30 Minute Wetbag Tutorial

I’m kind of embarrassed that this project has been complete, with pictures and everything for almost a year… I don’t know what I was waiting for!  This is a pretty simple, small wetbag that works great for mamacloth, nail polish, toiletries or cosmetics.  You could of course do this on a larger scale for cloth diapers etc. although I have not done that. (If anyone has done it, maybe you can share the dimensions in the comments section.)  In mine, I use fused plastic bags as a liner (do a google search to find tons of tutorials on how to do this safely) but you can also use clear plastic, oilcloth, vinyl, or skip the lining altogether.  These make nice gifts, and they are sturdy and functional!  You can bust one of these out in about 30 minutes or so.

Materials needed:
Lining
Fabric
Zipper
Sewing Machine and Notions

First cut your fabric and lining into equal sized rectangles (choose your dimensions to fit whatever purpose you have in mind- this one is about 9″x13″).  Then lay your fabric on top of your lining, right sides together.

Pin the top and bottom in place.

Sew or serge the top and bottom, leaving the side edges raw.

Turn it right side out so the seams are hidden.

Pin the zipper to the edge of the  fabric right on the seam as shown in the picture- no turning or folding necessary, since the raw edges are hidden inside.  Sew along the edge with a 1/4″ seam allowance.  This is basically just a topstitch.

It will look like so!

Now fold up the other side and pin it to the other side of the zipper just like you did in the last step.  It might be a little easier to do this with the zipper unzipped.

Now go ahead and sew the remaining edge to the other side of the zipper.  You’ll probably need to fiddle with the zipper pull a bit- just move it when the sewing machine foot gets near it by zipping it past the foot while the needle is down.  That will keep the fabric from moving and messing up your stitching.  Then continue on to the end.  You now have a tube shape.

If you want a loop handle on the side of the wetbag, cut a piece of fabric into a rectangle about 8″x3″, and make a casing by folding it over on itself with right sides together, turn it right side out and topstitch both sides as in the picture above.  Set this aside for a minute.

Ok- back to the bag… now turn the bag-tube inside out, and pin the raw side edges together.

Take the handle you just made and place it between the two edges, right under the zipper.  So the loop will be poking back inside the bag.  Let the raw edges poke out a little so you can be sure to catch both sides when you sew it up.  The zipper should be completely unzipped.

Sew or serge up both sides.

The next part is optional, but I like it because it allows the bag to stand up on its own, and gives it a nice shape.  Starting at the top left picture above, going left to right, you’re going to pinch the corner, top to bottom, measure in from the corner about 1 inch, and mark a line perpendicular to the seam, about 2 inches long.  Sew along this line.  Repeat for the other side.

Turn your new wetback right side out!

Enjoy it from a few different angles, then go fill it up with… stuff!

Watermarking Your Blog Photos (After Publishing)

Photo watermarked after original publishing on blog

If you blog, and your blog is public to anyone on the web, you probably know that you should be watermarking your photos to offer them a bit of protection from… well… plagiarism.

But what if you’ve been blogging for years, and somehow watermarking just wasn’t a priority?  Now you’re looking at hundreds (at least) of photos that need watermarking.  It’s overwhelming and altogether impractical to think of going through and editing each and every photo and re-uploading it into each post.

That has been my dilemma for quite some time, but after Picnik went away (RIP, Picnik), Google integrated some of the Picnik functionality with Picasa Web Albums, and the result is that you can edit photos that were uploaded long ago, and they’ll be automatically updated on your blog (and any other blog that might be hotlinking your photos) without having to re-upload anything, if you save it correctly.  I’m going to show you how to do that.  The only downside is that there is no way to batch-edit that I am aware of- you have to pick and choose which photos are most important to watermark, and do them one at a time, a little at a time until you’ve finished them.

This tutorial is for bloggers who use Picasa Web Albums to host their images (i.e. instead of uploading photos from your computer straight into your blog post, the images are stored in Picasa Web Albums and embedded into the post by the URL generated by Picasa).  Also, I use Blogger, so I can’t speak for how well this works on WordPress or Typepad blogs, or for using a photo hosting site like Photobucket.  If anyone tries it with another photo hosting site or blogging platform, let me know, and I’ll post those results.

