Saturday, June 18, 2011

Fabbie Finds

Hey kids. So I was thinking....most of the blogs I follow tend to wimp out on Saturdays. I suppose this is acceptable considering those who blog as their profession need a weekend too. But I figured there must be others like me who have little to no life, and who look forward (almost pathetically) to reading certain blogs each day who also get super depressed on Saturday when they realize that, alas, once the page loads, it's the same post I read yesterday. Boo. So I thought I'd try and come up with a solution to battle this catastrophe and--yes, you guessed it--post stuff! On Saturdays!

I like finding things that look nice in my home. Other people do too, as is evident by the bazillion blogs, magazines, etc. out there where people advertise, post, review, and comment on endless different products, furnishings, and various odds and ends for here, there, and everywhere. However, being on a tight asphyxiating budget, it's kind of sad when I realize that people get overly excited about items that 99.9999% of people can't afford. I love Martha Stewart as much as the next guy (most likely more), but paying $45 for a dishcloth for my kitchen just isn't an option...even if I had it professionally framed and never once let it get dirty (not that I could afford to have it professionally framed anyway).

Hence: Fabbie Finds. On Saturdays, I'm going to try and put a post up each week featuring 5 items that are super cute and $25 or less (minus shipping, taxes, and all that other junk). And I'll throw in a fun splurge item under $50 if I happen to find one that is particularly cute, unique, or just plain awesome. So now you can have something to look forward to on Saturdays! You're welcome.

Up first:

Z Gallerie

John and Sherry Petersik featured this little guy on their blog, Young House Love, on their monthly ad thank-you a while back (oh, how I look forward to the day when I can have ads on my blog...). I have been smitten with the little guy ever since. I love the negative space created between the little starfishies, and, though I've never seen it in person, it looks like it has some nice texture going on too. It's also available in white, but I'm obsessed with the silver. This would look nice anywhere, from a bookshelf, to a coffee table, to a kitchen counter, to--I'll say it--the top of the toilet tank. Or I suppose the bathroom counter. But considering it's size, I really do think it could look nice by the toilet! It's a necessary appliance, so might as well spiff it up! Or not. It's up to you. But I think you should consider it--it's way prettier than a box of tissues.

I just think this little guy is too cute! It's not exactly a functional storage container, what without being able to bend closed and it lacking a cap/stopper/plug/etc., but it would be great for when you have company over for anything that could possibly involve milk or cream. In case you're short on ideas, that includes pretty much every single major holiday, every meal (especially breakfast, brunch, or dessert [it's a meal in itself and you know it]), and any excuse to caffeinate yourself or your guests, whether the beverage of choice is tea or coffee. It reminds me of my elementary school days, back when I used to order my little chocolate milks for 10c. Sigh. Those were the good ol' days. (Middle and High School...not so much).

Dragonflies' Etsy Shop

I'm obsessed with maps, so these little guys caught my eye a few months ago, and I flagged them into my Etsy Favorites. They've since sold, but Dragonflies has lots of other very cute designs in her shop, including lace, trees, and scripty handwriting, that are all equally stunning. Plus, being an Etsy seller, if you're set on the map idea, you can always ask for a custom order; who knows, maybe you could even ask for a specific place! These would be eye candy on any fridge or otherwise magnetic surface.

Z Gallerie
Are these not the cutest little things you've ever seen? I admit--I have a bird obsession. Probably because my parents were/are birders (aka: "Bird Nerds"). When I was little, I thought birds were stupidly annoying considering my dad would practically swerve off the road trying to identify a black speck up in the sky ("Is it a Sharpshin? I can't tell!"). He still swerves off the road frequently for the same reason, but I'm old enough that it's become endearing (though still just as life-threatening). However, I now like decorative bird items. I especially love these because of their clean lines, organic shape, and crisp color. Be warned that they are $9.95 each, though the picture is of a pair. But I think they would be worth it. And I'm dirt cheep cheap (couldn't help myself).


Yes, this is from Walmart. I know it's not everyone's favorite place, but I was there today picking up some toothpaste when I saw this little guy hanging out in the lamp department (I get really distracted when I go shopping. All I bought today was toothpaste, soap for my boyfriend, and a glass container for iced tea, and I was there for about an hour and a half). I though that the first time I saw this lamp base was at Target, but I just spent about 15 minutes combing through their website looking for it, and I can't seem to find it there. But honestly, I think this little guy is just fabulous! It comes in the silver in this photo, or a bronze-y color for those who prefer something a bit more masculine and/or less flashy. I think the silhouette is really nice, and I love, Love, love, the texture of the base. If I had nice bedside tables and I wasn't moving in 6 weeks, I would totally consider purchasing these for realsies. As of this post-writing, they're out of stock online. However, when I was in the store, they were $15, not $25! They don't come with a shade, but seriously, I've seen lamp bases in thrift stores that cost $15 or more (yeah I know, what the heck is up with that?). Maybe the marked-down price is a sign they won't be carrying them anymore, so get a move on if you want 'em!

