Recycled Soda Can Luminary

can-lantern-finished-project

As a member of Lowe’s Creative Ideas Network I received gift cards from Lowe’s in order to purchase supplies to complete projects. All opinions are my own.

September is a beautiful time of year to be outside at all hours. If you have a nice patio, it’s the perfect season to have an evening dinner party with friends or familia – but what’s a patio dinner party without a little mood lighting? Luminaries hung on a string or from trees can be so pretty. Here’s a method for making little lanterns out of recycled soda cans.

Do-it-Yourself Recycled Soda Can Luminary

What you need:

empty soda cans
x-acto knife
paper towels
screwdriver
string or wire
tealights (I highly recommend battery-operated tealights to ensure there’s no fire hazard)

Note: I do not consider this a safe craft for kids. The x-acto knife is obviously sharp but so is the soda can once it’s cut. Please be very careful.

Directions:

can-project-cans

1. Fill empty soda cans a little more than 3/4 of the way with water. Place in the freezer for a few hours, until water inside has frozen. Do not leave any longer than necessary as the water will expand and the can will bust and become unusable.

can-project-fill-w-water

2. Take the can out of the freezer and place on top of a few paper towels. Being extremely careful, use the x-acto knife to cut slits in the can as shown. The lines must be elongated ‘S’ shapes. Do not cut straight lines or it won’t turn out right. The more slits you make, the more intricate the design will be. You need at least 8.

can-project-S-shape-cuts

3. Use warm water to melt the ice inside the soda can, (or allow to melt in the sink.) Gently shake dry.

4. Insert the screwdriver into the inside of the can and use it to push the strips outward. Gently push down on the top of the can to help push them out. Take your time and work at the strips until they’re rounded and look nice.

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can-project-round-it-out

can-project-top-view

5. Pull the tab of the soda can up, being careful not to snap it off. Tie a string or bit of wire to it as a hanger or run a length of string through several lanterns to hang.

6. Being careful not to cut your fingers, insert a tealight inside. (Battery operated highly recommended.)

can-project-with-battery-light

soda-can-lantern

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No Tengo Sueños, Tengo Metas.

desk-before

As a member of Lowe’s Creative Ideas Network I received gift cards from Lowe’s in order to purchase supplies to complete projects. All opinions are my own.

The title of this post comes from a quote my oldest son loves. The other day at dinner he was talking about all his plans for the future. He’s an ambitious, goal-oriented, Type-A sort of guy; he’s had it all mapped out for years. He wants a career in aerospace engineering. He’s been taking AP classes since his Sophomore year of high school, he’s an honor student, he’s a member of the Science National Honor Society and other academic clubs, he keeps a folder of colleges he’s interested in applying to. He’s a driven kid who pushes himself hard, and in a few weeks he’ll be starting his Junior year of high school – a very important year academically.

His little brother, our younger son, is also an honor student, but personality-wise he’s the opposite. He’s a happy-go-lucky laid back sort of fellow. Things just seem to fall into place for him so he doesn’t tend to plan too far ahead – He enjoys the moment and doesn’t worry. If he had a theme song, it would be Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds, because in his mind, “every little thing is gonna be alright.”

So at dinner the other night, when our older son was talking about all his plans to conquer the world, his younger brother responded, “Well, I guess it’s good to have dreams. Maybe they’ll come true.” Our older son put his fork down and stared his little brother down. “I don’t have DREAMS,” he said, “I have GOALS.”

“Wow, that’s a good quote,” I said.

Carlos had zoned out. He was enjoying his panes con pollo.
“What’s a good quote?” he asked.

“No tengo sueños, tengo metas,” I answered in Spanish, so he could feel the depth of the quote.

“Wow. That is a good quote,” he said.

Carlos and I have done everything we can to support our boys in whatever they want to accomplish. A few weeks ago that meant lugging home a new desk for our older son even though we just bought him one last year. The problem with the old desk was one of size – it was just too small to accommodate the way he works. The new desk helped him spread out, but as you can see in the photo at the top of the post, he still needed a little help clearing space. Despite appearances he can be really organized, but when he’s in the middle of working on homework or projects it doesn’t look that way.

