Oh [Mini] Christmas Tree!

I absolutely LOVE Christmas, December, the Holidays, everything related to this time of year. Unfortunately, my family doesn’t feel the same excitement, so the past few years it’s fallen completely on me to bring the Christmas cheer to my house. I believe the last Christmas tree I put up was in 2013, but that’s also because I haven’t spent the holidays at home the past few years, so it didn’t make sense to put up a tree if I wouldn’t be here to light it/take care of it if it were real. Last year I hosted Friendsmas and tried to make up for the absence of a tree with the decor, which I think I got away with. This year, I will most likely not be home for Christmas or New Years, but I did want to have at least a bit of holiday cheer at home. Let’s get to work!

I bought a small white tree a few years ago when I was still working at an office to put up in my cubicle, and had mini ornaments in the colors that were “in” that year – purple, teal/blue, pink and green. I used that same tree last year at Friendsmas for the gift table so there was at least some semblance of the Christmas staple present, with a few red ornaments. This year, the obsession with rose gold has been extremely real, but my search for mini ornaments in that color had very little results… Until I remembered, “hey, I’m a crafter!” I found one set of mini ornaments from Target that were a metallic color scheme that included “caramel, silver, and gold,” and I decided let’s make this right. Since the pack was only $3, what did I have to lose?

I ordered the ornaments as well as a gold star topper online and went to pick them up at the store. I have gallons of rose gold paint at home working on items for my best friend’s bridal shower/bachelorette/wedding, so I needed nothing else. I got creative with my placement of the items to spray with color, and got to work! I let everything dry for about an hour before touching it, decorated my mini tree, and placed it on my kitchen table. Voila! A little bit of holiday cheer is here, and Mariah Carey is on all day. I love December ❤

Last but not least, I found this set of copper string lights at JoAnn that were down from $19.99 to $11.99, and now my little tree is properly LIT! 😉

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Making The Most Out of Late Gift-Giving

With Christmas just around the corner, this post might be very timely for you, so pay attention!

As I imagine it happens to many of us, the gift I ordered for my friend didn’t arrive in time for her birthday. We’ve all been there at one point or another – whether our fault or not – and it sucks. It happens to me a lot more frequently than I care to admit, and I’m working on it. Amazon Prime has made me overconfident to the point I think if I order a gift five minutes before I leave to the party I’m attending it’s going to arrive on time (and I’m not talking about Prime Now. #JustCrazy).

My friend’s birthday was December 2nd, but the gift didn’t arrive until today, December 5th. I didn’t notice the delivery estimate until after I’d placed the order, and I’m assuming Black Friday/Cyber Week orders trampled all deliveries. I didn’t want to be empty-handed since I’d actually see her ON her birthday, and I know I could’ve just told her what I got her or gotten her a card, but I wanted to make it a little extra special. So…

I got my friend a Fujifilm Instax Mini 9, that comes in a very unique and pretty color I thought she’d love. I looked up the packaging, and I decided that it would be cute to make a little imitation box. Do you remember in elementary school when they taught us how to make 3D cubes and other figures with construction paper? That training came in handy for this! I went over to my trusty PowerPoint, pulled some images from the interwebz and used shapes to create some tabs where I thought I’d be making the folds, and printed it out – #FixItMoment: I forgot to print on thick card stock, and printed on regular paper. Since I didn’t want to re-print, I just glued the paper to the card stock with a glue stick and called it a day. #ItsHandled. Also, since you can’t really gift a Polaroid camera without film, I got her a pack of black and white film to play with! Which also came in today… so that got a little cute box too.

So that’s it! If your gift is late, your friends and family will understand regardless, but going the extra mile so that you don’t show up empty-handed and getting them excited about what you got them in a cute way can always give you extra brownie points 😉

 

Making It vs. Buying It… What Gives?