Super Bonus!
KnitKnit's Etsy Shop

No, I don't know what the heck you would use this for, but I just thought it was so cute and unique that I had to post it! People come up with all sorts of interesting and fun ideas. Cheers to being creative!

What about you guys? Find any interesting, unique, and affordable items lately? Were middle and high school as bad for you as they were for me? Are your parents (or...GASP!!) bird-obsessed, real or fake? Spill it!

*Note: All pictures via the linked webpage for the featured item.
*Double Note: I was not paid or perked by any of these sellers or companies (pft, I wish they knew who I was--hah!). I just found these items myself and thought I would share them!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Must Haves

We all have them — the things we reach for every 2 seconds when we’re working on a project. Being a graduate student, I’m on a particularly tight budget and am on the (obsessively) picky side of things when it comes to my purchases. There’s a lot of thought that goes into every single debit card swipe, and I do a lot of browsing, researching, and asking before I take the plunge. My collection of tools, paper, etc. is pretty small as far as most people go, but I pride myself on what I can do with a few tools, ink pads, sheets of paper, and my creative mind!

My Top 11 Recommendations:

1. Craft Mat
Some sort of craft mat that allows for peace of mind when working and clean up that can happen in the blink of an eye is essential. I happened to permanently borrow one of my mom’s Tephlon baking sheets that she never really uses. This is really not ideal for most people, as I think these are actually pretty pricey (my dad knew someone who was apparently stashing out reams of the stuff about 10 years ago or something, so we have LOTS, but this isn’t exactly typical). It works like a charm since it wipes clean in a snap with just water and I know it can stand up to my heat gun since it’s made for an oven. However, if you don’t want to raid a family kitchen or hit up some high-end baking store, I recommend the Craft Mat by Ranger. They come in pretty small and medium sized (I suppose that is relative…I’m a hugantic space spreader-outer when I work), and you can pick them up at a store like Michael’s for around $15-$20. You’ll never worry about clean-up again.

2. Cardstock
I learned kind of slowly that cardstock is needed for anything that involves my favie embossing. Paper just isn’t thick enough to stand up to the heat of a heat gun, nor is it stiff enough to hold its own when doing anything relatively 3-dimensional. I know a lot of people are really partial to certain brands, but I haven’t been doing this long enough to find anything I’m ready to swear by. Right now, my purchases are more dictated by price (as in cheap = buyable even though I know pricey = better quality, in most cases). I just make sure to have certain colors on hand that I use frequently, like kraft, brown, white, and off-whitish (very technical). If you want to splurge on some cute printed cardstock, I recommend starting out with some 6x6 or 8x8 paper pads by companies like Basic Grey, Cosmo Cricket, and October Afternoon. The pads have coordinating papers that go great with one another, they're cheaper because they're smaller, and the prints are proportionately sized for smaller areas, like cards.

3. Ink
There are a lot of different inks out there that are used for different things since they all have their own special personalities and properties. They can even be used to color cardstock instead of just for stamping images. For my limited budget, I go for the Color Box Cat’s Eyes since I can get multiple colors in one whack. They’re smaller than a big stamp pad, but you get more for a single purchase. It’s incredibly handy to have so many colors without spending as much money. The great part about them is that since they’re sold as a set, you can use a coupon for a single bigger purchase, when it would otherwise take up 5 trips to do the same thing (yes, I am a coupon freak. But seriously, A.C Moore has 40%-50% off coupons practically every week that Michael’s takes too! Someday when I’m fat, old, happy, and inexplicably wealthy, I’ll support small Mom & Pop stores for all my purchases, but right now, I’d prefer to feed myself.) My only complaint with them is that some of them have seemed to dry up a little quickly. That makes me sad. If you're looking for some more fun inks, Distress Inks by Ranger come in great colors and react interestingly with water, making for ample creative mistakes creations.

4. Stamps
Stamps make my world go ’round. Since I’m really bad at lining things up well, etc., I’m rather inclined to recommend clear stamps. They’re also more affordable since they tend to come in sheets/sets; this expands your stamp collection for the same price as a single wood block stamp, and allows for less thinking when it comes to finding things that “go together.” Clear stamps are also great for storage. Seeing as how I have a bedroom and pretty much nothing else when it comes to space, the smaller, the better. However, I’ve recently discovered a local craft store that carries my favorite Hero Arts stamps that I previously considered off limits since I never pay to have anything shipped, which was my only option up until that point…this was a good and bad discovery. It makes me happier, but it makes me poorer. Some of Hero Arts’s background stamps are just too cute and too overly useful to pass up! I love love love their “Flowers and Dots” stamp. It was worth $13 since I pretty much use it obsessively. Their "Designer Woodgrain" is also very pretty and versatile. If you want big stamps without the woodblock (better for storage!), try "clings," which are kind of a hybrid between clear and woodblock. The HA "Friend Definition" is a cling that I looooove.