When Lowe’s said the August theme would be “Back-to-School” organization, I knew I’d be helping our older son organize his “office” area, as he calls it, but I wasn’t sure how. It took hours of walking around Lowe’s before I stumbled upon a creative idea and an easy solution all in one.

caddy-1

This is a shower caddy, designed to hang over the shower head and hold shampoo bottles, soap, razors, washcloths, and things of that nature – but what if I hung it on the wall instead?

caddy-organization-1

I easily moved the majority of the clutter off the desk and into the caddy. I just put a screw in the wall and hung it on there and it’s super sturdy. On the top shelf, I placed a few binders and folders. On the middle shelf there was plenty of room for cans of pencils and other office supplies. More little office supplies fit nicely on the bottom shelf, but my favorite use for the shower caddy for office organization is this:

type-up-notes

The bottom rung which is designed for hanging washcloths, is perfect to clip up notes which need to be typed up with the simple addition of two binder clips! This worked out so well I may have to go buy two more to install at my own desk and my younger son’s desk.

I think my boys are ready for back-to-school!

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Do-it-Yourself: Tabletop Fútbol Playset

Do it Yourself Tabletop Fútbol Playset

As a member of Lowe’s Creative Ideas Network I received gift cards from Lowe’s in order to purchase supplies to complete projects. All opinions are my own.

Summertime is a time for outdoor activity, but during the inevitable thunderstorms and unbearably hot days when you prefer to stay comfortable in the air conditioning, you may need a quiet indoor activity to keep the niños occupied and happy. Here’s a fun, simple, do-it-yourself soccer playset with little peg people players you can make for the kids with just a few supplies!

DIY Tabletop Soccer Playset

Tabletop Fútbol Playset

You’ll need:

Cardboard (Lowe’s sells moving boxes if you don’t have any on hand)
Artificial turf
Scissors
Paint in various colors, including white (you can use craft paint or Lowe’s paint sample sizes)
Craft size paint brushes
Hot glue gun, glue sticks
Ruler or yardstick (if you like to be precise, but not necessary)
Wooden peg dolls (available in the “Hobby” drawer in the Hardware section of Lowe’s)
A small wooden sphere (also in the “Hobby” drawer)
Pencil
Painter’s tape (optional)

Note: You’ll find the artificial turf in Lowe’s in the area where carpet is sold on large rolls and cut by an associate. You will actually get a lot even if you buy the minimum they allow because they have to sell you the length of the roll. It rolls up tiny though! It’s easy to take home and cut smaller.

Directions:

1. Cut the artificial turf to the desired length – this will be the soccer pitch. Mine was already 16 inches wide, and I cut it off the roll so that it was 21 inches x 16 inches.

2. Put the turf on top of the cardboard. Use a pencil to trace around it. Cut the cardboard out – this will be the base for the turf to make it more sturdy.

3. Hot glue the turf to the cardboard. Use a generous amount of hot glue and work in small sections at a time to ensure it adheres well.

4. To kind of “seal” the edges of the turf and keep it from fraying, you can apply a little hot glue to the edges as well.

5. Use white paint and a small craft brush to paint the markings on the pitch. (Here’s one you can use for guidance.) You can use a ruler or yardstick to measure these lines precisely and painter’s tape to guide your brush in a straight line, or you can do it freehand, just kind of estimating. For rounded shapes, look around your house for something to paint around – plastic cups and bowls work well. (If you get paint on them, just wash them off as soon as possible.)

DIY Tabletop Soccer Playset

6. Now for the really fun part! Choose the two teams you want to create, and paint the little wooden peg dolls to resemble them. I found that 5 players per team was sufficient, but if you want to be accurate you’ll need 11 per team. I chose the United States and Mexico. You can invent uniforms and players if you wish, (I even made one of the Mexican players a female. Why not? It’s your playset! Get creative!) Don’t forget to paint a wooden sphere as the ball, too!

Tips: Painter’s tape comes in handy for straight lines when painting uniforms. Also, you can paint your players however you want, but if I were to do it again, I think I’d keep the face simple with just tiny black dots for eyes and no mouth. In my opinion, the more detailed eyes and smiles make them look a little creepy, (but I have a slight doll phobia, so don’t listen to me.)

Team USA soccer player dolls
(Hmmm, which one could be Tim Howard?)

Mexican soccer players dolls
(Chicharito is smiling on the far right.)

Once the players, ball, and paint on the pitch are dry, time to let the niños have a little fun.

DIY Tabletop Soccer Playset

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A Garden for la Virgen de Guadalupe

The garden before we fixed it up.

The garden before we fixed it up.

As a member of Lowe’s Creative Ideas Network I received gift cards from Lowe’s in order to purchase supplies to complete projects. All opinions are my own.