On to the tutorial:

Here is a screenshot from a post I did a couple of years ago, and I had not watermarked any of the photos.  I really didn’t feel like I needed to watermark each and every one, but I wanted to do the first photo, shown above, and the last photo, shown below.

First, I went into my web album where I was storing my photos for this post, and I selected this photo.

Second, I went into the “Actions” dropdown menu and clicked “Edit in Creative Kit”.

Once in the creative kit, I clicked text.

In the text box at the top left I typed in my blog URL and clicked the font I wanted to use, then clicked “Add”.

The text was added, and I had the opportunity to re-size it and choose the placement.  Then on the menu that pops up while the text is selected, I used the slide bar to select the amount of fade I wanted.  Depending on the colors and exposure in the picture, 40%-70% fade is the range that typically works the best.

Once the watermark is in place, click “Save to my album” in the top right corner, then when the “Confirm Photo Replace” popup comes up, you must click “Replace”.  Obviously, if you haven’t yet published the blog post, you could click “Save a new copy” if you wanted to preserve the original for some reason, but replacing the original is the only way to update the photo in your already- published post without re-uploading the photo and re-publishing the post.

Within a minute or two, the photo will be updated on the blog.

As I mentioned before, replacing the original photos with watermarked ones in this way will not only automatically update your own blog posts using those photos, but any other site which is hotlinking your photos (that is that they are displaying your photos by copying your photo URL and inserting it into their own post, or just straight out copying the html for your whole post… this will not work if they have copied your original photo to their own computer and uploaded it themselves) will be updated with the watermarked photos as well, hopefully regaining you some lost traffic.

I have to mention that watermarking is not the most foolproof way of protecting your photos, but it probably is the easiest and most time-efficient deterrent to photo- swiping.  I think when it comes down to it, nobody wants to be the photo/ blogging police- after all, most people are well intentioned, and/or perhaps aren’t up-to-date on their blogging etiquette.  In these circumstances, sometimes the best thing is to do… nothing (except watermark your photos- ha!).  Do you agree?  Disagree?

Tabdump Tuesday

Well, funnily enough, after my post on escaping household clutter, I realized that my computer is fairly cluttered.  I have to admit, I am pretty hard on my computer; I usually have anywhere from 3-7 programs open at a time, and my browser(s) usually have… um… dozens of tabs open collectively.  Pinterest has actually helped this somewhat, but not everything I am interested in is pin-able, or even pin-worthy.  So today is tabdump day!

Here’s what I have been reading/ musing over recently (in no particular order, and no implied endorsements):

Know Your Stuff (free online home inventory software for insurance purposes etc.)
Is Preeclampsia Preventable? YES! by Banned from Baby Showers
Eat Your Sunscreen? by Wellness Mama
My Brightest Diamond singing ‘I have never loved someone’ (a lovely lullaby)
Tutorial: Land of Nod inspired Floor Cushion by Living With Punks

Happy Tuesday!

Escaping the Clutter

I struggle with clutter.  Growing up, it took me years to realize why my dresser top and my shelves didn’t look tidy even after spending an hour “cleaning” them- or more accurately, re-arranging the knick- knacks and clutter on top of them.  I did eventually learn that cleaning was more than reorganizing a mess (without putting anything out of sight) and that the best look for my dresser was “bare, with 2 or 3 attractive accessories”.

My kitchen clutter “hot spot” (ala FlyLady)

These days I feel oppressed by clutter, stifled even, but still it accumulates… doo-dads in hidden nooks and crannies, baskets full of random items longing to be put away, and even stacks of mail and broken toys that dare to loiter in plain sight on my kitchen counters.  The clutter has become so much more offensive now that I am acquainted with the freedom of shiny, clear counters and dresser tops that imply endless possibilities.

Shiny dresser… ahh!

So what is a girl to do?  If only it were as simple as just putting all the clutter away…  Is anyone with me here?  A year ago or so I really got to work organizing and busting my clutter.  Don’t get me wrong, it is still an issue and I am working on it everyday, but when I realized that we were not going to be able to sell our condo (due to the economy) and move to a bigger home, I decided I was going to do what I could to be happy for as long as we end up needing to stay here.