5. Heat Gun
Heat guns are a necessity for me since I’m pretty impatient when I work. They’re handy for the obvious reasons of embossing (one of my fav embellishments) but they can also be used to zap some ink or Perfect Pearls spray that just won’t dry fast enough for me (in other words, it takes more than 2 seconds). Mine is a sweet magenta-ish color by Nicole. I picked it up at A.C. Moore about 3 years ago with one of my infamous 50% off coups, so it ended up only costing around $12.50. Normally I think they retail for about $25. This was the cheapest one I could find and it works great — no complaints!

6. Embossing Powder and Embossing Ink
Embossing is quite possibly one of my favorite things ever. It’s such an easy way to play up certain parts of a card or scrapbook page without doing much more than just stamping. It also adds great texture and makes your cards look super-spiffy-professional. I use the clear embossing ink for everything; I find it’s not really necessary to see where I’ve stamped, and I can usually find it by angling it in the light if I need to. I love embossing with clear powder for subtle effects, and then white for phrases to really make them pop since white ink can sometimes leave me a little disappointed. There are also glittery, metallic, and even crackle varieties out there too. My only glitter purchase was disappointing — it never seems to set all the way — but there is a color for anything you could want. I dump mine into little plastic Tupperware type containers, so that I can scoop and pour right over the container, using it as a catcher. This saves the step of dumping the powder from the creased paper back into the jar. (I stole this tip from Jennifer McGuire — she’s uh-may-ZUH-zing). So easy and so much FUN! Plus, if you want to get fancy, embossed areas resist ink, so there are lots of fun tricks to try!

7. Paper Cutter
Scissors are cool, but paper-cutters are waaaay more awesome when it comes to quick-cuts for straight lines and nice right angles. There are a bazillion ones to choose from out there. My parents got an office-style one for me for Christmas last year that doesn’t travel, but has blades that can switch out for scoring, perforating, etc. It’s pretty sweet. I think they were sick of me stealing my dad’s from his office. I don’t even know how I bothered to cut with scissors before that…talk about the Stone Age.

8. Adhesive
A good adhesive makes the difference between a page that is a total flop when you pick it up, and a page that is a total champ when you scrunch it into that clear sleeve. Note: Not all adhesives are created equally. I like the tape runner type, and I always make sure to buy ones that are acid free, especially when it comes to sticking my photos down. I only have permanent right now, but sometimes I wish I had the movable kind, especially when it comes to scrapbooking. You can always seal the deal once you’ve definitely made yourself happy with a layout. For scrapbooks, I suppose you would never need to use permanent if it’s in a sleeve, but for cards, the more permanent the better; I don’t think that the Postal Service always treats my parcels with the fragile daintiness that they deserve. Right now, I’m using Tombow Mono Adhesive DOTS Permanent; this is a wonderful upgrade from the non-dots. The dots roller never gets gunked up! It's fantastic!

9. Perfect Pearls
What can I say? I’m a girl and I like sparkly things. Stick a bit of Perfect Pearls in the Mini Mister by Ranger and shake it up with some good ol’ H2O and you’re good to go spray any surface you want to make perfectly pearly awesome. I didn’t realize that you could purchase them separately when I bought mine, so I got a set of 4 metallics, but you can also buy them singly, at least in the original Perfect Pearl color (so far, it’s the only color I’ve used). I probably use this more than I should, but it’s just so darn pretty! This probably wouldn’t be a necessity for everyone, but it is for me.

10. Babywipes
I know! Sounds weird. But nothing makes clean-up easier than a nice box of babywipes. They clean wet ink off of stamps (except Staz-On--need something special for that!) and are great at mopping up anything and everything off of a craft mat. Plus, they condition stamps, can smell good if you so choose, are cheap, and are very readily available. Woot.

11. White Gel Pen
White gel pens seem like they wouldn't be needed all that often, but you have NO idea. They are awesome for contrast writing on darker cardstock, and they are my absolute new favorite embellishment tool for faux stitching. My favorite is the Uni-Ball Signo Broad, but there are lots out there to choose from that come in different widths and have more or less translucent ability! Check out this great post (and video!) from Kristina Werner for a nice comparison of some of the best of the best.

