Monthly Archives: October 2012

Trick or Retreat


Hurricane Sandy put a damper on trick-or-treating this year, leaving me with LOTS of leftover candy. While I have no problem treating myself to “fun size” candy bars and handfuls of M&Ms, it’s fun to turn leftover candy into new confections. Candy bark makes use of whatever holiday sweets you have on hand.

To make it, line a jelly roll pan or other baking dish (8×8″ or larger works well) with a sheet of wax or parchment paper. Melt white, milk, or dark chocolate (or a combination) using a double-boiler or by microwaving on high in 30-second intervals, stirring in between. Spread the melted chocolate evenly over the wax or parchment paper. Top with candy corn, M&Ms, orange and white sprinkles, broken-up Halloween Oreos, small pretzel sticks, miniature peanut butter cups, or whatever other candy you have on hand. Allow the chocolate bark to cool and set up in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Break the hardened chocolate bark into uneven pieces using a fork or sharp knife. Store chocolate bark in an airtight container. This treat can easily be adjusted for other holidays and themes.

What’s your favorite Halloween candy?


The Teacher Gift


If you’re a parent of school-age children, you’ve likely been faced with the task of finding a gift for your child’s teacher more than once. Read below for an A+ way to show your thanks and recycle.

Thanks to my guest blogger, Rebecca Campbell, a certified super mom of 3, wife, graduate student, and reworker, for this week’s problem-s0lving post!

The Teacher’s Gift

I have plenty of friends who are teachers.  It is somewhat humorous to hear them discuss the gifts they receive from their students at the holidays:  Another neck tie, scented candle, or body lotion. My one friend joked about opening a candle store with all the candles she had received over the years that were now in a closet. 

Taking the subtle hint, my children’s teachers will not be receiving any of the above items.  I have to admit that it bothers me when autumn arrives and the plants that I have so tenderly nurtured over the summer go to waste over the winter months. This year they are all getting a bit of spring early…..ok, it really is leftover summer. 

Supply list: 

  • Empty coffee cans from recycle bin
  • Hammer and nail 
  • Hand shovel 
  • Yard plants 
  • Aluminum foil 
  • Ribbon 
  • Bright window

Step One: 

Rescue an empty coffee can from the recycle bin. With the hammer and nail punch holes in the bottom of it.  Holes are necessary for drainage of water and aeration. 

coffee can

 Step Two:

Locate plant and removal all flowers, leaves, mulch and debris from the plant.  It is a good time to trim the plant check it for insects.


 Step Three:

Fill bottom of coffee can with a small amount of dirt.  Clear away mulch from plant base.  Dig around the base of the plant with hand shovel and make sure you get a good amount of root. Put plant in coffee can and fill the rest of the can with dirt. Water the plant.


Step Four:

Wrap can and plant in sheet of aluminum foil.

can with foil

Step Five:

Add ribbon. Place in sunny window.

plant with ribbon

The plant will go through a bit of shock.  Keep it watered and it bounce back and look great for the Holidays.

What do you usually give teachers as a thank-you gift? Share your comments below.

Magazine Madness


If you profess to having any sort of hobby or special interest–be it cooking, cars, crafts, cats, or even Kardashians–odds are you’ve had a magazine subscription or two or three at one point. And even if you don’t have a subscription, it’s pretty likely there’s a stack of old magazines taking up space somewhere in your residence. My personal collection of Bon Appetit puts any dentist’s office to shame.


What to do with all the piles of periodicals? They’re easy to recycle, donate to local libraries or trade with friends, but more fun to rework!

High-quality, glossy images make magazines the perfect source for craft projects. Here are some of my favorite ways to rework magazines:

  • Fold a large piece of white or colored poster board in half lengthwise to form a giant card. Decorate the inside with cutout photos of flowers, animals, foods, or other cheerful images. Add a message inside the card, and write a friend’s address in large print using a permanent marker on the front of the card. You’ll need to take it to the post office to mail it, but because postage is based on weight, your friend will receive an unforgettable greeting for less than $1.
  • Strips of magazine pages rolled up or folded and glued into long “reeds” are a sturdy and versatile way to create mats, baskets, bowls, or even umbrella holders.
magazine bowl

Originally from Patricia Zapata, author of “A Little Hut”




Colorful magazines and several sizes of paper punches can make dramatic wall art in minutes.



What do you do with old magazines? Share your ideas in the comments section.