Many years ago my suegra brought a very large statue of the Virgen de Guadalupe into our household. At the time I wasn’t happy about it because it was extremely large and she expected us to display it in the middle of our small living room. We ended up putting the statue in a garden on the side of our house, and that’s where it’s been ever since.

Over the years Carlos and I both became fond of the statue, (although we’re happy with its outdoor location and don’t regret putting it there) and this year we decided we should give a little more care to the neglected garden we put her in.

virgin-garden-BEFORE-2

I spent hours at Lowe’s trying to decide what I wanted to plant in the garden. We knew we needed top soil, so that went onto the cart first, but then I took forever choosing flowers.

Roses seemed a logical choice because of the story of the Virgen de Guadalupe, but I was a little intimidated by the thought of caring for them. It’s been a couple months now since we planted the roses though, and I have to say, they really haven’t been difficult. If you’ve always wanted to plant roses but have been worried you’ll kill them, I recommend buying some and giving it a try.

Carlos says I have a “good hand” with the plants, (that’s a direct translation of “buena mano” in Spanish – which is like saying someone has a green thumb), but it isn’t true. I’m not a great gardener and I’ve had things die before – a lot of the time I think I just get lucky, but really, the roses haven’t been a challenge at all.

Besides the roses, I thought it would be nice to plant rosemary. I love the smell of rosemary and the way the herb looks – but planting the rosemary was also symbolic. During the Salvadoran civil war, there was a Catholic archbishop named Oscar Romero. He was an outspoken defender of the people and it ended up costing him his life. “Romero” is how you say “rosemary” in Spanish.

For added color I chose some heather and snapdragons. Finally! All done and ready to get to work, right? Not quite. As we were getting ready to head to the check-out, a big spiky plant caught my eye.

“This looks kind of like Flor de Izote,” I said, calling Carlos over. Carlos inspected it. “It is,” he said, “That’s Flor de Izote.”

Flor de Izote! The national flower of El Salvador.

Flor de Izote! The national flower of El Salvador.

I checked the tag on the plant, (carefully because the leaves are very sharp!) and it was labeled “Variegated Spanish Dagger.” A quick check of the internet via my smartphone, and I found that these most likely are the same plant, or at least are closely related. (Any botanists out there who can verify?)

Flor de Izote went onto the cart. Instead of planting the Flor de Izote directly in the ground, I thought it would be nice to have it in a pot. Luckily, I spotted these beautiful pots made in Mexico. We hurried out of Lowe’s before I bought enough plants to rival the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C.

pots-at-lowes-for-gardening

Back at home, we unloaded the supplies and got down to work.

lowes-garden-supplies

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I don’t have any fancy step-by-step directions this month. We pulled everything out of the garden besides a large bush and the statue itself, then added some fresh top soil. I set the plants out, (still in their pots), to see how they looked in different locations. When I settled on the layout I liked, we dug the holes and planted them.

One thing I was still not satisfied with was the fact that you could see the ugly yellow gas line. Stacking some old cement patio pavers and putting the Flor de Izote on top helped, but Carlos ended up going back to Lowe’s and buying a white plastic lattice screen to help further disguise it.

virgin-garden-2

We’re really happy with how it turned out and we visit that side of the yard almost daily to check on things, water flowers if it hasn’t rained, (and sometimes fix things up. Our dog Chico has stepped on a few of the snapdragons and broken them. I also caught him trying to eat a rose one day.) If my suegra were here and she caught Chico in the garden, I can imagine her reaction and it makes me smile; she would chase him out of there, waving her hands as if to smack him, maybe with a chancla held high. She would almost certainly yell “¡Chhhhhht! Chucho condenado!” and then walk away muttering…”Ay, qué pecado…”

virgin-garden-3

Do you have a Virgen de Guadalupe garden? What did you plant in it?

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How to Paint a Portable Mural

how-to-paint-a-portable-mural-latinaish

As a member of Lowe’s Creative Ideas Network I received gift cards from Lowe’s in order to purchase supplies to complete projects. All opinions are my own.

I have loved murals for as long back as I can remember, and so it was only natural that one day I would want to move from an admirer of murals to a creator of murals. At 12 years old I asked my mother if I could paint a mural on my bedroom wall, and I will be forever thankful that she allowed me to, no questions asked.

Since growing up and moving out on my own, I have continued to paint murals on the walls in every place I’ve lived. The only sad thing about a mural is that you can’t take it with you when you move, and if you decide to re-paint a room, it often gets painted over, with no way to preserve it. So when I decided I wanted to paint a new small-scale mural this time, I decided to make it portable. (Which is actually something Mexican painter Diego Rivera did in a much larger scale!)