Are you in a similar situation?  Have you reached a point where you know Something Must Be Done (!) or have you learned to embrace the clutter and just go with it?  Or maybe you are a champion homemaker and you don’t have this problem… (?)

I can’t promise that I can solve your clutter monster problem, but I can share what I did and what is starting to work for me.

Ack!  Another hot spot (office)

Here’s where I started: I looked at my clutter problem (which had me all antsy and irate about my perfectly lovely and comfortable condo, which we seemed to grow out of at an abominably quick rate) and decided to figure out what I could do based on where the clutter problems were coming from.  I think we can classify some clutter problems as “out of our control” issues and others, well, it is up to us to “take control”.

The “out of our control” issues:

  • Apartment/ condo/ home is too small; there just isn’t a “place for everything” 
  • Babies/ Toddlers/ Kids… need I say more?
  • Budget- to a degree, you have to work with what you’ve got as far as furniture, organizing materials, etc.

 The “need to take control” issues:

  • Tendencies to hoard certain items
  • Priorities- If you can’t stand the situation and there is something that can be done to improve it, then make it more important than browsing Pinterest, right?
A little closet organization never hurt anyone.

First, I addressed the “need to take control” issues.  I am not a hoarder per se, but I love a good recycling/ upcycling project, and sometimes I tend to get a little carried away in the materials collecting process.  There came a point that I had bags and bags of empty toilet paper rolls, boxes of glass bottles that I had washed and saved from various drinks or condiments, and containers of random pieces of junk that I “might use someday”.  I just had to realize that enough is enough.  I used quite a few of those toilet paper rolls for various projects, but when those were finished, I had to just be done with them, and recycle the rest.  Same with the glass bottles.  I went through all my craft materials and recycled, donated, or otherwise disposed of several huge bags worth of junk.  New rule for myself: I will not hoard craft supplies unless I have a clear plan of what I will be doing with them.  As for my priorities, I didn’t just try to organize the whole house in one day, I have been trying to pace myself a bit and work on one area at a time- and it is working, slowly but surely!

My crafting supplies (not counting sewing stuff) all fit in these bins (at least now they do)!

As a side note, one of my clutter problems stems from junk mail… half of it I can’t throw away because I feel like it needs to be shredded, so it accumulates.  Here is one solution I have found that seems to be working: Catalog Choice.  Just save your junk mail, go to their (free) website and enter the information they ask for for each catalog, and they will opt you out of mailings and name sharing. It’s pretty cool, and no, I didn’t get paid to tell you that!

Next, I got to looking at the “out of my control” issues and wondering if there really wasn’t anything I could do.  As it turns out, there really wasn’t anything I could do about moving to a bigger home yet, but I could rent a small storage unit and fill it with as much rarely-used stuff as I could possibly squish into it.  So I did, and that made a huge difference in how spacious my home felt.  Crib?  Gone.  Changing table?  Gone.  Unused furniture?  Gone.  Boxes of baby clothes too small for my kids?  Gone.  During this whole process I had to really ask myself “Do I want to pay to store this for x number of years?” each time I put something in a box to go to storage.  Consequently, I donated or tossed a lot of stuff here too.

Cheap shelf and baskets that add storage to our guest bathroom.

As for the kids?  Yeah, nothing I can do about the constant messes they make, but I did what I could to organize their toys, and I try to hold them accountable for at least picking up all the toys in the front room before going to bed (at a minimum).  Last week I changed my routine for the morning, so that we all do some cleaning together.  I have my 2 and 3 year old sons picking up items and running around the house putting them away.  They help me clean every room in the house, put away laundry, throw garbage out, and pick up their toys.  I pay them (mostly pennies and nickels) for each task they do, and they love putting the coins in their money jars through a little slot I cut in the lid (originally a small plastic peanut butter jar).  Last weekend I was shocked to realize that every single part of my house was decently clean- not perfect- but acceptable.  Today is more of the same.  It is because of this little routine change that we have implemented.