Turn any photo frame into a shadow box


Shadow boxes are a great way to add flair to framed pictures and display small objects, but they can be expensive to buy. There’s no need to pay double for a little extra space between the glass and the back of the frame. You can make your own shadow box using some foam board and an inexpensive “deep” frame (having a frame depth of 1 inch or more) using the instructions below. IKEA sells many different sizes of deep frames for under $5. This project is also a way to get old T-shirts out of the back of your closet and into a custom art piece.

Deep Frame Shadow Box

You’ll need:

  • Any size picture frame with 1-inch thick sides
  • Foam board (1/4 or 1/2-inch thick)
  • Razor blade or craft knife
  • Glue gun/glue sticks or super glue
  • Photos, old T-shirts, small items to display
picture frame

This 7 3/4 x 9 1/4 inch frame sells for under $5 at IKEA.

1. Begin by opening up the back of the frame and pressing the tabs that hold the back in place so that they are all vertical. Remove everything except the glass.

2. Using the cardboard mat board as a guide, cut the foam board (any size thickness will work; I used 1/4-inch thick) using a craft knife or razor blade (scissors will crush the foam board).

foam board and frame mat

3. Cut out a total of 4 foam strips matching the inside length of each side of the frame and as deep as the frame when the glass is in place.

4. Carefully glue the foam strips to the inside sides of the frame, making sure to keep the glass in place. Do not glue the foam directly to glass (just the wood or plastic sides) to prevent excess glue from showing.

5. Now the creative part! For the background, stretch an old T-shirt (from a vacation, 5K race, concert, you name it) over a piece of cardboard the same size as the back of the frame. Pin or glue it in place and trim any extra material on the back of the cardboard. If you’re not ready to part with the T-shirt yet, a photocopy of it will also work.

t-shirt over cardboard

6. Attach vacation souvenirs and/or photos directly to the T-shirt or arrange them on the glass. You can use tape to keep ticket stubs and photos in place.

tickets in frame

7. Make sure everything is arranged the way you like and add the T-shirt covered cardboard. Replace the back of the frame and glue or tape it in place. This is fine for a frame that will be hung. If you want to access the frame contents or change the project at a later date, attach small glazier points (available at hardware stores) to keep the frame back in place.

shadow box

This shadow box highlights souvenirs from a trip my sister and I took to Chicago.

Here are some other suggestions for shadow box themes:

  • Concert: Use a concert tee as the background, display your ticket, a guitar pick, and a photo from the show.
  • Baby keepsake: Use an outgrown onesie as the background, and include baby photos, a pacifier, booties, or a footprint.
  • Sporting event: Use a field day T-shirt, 5K race shirt, or old jersey as the background. Include photos of the event, ribbons/medals, and other event memorabilia.

Happy 30th Birthday, CDs!


This week the compact disc–once a technological game-changer, now an oft-ignored digital format–celebrates its 30th anniversary. (You can read more about the history of CDs here). CDs revolutionized the music industry and for over two decades, enjoyed enormous commercial success. Who hasn’t used a CD to back up their computer, store photos, or burn a mix CD? Let’s not forget all those free AOL CDs sent by mail to every U.S. household during the start of the Internet boom.

As technology progresses at ever-increasing speeds, CDs have been replaced by music downloads and streaming and more durable, high-memory capacity USB devices. I believe this change is for the better, but what to do with all those old CDs, jewel cases, and paper CD envelopes? Time for a little reworking!


  • Attach CDs (shiny side facing up) to the front and back (or in the spokes) of your bike for instant reflectors.
  • Create wall art or a dangling light catcher by overlapping CDs of different colors or attaching them with fishing wire to a hanger.
  • Don’t put CDs in a microwave! But do watch this YouTube video of other people doing it.

Jewel Cases:

  • Use to store or sort photos. Each case may only hold a few pictures, but it is a good way to protect photos sent by mail.

CD Envelopes:

  • Tuck a large cookie into a CD envelope with a clear window for a delicious, single-serve treat. This is a great idea for passing out to friends or coworkers at holidays and it is easy to customize the envelope for birthdays or showers, too. Add ribbon, stickers, or print custom labels to seal the envelopes. FYI: I like to include a square of parchment or wax paper under the cookie to keep any grease from seeping into the paper.
  • Origami. The squares are the perfect size for practicing making paper cranes, frogs, and fortune tellers.


What was the first music CD you owned? Share your response in the comments field.

P.S. Mine was Weezer’s “The Blue Album.” It’s a little scratched, but still as good as I remember it.