I chose murals in La Palma, El Salvador, in the traditional style created by Fernando Llort, for my inspiration. While this portable mural measures only 8 x 24 inches, I hope to do a bigger one later. Here’s how you can make one too!

How to: Paint a Portable Mural

You need:

1 untreated piece of wood board (whichever size you want. The one pictured is 8 x 24 inches) – Try to find one with as little defects and knots as possible.

Paint in various colors, (I love the Valspar samples at Lowe’s which are only a couple dollars each. They come in so many bright, beautiful shades.)

paint-samples

Paint brushes in various sizes

A pencil

A yardstick

A piece of drafting paper

Directions:

1. Measure the length and width of the wood. On the drafting paper, with one square equaling one inch, draw a rectangle to the same dimensions as your wood.

drawing-mural

(Note: If you’ll be hanging the mural instead of just setting it on a shelf or mantle, you will need to carefully add picture hangers to the back of the wood at this point – Just make sure the screws are much shorter than the depth of the wood so you don’t go through and damage the side you’ll be painting.)

2. Within this rectangle on the drafting paper, create your design with pencil.

3. Once you’re happy with your design, you’re going to manually transfer it to the piece of wood, using the grid on the drafting paper as a guide. Don’t feel overwhelmed – just go square by square and draw what you see. Use pencil so you can erase and correct as needed. As you transfer the design, you may feel comfortable changing some elements of it – go ahead! It doesn’t have to be exactly like your original draft.

squares-on-wood

4. Take a moment to plan ahead and decide which colors you want to use and where. This may change as you work, but it’s good to have a general idea before plunging in.

5. Start painting!

painting-the-mural

finished-mural

6. Allow the paint to dry. Once the paint is dry, you can put your mural wherever you want, and because it’s portable, if you change your mind – no problem! Just move it elsewhere!

mural-on-shelf

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Hotel-style Bathroom Makeover

hotel-style-bathroom

As a member of Lowe’s Creative Ideas Network I received gift cards from Lowe’s in order to purchase supplies to complete projects. All opinions are my own.

One of the things I look forward to the most when traveling, is staying in a hotel room. I love hotels! Everything is (usually) so new and perfect, and knowing that I don’t have to clean up anything is instantly relaxing. Not that I party like a rockstar in my room and trash it, I actually keep things very tidy, but it’s nice to look around and not be reminded of all the repairs that should be made, bills that need to be paid, or chores that must be done. I wanted to carry this same sense of luxury and relaxation into my bedroom, but that would be a much bigger project than I’m ready to tackle right now, and overall, I’m happy with the way my bedroom looks. Instead, we took this challenge into our master bathroom where it was seriously needed.

I hated our bathroom. I hated the dated faucet, the flat wall mirror, and that we had to keep the counter cluttered with all our random personal items because there was nowhere else to put them. I hated the boring beige color of the walls, I hated the broken cabinets which were falling apart and had been glued back together on at least one occasion, and I hated the shower curtain which Carlos chose. (One day he complained that I never let him make any of the decorating decisions and the hideous shower curtain was the result of that argument – I have loathed it ever since.)

bathroom-before-collage-latinaish

So, it was decided – the master bathroom needed to be updated and I wanted to do it “hotel-style” but on a budget – always on a budget! Here are the instructions for what we did in case you want to do something similar. The project will take less than the weekend and you get a lot of bang for your buck. It’s really worth doing!

Hotel-style Bathroom Makeover

1. Using “FrogTape”, tape off anything you don’t want to get paint on. (i.e. floor and ceiling trim, around windows, around door frames, etc.) Remove the switch plates on light switches, too.

2. Remove the wall mirror – sounds easy, but this was a new experience for us. First, the mirror should be taped, (we used the “FrogTape” since it was handy.) We did a criss-cross pattern and then to be extra cautious, we taped it completely over with vertical pieces as well. The reason for doing this is in case the mirror cracks, this helps prevent it from shattering into a million pieces. You should also be wearing eye protection. Once you have removed any screws and brackets, you may find that the mirror is attached to the wall by some sort of adhesive. Use a length of wire and run it behind the mirror. Use a sawing motion to loosen the mirror up for removal. You should have at least two people for this procedure, as one person should be holding the mirror so it doesn’t abruptly fall when it becomes loose.

mirror-removal-tip

3. Patch any holes in the wall with caulk and then sand down any unevenness when the caulk is dry.

4. Paint the walls the color of your choice. For this project I used Valspar Silver Leaf 4006-1A in semi-gloss, (and I love it!)