Now the budget was a tricky one, but I got my husband on board with me and we made a list in a spreadsheet of all the items we wanted or felt like we needed to make our home more comfortable.  That list includes things like smaller furniture for certain rooms, organizational materials like storage containers, shelving, paint, and a few home improvements that would add storage space.  We save our money and try to check a couple of things off the purchase list each month.

It is working!  I think I am always going to have to be mindful of clutter and work to keep it at bay, but for the first time in my life I am starting to feel like I am going to be able to conquer it!

What have you done to combat clutter from taking over your home?  Changed routines?   Are you a pro?  Still working on it?  I’d love to hear what you’re doing!

A Peek into the Master Bedroom

About 2 1/2 years ago I started  dreaming, planning, and saving money for my “dream bedroom”.  I was bored with my room and it felt really cluttered, so I didn’t like being in there (I am a recovering packrat).  I made a goal to make my bedroom into a haven, a place of peace and beauty.  I still have a few details I would like to add, but it is almost there, so I am going to show you the progress!

The first year I updated linens- my bedspread, pillows, the whole nine yards.  The set I got came with sheer curtain panels and several small valences that didn’t fit my window, so I cut one up and lengthened another, sewing the sheers to the bottom of the valance to make them longer.  With the scraps, I made the fabric- covered- Styrofoam wall hangings you see above the bed.  Then, when I made my faux- metal wall art for my front room, I made a couple small ones with the extra materials to hang on either side of the styrofoam wall hangings.

Later, I spray painted the red vase black (you can’t really see it in the first picture, but it was on my dresser) along with a few other things.  My room was starting to feel more cohesive, but I knew I wasn’t done yet.

What I really wanted was grown-up furniture.  A few months ago, the timing was right- some savings, a tax return and a steal of a deal on a discontinued bedroom set at a local furniture store, and I had the furniture of my dreams!

The drawers in the bed frame are one of the things that “sold” me.

 

Only one problem… the new bed was king size.  Why was that a problem, you ask?  I was still totally in love with my bedding, and it was discontinued, which meant that it would be impossible to get the king size version, plus I didn’t really want to pay for it again.  So, I just decided to make it work.  I turned the comforter sideways and folded the top down and called it good.  If you look closely, you can see that the edges on the side are not quite long enough, but it’s good enough for me.  Plus now I can just keep the same curtains and everything.

As far as accessorizing, I mostly just used what I had already, with a few minor changes, like putting the frame on an easel that I had been using for a different picture, and connecting my faux- metal wall art.

I did buy one accessory, and that was the big wedding photo- I ordered a high quality print (we are lucky in that we have the digital copies of all our wedding photos) and bought a $20 frame at IKEA to hang it in, and I think it turned out great.

I really love this picture and I felt like it fit in well in my room, so I brought in it from the office.  It has hanging on it the pearly beaded headpiece (made with love by my mom) which I wore in my hair with my veil.  I’m sentimental like that. :-)

I did keep one of the styrofoam wall hangings; I hung it up by my door, but you may have noticed that the wall space on either side of the bed is now empty.  That is the part that is yet to be finished, and I am still debating what to do (any suggestions?).

Anyway, every time I walk in my room now it finally feels like a beautiful, peaceful haven, and so from my perspective it was totally worth all the effort.  It might even be my favorite room in the house now.  All the other rooms are getting a little jealous, but we’ll just take it one bedroom at a time, as the budget allows.

Do you have a favorite room in the house?  Why is it your favorite?

Rotating Toy System

My alternate title for this post was “Preventing the ‘I’m tired of all my toys’ problem”.  Not a great title, but accurate, and descriptive, nonetheless.  Those of you with toddlers know the feeling I’m sure: it doesn’t matter how many wonderful, educational, brightly colored, amazing toys with bells and whistles you get; after a few minutes, all your kid’s toys are boring to them and they are fascinated with trying to get into the knives in the kitchen.  Or rifling through your personal hygiene drawer >ahem<.  Or worse, playing in the garbage or toilet.  Anything off limits is nearly impossible to deter them from, because their toys hold no interest for them any longer.