The “why buy it for $7 when you can make it for $92 worth of craft supplies?” meme runs my life. I have a very hard time just buying something when I KNOW I can totally make it myself and it will turn out almost identical to the original. The satisfaction of seeing something made by me next to something that is produced elsewhere is so tempting, that I find myself having a dilemma on a weekly (if not daily) basis. “But isn’t it more expensive when you have to buy all the supplies and you probably won’t use all of it?” you say?? Nonsense.

My most recent and blatant example of the ridiculous journey I was about to embark on to make something instead of buying it was for my best friend’s bachelorette that I’m planning. The destination for the bach is New Orleans. Woot! What’s synonymous with Nola? Masks. Should I buy them? Honestly, even if I found really cheap masks, like at Walmart, they’re still not cheap enough to include in the bundle of items I’m making for the girls, and it’s a hard expense to justify. While browsing Pinterest for inspiration, I came across a pin that listed very easy instructions on how to make a mask with just puffy paint and tulle! Ooooooooo! Jackpot! What could be easier than making a mask out of puffy paint? In this particular instance, the paint and tulle I’d need would actually probably come out cheaper than buying the masks anywhere, so that part of the plan was solid. What wasn’t so solid was the amount of time it would take me to make the masks, which I was ultimately ok with, but after making one and trying it on, I knew there was a fundamental problem with them: puffy paint stretches, but only so much… I knew the masks would last 2.5 seconds before one of the ends snapped, and I didn’t want to be all proud and mighty giving the girls things I’d made myself, only to have them fall apart on Bourbon five minutes into the night. This is what the project was looking like:

After 3 puffy paint masks, I decided to take a look at Ali Express, and hoped to find something extremely cheap that would surpass the flimsiness of the puffy paint mask structure. Surprisingly, it didn’t take long to find really cute lace masks for really, really cheap. Like under $0.60 each cheap. I thought about it for all of 6 seconds when I immediately decided that in this case, buying was a no-brainer. My saving grace through this process was also that I began planning this practically before my friend even got engaged, so I’ve been doing things with plenty of time, and I didn’t have a problem placing an order for items that would take about a month to come in from abroad. With shipping, 13 masks came out to $11.04 dollars! Yes, all of them! TOTAL! I know.

Absolute steal, absolutely worth it, and unquestionably cheaper than buying all the materials you’d need to make the mask, which if you didn’t own, you’d need:

  • Big tube of Puffy Paint
  • Tulle
  • Parchment paper
  • Printout model of mask
  • Clips
  • Ribbon

As a crafter, I did of course have all those things in hand, so my expense to make the masks would’ve technically been zero, but realistically, that money had already been spent, and in this case, the outcome wouldn’t have been equal to or superior to the purchased product.

Today, buying wins!

5 Settings to Use on VSCO to Improve Your Pictures!

Hello shutterbugs! This post can be useful not only for product pictures but also for shots of humans and landscapes and really many types of photography! I’m a huge fan of the VSCO app for editing all kinds of images on my phone, and I’m going to share the top settings I play around with to get my pictures to look almost professional.

I remember when I first started taking pictures of my products for my Etsy shop, I thought I was killing the game, and now looking back I realize how lost I was. What helped? Things took a turn for the better once I took Hilary Rushford’s “Instagram With Intention” free online workshop, where she introduced us to VSCO (I’m a big advocate for taking any and all free seminars you see offered, there’s always something to learn and you have nothing to lose, especially when they’re free. If it just so happens that you like what you hear, you can subscribe or get a membership to keep getting useful content). Without any further ado, let me share the very basic but completely life-changing tips I learned from Hilary and immediately implemented to my picture-editing game. Let’s keep this interesting with a step by step example: pizza picture please!

  • Natural light: this is an obvious one for many (and not a VSCO setting, but I got you guys with a bonus later) but the perfect foundation for good pictures is to take them in natural light – aka, not being hit by direct/yellow light, but placed where it would receive a diffused, indirect “bath” of light. Check out this original shot of a yummy pizza in what looks like natural light. Nothing wrong with it, but it’s definitely not Instagram ready. Yet!