5. We replaced the flat wall mirror with a medicine cabinet, which maybe isn’t in keeping with the “hotel-style” theme, but it was necessary to eliminate counter-top clutter. (Instructions are included with it.)

6. Following the instructions that come with it, install a metal hotel-style towel rack/shelf, (which we later stocked with some new white towels.)

7. Remove the old cabinet doors on your under the sink cabinet by unscrewing them from the hinges. Measure the doors and purchase 1/2 inch thick lumber cut to your specifications. (Lowe’s will do it for you free!) You can also buy new hinges (or use the old ones, if you want), new knobs, desired paint color (we used some black we already had on hand), paint supplies, and self-adhering felt pads.

8. Use sandpaper to rough up the surface of your cabinets so that the paint will better adhere. Paint the cabinet and the new doors. It may take a couple coats depending on what your cabinets are made of, the color it was before painting, and the color you are painting it.

9. Pre-drill holes for the knobs, then attach the knobs. Carefully measure and mark the doors and the cabinet for the hinges. Pre-drill holes for the hinges being careful not to go all the way through. Also, be very sure that the screws for your hinges are not so long that they’ll go through the other side. Attach the doors to the hinges and then the hinges to the cabinet. (If you prefer, you can first attach the hinges to the cabinet and then attach the doors – whichever is more comfortable for you.) Place a self-adhering felt pad on the inside of each door in the upper corner where it comes into contact with the cabinet – this will soften the noise of them closing and prevent the doors from getting banged up. Your cabinet should look brand new, and for a fraction of the cost and work involved in replacing the whole thing!

hotel-bathroom-4

10. Update the sink by replacing dated faucet handles. Don’t forget to turn the water off first and follow the instructions that come with them. (We bought this chrome faucet and are very happy with it.)

11. Replace switch plates and electrical outlet covers. We just bought new plastic ones in a basic white color and they look nice and clean, but if you want to splurge, there are plenty of fancier ones to choose from.

12. Add accessories sparingly! Now that your bathroom is clean and uncluttered, don’t junk it back up with too much stuff. We put up a simple white wall clock, (Carlos likes to keep track of the time while getting ready for work), and I stuck a small plant in a hurricane glass. I decided not to hang up any wall art for now because I like how it feels without it.

That’s it! Now run yourself a bath, turn on Shakira’s new album, and tell everyone to leave you alone while you pretend you’re on vacation in a hotel bathroom for an hour or two!

before-after-bathroom

finished-bathroom-makeover-1

hotel-bathroom-2

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Organízate!

get-organized

As a member of Lowe’s Creative Ideas Network I received gift cards from Lowe’s in order to purchase supplies to complete projects. All opinions are my own.

Carlos wouldn’t describe me as an organized person but it seems to me I’m always organizing something, and this past month I tackled an area of our casita we were both unhappy with – the laundry room.

laundry-room-before

First let me explain, our house is small – So small in fact that we don’t have a basement, garage, attic or extra bedroom, (also known as the places most people stash all kinds of random, little-used and seasonal things.) Because of this lack of storage space, the laundry room has become our “catch all” area – specifically, the shelf hidden behind the blue curtain.

The level of disorganization behind that curtain was so horrible that I was too ashamed to even take a photo of it. Something had to be done.

We took down the curtain (which is on an adjustable rod), and then sorted everything into categories. Some of the things we kept, some we donated and some went into the trash.

Next we removed the wire shelving so we could give the scratched up wall a much needed coat of paint after first repairing emergency “access doors” that had been haphazardly cut into the drywall to fix leaks years ago.

Taping off the trim with painter’s tape made the job easier. I let my younger son choose the paint color and he chose “Green Supreme” by Valspar.

Once the paint had dried, we had a decision to make. We could install cabinets which is more difficult and much more expensive, or we could put the wire shelving back and organize our things into baskets. I chose the basket route which I think was the right choice since a lot of important pipes are inside that wall and putting up cabinets would make it difficult to access them in an emergency.

I also decided not to get rid of the curtain entirely as I had originally planned – reinstalling it under the shelf meant I could hide the unsightly washer hoses, (and this also helps prevent the loss of runaway calcetines that somehow get flung back there.)

laundry-room-after

We’re much happier with the way it looks and being organized is a great way to start the new year.

¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

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