'Playroom' photo (c) 2006, Elizabeth - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

After a fairly difficult day/ days (think along the lines of a cup of water poured on the couch, box of cereal dumped on the floor, re-rolling the toilet paper, pulling my son off of the entertainment center 5 times, fishing a sock out of the toilet, marker all over the walls, and a few tantrums) I decided I needed to change something.  I was tired of trying to coax my son to play with his toys.  I was tired of picking all the toys up off our tiny living room floor several times a day (scattering toys evenly around the whole room was apparently the only interesting thing to do with them, and when the only room available for your kids’ toys is the front room, you may or may not live in constant fear of someone coming to the door and seeing the awful state of your home).  I was tired of feeling like I had nowhere to put our ever- increasing collection of children’s playthings.

I had a couple of under- bed and cheapo stacking storage containers which I proceeded to fill with almost all of the toys.  (The under- bed containers fit nicely under the bunk beds, or stack up well on the high shelf in the closet, and the other bins just barely fit in the closet.)  I left a few things out for my kids to play with, but everything else was g-o-n-e.  Ahhhhhh. What relief, what peace!

Today, the toys that are out have labeled zipper bags so scattering them isn’t as easy as it once was.  As we get more toys, I get more storage bins.  Yes, it sounds sad, but actually it isn’t.  I either use clear bins or put labels on the outsides of the bins so I don’t forget what we have.  There are some toys that stay out pretty much all the time (like the bag of matchbox and oversize cars), but we rotate what is out when the kids start to get tired of their toys and start getting into mischief.  I try to have just 2 or 3 bigger toys out, and a few smaller toys.

I am not going to say that it is a perfect system, that my house is immaculate, or that my kids always love playing with their toys and not the toilet.  But it has definitely helped, and it has probably saved my sanity.  One day I would love to have a kid’s “playroom” that the toys can be more accessible in, but for now, this is what works for me.

Do you have a great idea about toy storage or helping your child enjoy their toys?  Share it in a comment below (please!) and let us all benefit from it!

Toilet Paper Roll Saver

DSC_0177

Got small children? Got pets?

Source: http://imgfave.com/view/1637210

If you just can’t stand the toilet paper being completely unwound one more time, then this project just might be for you!  >Insert crazy laugh here<

My three year old and 20 month old are usually pretty good about leaving the toilet paper alone, but they have each independently unrolled entire rolls of TP, shredded quite a bit of TP all over the floor together, and even dropped whole rolls in the toilet.  I was going nuts one day… well, ok, not just one day, but eventually I just had to come up with a quick solution or completely lose it.  I have seen contraptions like this online, which I’m sure are awesome but I didn’t want to spend $10 or wait a week for it to arrive.  So, I came up with my own version.  It was fast, and cheap (even if you count the whole pack of dowels and beads, which I don’t).

This TP Saver is easy for adults to unfasten, and not so easy for little fingers and paws to undo.  The elastic enables you to use this solution for any size TP roll, whether it is a full or partial roll.  Ready?  Go!

Toilet Paper Roll Saver

Materials needed:

  • Button hole elastic (white is best, and in a pinch, just use regular elastic and cut your own slits)
  • Sewing machine and thread
  • 1 Wooden dowel (3/8″ works well)
  • 2 Wooden beads with a hole the same diameter as the dowel (I found these at Hobby Lobby)
  • Miter saw or something to cut the dowel down to size with
  • Hot glue gun
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Paint (optional)

 

First, prepare the elastic.
Measure the elastic and cut it to 8 1/2 inches long.  Make sure to leave extra elastic beyond the button holes on each end (meaning: don’t make your cuts right in the middle of a button hole).

On one end, carefully cut straight down the middle of the elastic to join two button holes.

Repeat this for the next two button holes so your elastic looks like the picture below.

Fold the end of the elastic over onto itself so that the two large button holes you just made are lined up.  Pin the elastic in place.  The two purple lines below show where the stitches will need to go in the next step- they aren’t necessary for you to draw if you don’t want to.

Sew a zig- zag stitch on either side of the large buttonhole, as marked in purple.