So that is my top 11 for now; I’m sure it will evolve over time. Hope it’s helpful!

What about you guys? Do you have any items you think I missed? Think I included something that is far superseded by something else? Had a bad or great experience with any particular item? Leave a comment and let me know!

Happy crafting!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

So You Wanna be a Flea Market Junkie

Well hello again world. Ok, life has been crazy lately. I didn't do any posts. Lame. Sorry 'bout that. But it's summer, I've wrapped up another year of grad school, and I'm ready to get my hands dirty on some DIY projects. (Literally. Seriously, no matter what I do, even if I wear gloves, I get something on my hands. What can I say? I'm a true DIYer at heart...or hand. Cornyness finished. Moving on.)

While I prepare some posts on some household DIYs, I thought I'd write up a little blurb on thrifting. It's more of a story really, but the advice is in there. It's like a fable. Except it happened. Even better. However, be forwarned: I did not have my camera on this outing, and therefore, this post is mostly pictureless. I know, I know! That makes it much less fun, I'm sorry. But I'll have some before and after posts soon, and those have pictures. Woot. 

So a few weeks back, my friend Nicole alerted me to a flea market up the street. I don't know how I didn't hear about it, but there it was, the next block over, full of all sorts of goodies just wanting to be scooped up. Considering my budget was almost non existent (grad school + nannying job that fell through + awkward amount of time between school ending and me moving = unemployment), I went in hoping to find 3 things, and 3 things only: a chair to fix up for my desk, an entryway table, and 2 matching bedside tables (Ok, I guess that's technically 4 things). And they all had to be on the cheap. And by cheap, I mean practically free.

Cue flea market feigned indifference. If you don't know this very scientific method, read on. When I peruse any type of soft-priced shop (thrift store, yard sale, flea market, etc.) I put my acting skills to good use. I learned the hard way back in high school that if you show how excited you are about something at a place like this, people will probably be much less likely to lower a price...or they'll even make it higher. Boo. (I know, I'm brilliant...I should write a book about it or something.) Long story short, I saw a hand-dyed tapestry I really liked, and was blatantly excited about it. Mr. Jurkface  Cranky-McCrankerson told me $15 even though a friend of mine had already purchased a similar scarf for $12 about 10 minutes earlier. Being naive and wimpy, I handed over the cash. (But the good news is that I now wear the tapestry as a scarf almost 10 years later, and I get a lot of compliments on it. Who knew?) Therefore, when I amble about, I take care to look at something carefully, but then walk away. I do all the things I would normally do with a huge grin on my face, but just look like I don't care (hint: channel your inner high-school angst. You and I both know you perfected it back in your teen years. Don't kid yourself.) So, I pick something up (or squat down, depending on what I'm looking at), give it a close look, i.e. check for cracks, stability, weird smells, etc., and then...walk away. Say it with me: "Just walk away." It's hard, I know, especially when you realize you really want it. But Alton Brown would be proud. (In case you didn't get that reference, cue this video to about 8:45, and watch the whole thing if you can. Alton is my hero).

I'll be honest; sometimes this method doesn't work (the thrifting thing, not the muffin thing. The muffin thing works great every time, and not just for muffins, but for all sorts of baking things!) But when it does, it works great. I ended up picking up a gateleg table that looked like the top had some real potential after a good sanding, in addition to a chair with a nice shape, that both fit within my budget. The table was originally priced at $30, and the chair at $7. And just by looking really closely and then walking away, the couple running the booth told me I could take both for $30. I asked if they would take $20 since they seemed to be the haggling type, and I got them down to $25. Ergo (yes, I said "ergo," Mrs. Hutchins would be so proud), I paid less for both pieces than I would have for the original price on the table alone. Score!

Since I couldn't get a picture there, here are the two diamonds in the rough in all their dingy glory:

I'm not saying that channeling your inner teen will work every time--in fact, just yesterday, I got shot down at a local thrift store when I offered to buy a pair of chairs at a lower price than the original price of the two combined. I tried my best, doing the turn-to-my-boyfriend and say something like, "Hmmm...I don't know. They seem a little too scratched up/wobbly/damaged/etc...[trail off]. What do you think, babe?" But she wouldn't budge. So in that case, I did walk away (they really were pretty scratched up). But it's not like you have anything to lose by trying to haggle a price down. Unlike a busy flea market, a place like a thrift store would most likely never raise a price (although, I guess you never know), so you could still table your pride and buy it at the asking price after trying for a discount if you wanted. Or not.

Anywho, stay tuned for a before-and-after post on this chair. It's lookin' preeeeeetty snazzy after its makeover!

What about you guys? Have some good advice? Ever gotten a sa-weet deal? Or ever had the bummer like me where someone raised the price? Do tell!

- mLe