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  • Exposure: exposure is the vert first setting option, and it stands for the amount of light you want to add or remove from your picture, or how much light you’d want it “exposed” to. I usually move the dial to the right on average to +2-3.5 as shown in the picture, so that it looks like it was professionally lit, and that sometimes helps diminish imperfections as well. Play around with the button and always start off small, because there is such a thing as “overexposed” pictures. This is going to make the pizza look a little pale because there was already light, but the combination of edits is what does the magic.

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  • Contrast: the contrast feature strengthens the properties of each color, making the light tones lighter, and the dark tones darker. This one is also good to keep at +2-3.5.

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  • Saturation: saturation is here to make your colors look extra alive! Now, this one I’m super extra careful with, because it usually brings in a strong yellow/orange aura to the picture. So you can play around it and keep it around a +1.5-2.5. The pizza is ready to pop off the screen, but it almost looks like it was under a lamp light to stay warm. Not good yet!

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  • Temperature: to the left, to the left! The solution to most of your yellow/orange problems is to make the picture colors “cooler” in tone, so literally lowering the temperature will bring on the blue hues. Don’t go too far, just enough to see yellows turning white is perfect. A -1 or -2 usually does the trick.

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Now those are the ones I use pretty much for almost every picture edit, but not all pictures are created equal and there’s no one size fits all edit. These are not filters, these are enhancers that work under your guidance to get the tones jussssst right, on an individual basis. But this picture is not perfect yet. The light colors are now a little too light, and it has lost some of the detail. Since I’m more used to playing with the app now, I know exactly what to do next. In this case, I’m going over to the “Highlights” feature. I moved this one up to +10, but I really have no parameters for it since I seldom use it. See how now there are more spots in the cheese? All the colors garnered strength again.

 

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And now, our pizza is ready to get all the glory of Instagram and make your followers salivate. Let’s see the before and after, side by side. Shall we?

Now, the first picture almost makes it look like the pizza was in the oven for a little too long, but the second one literally has me ready to #TBT in real life and go back to that magical moment before having it.

Anywho, I’m no foodie blogger or expert picture taker, but I definitely saw a huge improvement in my pictures over time, and my feed got much, much prettier. The other secret for me has been the white background. That’s a product photography staple, and as much as I tried to fight it at first, it’s simply perfect. I hope these tips help elevate your picture game and if you have any suggestions on other features to use, please drop them in the comments below!

Halloween 2017 DIY – Two On The Run Costumes & Winter Is Here!

You know I’m ALL about the DIY life for Halloween costumes. Do you remember this one? I’m still super proud of those two costumes, but this year was a whole new ball game, on a much tighter deadline.

My bff wanted to keep it simple but cute, so she decided she wanted to be a unicorn, but like the chillest unicorn ever. Horn from amazon, and a shirt by yours truly that said “I’m a unicorn, DUH” for anyone who dared ask. Done.

Her sister went shopping for one idea, and changed her mind during the shopping trip. She came to me with a yellow shirt and some felt and wanted me to turn her into a pineapple. Done.

Cut up the shirt. Drew the peaks. Made a crown out of felt, a headband and some poster board scraps.

I had been thinking about my costume for a while, but decided to pull the trigger the week of Halloween. My red hair was finally in its full glory, and my Game of Thrones fever was (is!) as strong as ever. I also just happened to have a burgundy statement necklace and a newfound love for makeup. Melisandre, you’re up. DONE!

Red hair? Owned. Necklace? Owned. Makeup? Owned. Robe? $12 on Amazon.

And that’s all folks! Another DIY Halloween in the books. Start preparing early for 2018, for the night is dark and full of terrors and you don’t want to show up in the same costume as everyone else…

A Small Personalized Gift for the Best Dad Ever!

My dad is the best dad ever. Don’t @ me.