Next, prepare the dowel.
Cut the wooden dowel to 6 1/4 inches long.  If you want to paint it to match your bathroom fixtures or colors, now is the time.  Remember to also paint the beads.  You’ll have to add dry time- or just skip painting it and go au naturel.

Grab your elastic band…

…and poke the dowel through the small hole in the elastic at the opposite end from the large button hole.  Make sure that later on, when you glue this end of the elastic down, the side of the large button hole with the raw edge will be facing in towards the TP.  It’s not a huge deal, but it will look better.

Put some hot glue on the end of the dowel and slide a bead on.

Dab a little glue on the bead and glue the end of the elastic in place.

You’re done!  Really, that’s it.  The only thing left to do is “install” it!


“Installation”
You can leave the toilet paper in the holder- no need to take it all apart.

Just push your TP Saver through the tube, with the glued- on elastic- end furthest away from the toilet.

Pull the elastic out and wrap it around the outside of the toilet paper.  You want the side that fastens to be facing the toilet- trust me.

Hook the large button hole over the bead.  Done!  (This is what I meant before about it looking nicer if the raw edge of the elastic isn’t showing on this side- you really can’t tell it’s there.)

Let’s not have any more crazy toilet paper messes, alright?!

What is the worst thing your kids/ pets have ever done with toilet paper?!

Pinteresting

A few months ago I jumped on the Pinterest bandwagon.  Like everyone else, I’m hooked, but what a way to surround myself with beautiful things!  Many of you are probably already using Pinterest, but for those that aren’t, and wonder what it’s all about, it is basically an online catalogue of things you like.  You bookmark, or “pin” things onto your designated pinboards, and then it is accessible from anywhere.

No more worries about that project link you bookmarked on your browser, with no way to retrieve it (and at that critical moment when you’re away from home, trying to show your crafting buddies just what you’re talking about).  You “follow” other pinners and get a picture feed of what’s most popular in any given category (fashion, DIY, sewing, decorating, photography, humor, etc.) and when you find something new and amazing, you “pin” it with the pin marklet button that you download onto your toolbar.  I’ll be honest… it’s definitely habit forming (as if anyone needed more reasons to waste time on the internet).  But if you like crafty and DIY projects, it is a mine of creative deliciousness.

Need proof?  Here’s my “Baking Lovelies” pinboard (doesn’t it just make you want to jump up and preheat the oven?)

And this is my “printables” board where I keep track of all the awesome graphics people share for free personal use.

A girl’s gotta have dreams, right?  So I’ve pinned myself a virtual luxury home under “my someday home”.

A cool feature of Pinterest is that if you want to follow only selected boards of a pinner, you can follow only those boards you’re interested in, and skip the rest.  Also, you can invite friends on Pinterest to collaborate with you on specific boards. Now, if you’re a curious sort, and wonder how many people are following your specific boards (not just your total number of followers, but how many people are following your board “Best crafting “mistakes” in the universe”), you can tell by clicking on the board and checking on the top right.  Below is an example.

“Sensational Centerpieces” is a pinboard I started a couple weeks ago when I was brainstorming for the centerpiece for the luncheon honoring women battling breast cancer which I posted about earlier this week.  As you can see on the left, Marissa and I are the contributors, and on the right, 42 people started following this particular pinboard.

So you found something you want to remember on a website?  Pin it.  Decide on the picture you want to pin to remember what the web page is.  Make sure you aren’t just on the general web or blog home page, but on the specific page for that post.

Now, here is a little optional tip that speeds things up a bit- highlight the text of the title, or some explanation that is already listed next to the picture (see below).

Click the “Pin It” button on your toolbar…

…and whatever you highlighted will show up in the description box.  You can of course skip the highlighting step and just type in whatever description you want, but this makes it go a little faster.  You choose your pinboard and click the red “Pin It” box and you’re done!

Do you have a Pinterest account?  What do you like most about it?  What drives you crazy?
(Want to follow me on Pinterest?  Click the red button on my sidebar.  Don’t have an account and would like an invite?  Email me at rochelle@homesweethomebodies.net)