie). If you know Sara then there are things you *know* about her personality…she likes to bite, she is a writer, and she is loyal to her collection of odds and ends friends. These things are intrinsic to her individuality and they shine through, or leave teeth marks, the first time you meet her. I am more than happy to be one of those friends she picked up along the way, like a particularly persistent STD, and she has been unable to shake me. Think of me as the herpes of friendship. Of course herpes is more than appropriate since I love to craft with glitter and every crafter knows glitter is the herpes of the craft room; once you have it, it never goes away. And fittingly glitter is exactly what Sara has invited me to talk about today!


Like Sara there are some things about me that you would learn within 15 minutes of meeting me; I LOVE Christmas (the holiday not the religion stuff) and the ‘retro’ ascetic, I have a two, almost three, year old, I have no artistic abilities and I LOVE glitter and crafting. You can see how all of these things might converge to create one very big, sticky, messy glittery two year old who snuck in to the ‘craft room’. That rarely happens anymore and even better it turns out you don’t need ANY artistic ability to do crafts…you just need some crafters glue and glitter and an unexplainable drive to make things shiny.

So today we are going to do just that! Our craft today? Wonderful Christmas glitter bombs of spectacular that you can hold in the palm of your hands…or you can just call this craft retro bottle brush trees. Bottle brush trees are the sort of stiff looking miniature trees you often see attached to putz houses or set up in groups of a dozen or so to create cute little vintagy scenes. If you find
one at a boutique or department store they often go for between 10 and 20 dollars a pop depending on size. I am here to tell you how you can accomplish the same look without breaking the bank!


First things first you’re gonna need a few things:
  • Crafters glue (the stuff in the gold bottle that your mom used to glue the glitter on to your Halloween costumes while she drank her gin and tonic)
  • Glitter (more on this later)
  • El cheapo little kid paint brushes
  • Bleach
  • Different size containers
  • Dye (tye dye kits or RIT dye from a craft store work well)
  • Sisal trees
  • Mardi gras beads
  • Scissors, towels, tongs, paper plates for clean up and glitter containment

Sisal trees are the sort of dark fake looking trees you can find at a craft or hobby store. You can typically get a pack of 12 for under 5 dollars depending on size. These trees are cool all on their own but you can give them a little more awesome just by doing a few simple things, and believe me if I can do this it must be simple.


First you need to bleach the trees. Just pour that bleach into a container big enough to immerse your whole tree (do as many as you want at once it doesn’t seem to change bleaching times) In just a few minutes you’ll see your tree losing color. Of course the longer you leave it in the whiter the tree will be and if you plan on doing white trees you might want to consider leaving the trees in for about a half an hour. Rinse the trees in some cold soapy water and let them air dry.


This is the perfect time to mix a drink, glitter crafts are always more fun when you are three sheets to the wind, they look better too.

Now it is time to dye your trees! I personally think RIT dye is slightly easier to use since you can buy it sans kit unlike tye dye. Your local craft store will have an aisle with t shirt making crap, applicaques, shirts, fabric pens etc. You can normally find RIT dye down this aisle. It comes in both a powdered form and liquid. I prefer the powdered because it is cheaper but if you married well or didn’t go into non-profit work then go for the stuff you don’t have to mix.

Put some water in a pot, put pot on stove, and turn on stove top to a simmer. Shake or squirt some dye into pot. That’s about it. Don’t bother asking how much, just eye it. Remember to be careful or wear gloves because RIT dye is a fabric dye and if you get it on your hands it will stain. If it does get on your hands and you don’t want to go with the smurf look wash immediately in cold water.


Dunk your trees in the dye. The longer you leave them in the deeper the color will be. If you like monochromatic groupings then do multiple trees in the same color for various lengths of time. Have a towel and an extraction device set up. I just use tongs and grab the suckers out and place them on the dish towel which of course will end up tye dyed so try not to use on of the heirloom dishtowels your great grandmother knitted together from pieces of lace.



Let these suckers dry for awhile… again a good time to get more to drink. In fact it would probably be best to get kersnookred because you might need to let the trees dry over night.
Once you are up and over your hangover I KNOW the first thing on your mind will be your forest of colorful trees awaiting their first snowfall.

Put some of your craft glue on a paper plate. Take your mardi gras beads and cut them apart. Dip a bead into the crafters glue and then nestle it in to your tree. Do this as much or as little as you like. When you get larger trees, like the twelve inch ones, you might want to consider using real ornaments that come in smaller sizes, or you can skip this step all together if you don’t want any ornament bling on your trees (fricken decorating novice).

Now you are ready for snow and by snow I mean “finally we are to the glitter part”. Glitter can mean many things. Take a trip down the glitter aisle at your craft store to see what I mean. You have all types of colors, sizes, price points etc. I have more than a few sitting around my "craft room" to choose from.

I have searched high and low for the type of glitter that they originally used in putz and bottle brush houses; unfortunately, glitter was mostly made from metal shavings back in the day while today it is mostly plastic. This means those special glitter flakes just aren’t around anymore. You can find things that look similar, or you can just go with white crystal-like glitter to simulate snow or get glitter with colors (I like Martha Stewarts’ glitter line, though I realize not everyone wants to drop $36 on a colorful set of glitters). You can also pay a little more and get glitters that are still made from different kinds of metals that will tarnish over the years, giving your trees a real honest to goodness vintage look. I use a combination of all above.

I normally put a paper plate down and apply glitter over the plate so it doesn’t go EVERYWHERE.

Use your brush to paint some crafters glue on to your tree. Shake as much or little glitter on to your tree as you like. Seriously that’s it. All this build up to the glitter and that’s all I got. Now just stand your tree up and let ‘er dry. When she is dry she will be stiffer to the touch than before. You may also want to shake her a little get any left over glitter out. (Which is what you have to do to Ke$ha every morning too. Ha.)

So there you have it, cute little bottle brush trees. If you want to embellish with snow clumps there are bottles of a thick paste like substance that you can buy and flick on to the trees in small amounts. For trees in the 6 inch and under size range though your glitter snow fall should be more than enough. You can essentially do 24 or more of these trees for around $10, the price of just one in a high fultuin’ fancy store.

A note about originality: I have none. I learned this craft from other crafters over time, with many different websites’ input.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

What's in your belly?

Yesterday, I received an email from my cousin in regards to my upcoming baby shower. It read:

BTW – I have always told R & M that babies come from God and that you go to the hospital to get them (like a special delivery!)  So if they ask you about your belly … please go along w/ my easy breezy explanation as much as possible.

Not me. Obviously. The hilarious Tina Fey.

My immediate response was to tell her we would direct any questions from her children to her or her husband. While I still think that is my best response, I started to develop other concerns as I talked about it with Panda. 

First, we're worried that we are being asked to lie about what is inside my belly. We definitely do not want to deny that a baby is in there. We believe that saying there is a baby in my belly is not in violation of my cousin's wishes. At least, we hope. We will still direct the children back to their parents, should their questions persist. 

Second, I developed (perhaps a slightly irrational) pregnancy anger. I feel a little silly about this, but I was/am upset that she is trying to change the tone of my baby shower. It's about my baby! A part of me thinks that if she can't talk to her children about the reality of a baby inside me, than she shouldn't bring them to the shower.

This is just the beginning of juggling other parents and how we should talk about bigger issues with our own children. My cousin's explanation is not one I would give to my child, and yet it's not wrong and completely her right to raise her children in the best way she knows how. 

Okay. Fine. But does this juggling have to start at my shower?

(I promise my next post will be on a lighter, less whiny note.)