He got my brother and me tickets to go to El Clasico friendly game between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid in Miami. We were beyond ecstatic to go to the game and experience the energy of that match that NEVER gets old between two of the biggest franchises in the world, not to mention the opportunity to see players like Messi, Bale, Neymar, etc. live. It’s something not everyone gets to do, and we were so grateful to him for that awesome gift. The only problem? Our dad is a Real Madrid fan.

Just kidding. You’re free to love any team here on this blog, it’s a safe space for all ❤ Anywho, our dad was originally supposed to go to the game with us, but due to some unfortunate AF circumstances, he could no longer make it. We were heartbroken because of course, he got us this amazing gift and we wanted to enjoy it with him, and also, we got him a sick team jersey which I customized for him, and it would’ve been awesome for him to wear it at the match.

Some logistics info: all the teams change their clothing up every year. We were able to find a 2017-2018 season Real Madrid jersey for him, but we got it blank because he doesn’t really have a favorite player on the team, and he actually dislikes Cristiano Ronaldo (biggest fan contradiction ever, I know, but I LOVE it!). So, I decided that it would be cool to put our last name in the back of the jersey, that way he could sport it forever without worrying about players being traded or leaving (forever traumatized by LeBron James and Wade, what am I supposed to do with my Heat jerseys now?!)… Back to the team logistics – I couldn’t for the life of me find the 2017 font, so I had to settle for the 16-17 season one, but it still looked pretty good.

Once my dad was finally able to come see us, we gave him the jersey and he LOVED it!

Love you pa! Thanks again for the tickets to the game, and glad you loved your shirt ❤

Buying vs. Making: Concert Shirts for J. Cole!

Let’s talk about concerts for a minute, shall we? It has gotten truly ridiculously expensive to go see your favorite musician lately. Ticket prices + venue fees + parking/Uber cost + refreshments/food at the venue + artist memorabilia = where do I file for bankruptcy?! It’s a lot. When I was little, of course I’d beg my parents for the shirt or hat or bandana or keychain or any memento I could keep as a souvenir, but now as an adult, I dare not even glance over at the merchandise section.

I usually wear normal clothes to concerts, but as the date for the J.Cole concert in Orlando was approaching, my brother suggested I should make some shirts for us. I was super surprised he had this idea because 1. Neither he nor I are the type to do this and 2. I really hadn’t thought about making myself any artist-related clothing item for a concert, ever. But this was a cool moment for me, since my brother never asks me to make anything and I was so touched he wanted me to do it that I was 100% in.

When it comes to these things, I try to be as frugal as possible. If it’s not something I can see myself wearing often, I will not splurge on it. Plus, if it’s a DIY, it should be cheaper, right? Right. So, when it came to the Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV), I decided not to buy any, but make use of what I already had. No need to spend extra or go crazy with that. And for the shirts, since I had the experience with the ones I made for my Game of Thrones watch party, I knew I’d find something at Walmart. I found a black shirt for me for under $4, and even though my brother actually didn’t like any of the options there, he ended up finding a v-neck at TJ Maxx for $4 as well. With the amount of HTV I ended up using, each shirt basically came out to $6!

When it came time to design it, I wanted to have J.Cole’s face and hair silhouette which has become a big part of his brand, and also incorporate the crown from his Born Sinner album artwork. I ended up designing/cutting/putting it all together the same day of the concert because #ProcrastinationNation. And the crazy thing here was that since I was only using what I had, there was no room for error. Whatever I’d cut, it had to work. Because of the amount of each color I had, I decided that my brother would get Cole’s face silhouette, and I’d do my shirt with only the crown. I looooved how they turned out!

 

And here’s the best part of it all: during the concert, there was a lot of camera focus on the audience, and at some point my brother caught us on the jumbotron, BECAUSE he recognized the print on his shirt! It was so cool to see my shirts on the big screen, looking like official merch, but made by me :’)

 

Guess who’s never paying for merch ever again?!?