Tube Tip

Yesterday I offered a way to save seemingly garbage-bound make-up.   Today I have a tip to save seemingly garbage-bound tubes of… whatever:  toothpaste, face wash, fancy-times anti-wrinkle eye cream, you know.  I’ve been doing this for a few years, but it didn’t occur to me that this wasn’t something every one did until recently, when Josh was all “What are you doing?” and I was all “Cuttin’ the top off of this tube so I can get to the rest of the face wash,” and then he was like “Why??” and I was like “To save money!”  — which is my answer to most questions.

So, I thought I might share this with y’all… you know, just in case you hadn’t thought of it yourself.  Ta da!

(Clearly, I have no interest in ironing.)

I usually just use my hands to get the extra stuff out of the tube, but if it’s for something else like paint, then a spoon, knife, or paintbrush would probably be more ideal.  I especially love this trick because it really does help get the most of the stuff I buy… especially good with $10 face wash.  And then when I think of all the money I’m saving throughout the course of the year by just getting that extra bit at the bottom of the tube — yeah, it warms my penny-pinching heart, that’s for sure.

Other stuff you might fancy…

How to Fix Broken Make-Up 

Fused Plastic

Recycling Tin Cans


Happy Birthday to Teresa!

It’s my mom’s birthday, y’all!

For those of you who may have missed previous posts, my mom is a) awesome, b) a ginger penny pincher (well, more an auburn penny pincher), and c) SUPER crafty (she’s an artist and art educator).  Aside from being a wonderful and nurturing mother, wife, and citizen, she is involved in 4,000 clubs/organizations/foundations all with philanthropic goals.

(Ok, not 4,000, but it sure seems like it.)

Furthermore, when it comes to causes she is passionate about, she is a warrior, especially in regards to the opportunities and education of my brother, Derek, who has autism.

(Who, by the way, was diagnosed with autism in 1979, wayyyy before the government “declared war” on it and it was such a trendy “-ism” to have.  At that time, it was not uncommon to mis-diagnose someone with autism as being schizophrenic or having mental retardation, so my parents had a serious battle ahead of them.)

Yeah, she’s pretty swell (by the way, my dad is amazing too, but his birthday is not until March 26th:) ).

And like I mentioned, she’s CRAZY-crafty. Here is a list of just a few of her skills:

  • painting
  • drawing
  • stained glass
  • ceramics
  • pottery
  • sewing
  • needlepoint
  • embroidery
  • calligraphy
  • print-making
  • quilting
  • knitting
  • thrifting
  • couponing
  • antiquing
  • upholstering
  • and everything crafty in between…
My skill set is abysmally shorter.  My mother attempted to teach me her many skills but I was always too lazy, stubborn, or snippety (or a combination of the three).  Sigh…

Not only is my mother (half) responsible for my existence, she is also responsible for a lot of the fabulous things in my home.  So… today I’m gonna do a little show-and-tell with some things from previous posts (and some new things as well).  Enjoy!

First, we have the Mr. and Mrs. pillows:

Mr. and Mrs. pillows

Mr. and Mrs. pillows

I had the idea after seeing a similar thing at Ballard Backroom when I lived in Atlanta.  (Which, by the way, if you live in the Atlanta area you should totally check out!  They carry items that have been discontinued as well as floor samples for sale.  Amazing.  And guess who first told me about this store?  You got it: Teresa Foster.)

The inspiration looked like this:

I like these, but not so much the burlap thing (ow!) and I definitely didn’t like the price.  Even though Ballard Backroom has some amazing deals, these particular pillows were like $40 each.  And you can hardly get a Mrs. without a Mr., so I passed on these (but not without snapping a sneaky-snake picture on my camera phone).

I’d mentioned to my mom that I wanted to make these, and she immediately began to brainstorm with me on the best (and thriftiest) options.  We used a Joann’s coupon (thanks to my mom) and bought some white duck cloth (super cheap!).  I talked about using stencils, but my other scoffed at such an idea and decided to free hand it herself with some lime green fabric paint.  Employing her fabulous sewing skills, she made the duckcloth into a pillow cover and ta da!

Let’s look at it one more time:

Mr. and Mrs. throw pillows

Mr. and Mrs. throw pillows

And then there’s the Statue of Liberty pillow that was a total surprise (yeah, I cried upon receipt of this gift):

Statue of Liberty throw pillow

Statue of Liberty throw pillow

Using some of the leftover duckcloth, she made another pillow cover and again… free handed the entire picture.  Stencil free is Teresa’s way to be!

Another fun pillow, commissioned by me, has an old timey movie camera on it:

movie camera throw pillow

movie camera throw pillow`

Margeaux is partially obstructing the view, but that’s because she loves her grandma.

My wedding, which is a DIY effort I’m particularly proud of, was made possible largely because of my mother’s help.  She helped me out with MANY (read: most) aspects of it, but my favorite project was the marigold topiaries we collaborated on.

We had the idea for mum topiaries, but we knew this would be suuuper expensive (and then would die as flowers tend to do).  Fake flowers were just as expensive as real ones, so we knew we needed an even cheaper option to achieve the effect.


We wanted these to frame the altar area and be two-tiered, so lots of flowers!  She had the idea for tissue paper flowers, but a slightly different shape.  After buying two foam balls, a wooden dowel,  using a planter that she already owned, and many hours spent making the tissue paper flowers — by the way, I was banished from this project early on because I didn’t “fluff them right” — we ended up with this:


Last Christmas, my mother painted (from a photograph) Preservation Hall, Josh’s and my favorite part of our honeymoon (it’s an amazing jazz club on Bourbon Street).  This is perhaps my favorite thing my mother has ever made me:

Preservation Hall painting

Preservation Hall painting

I wish I had a close-up, because it really is beautiful and the detail is wonderful.  You’ll just have to trust me on this (I cried my face off).

And of course… there’s the Singer sewing machine dining table (oft-mentioned):

Singer sewing machine dining table

Singer sewing machine dining table

The entire construction of the table was a joint Foster-Donahue effort, i.e., my mom, dad, brother, Josh and me, however the original idea was 100% my mom’s (and she owned the original Singer sewing machine, so it’s also a credit to her thrifty/antiquing skills).

So… those are just a few of her creations and inspirations.  Yep, she’s pretty stellar… and can basically do… oh… anything.

And… because I know she actually reads this blog post (or will at some point in the week):

Happy Birthday Mom!!!!!!! I love you!

(aww…… :)

Making crazy faces :)

Things that (P)inspire Me: DIY Christmas Ornaments and Tree Toppers

Hey, remember that week where I posted almost every day about my recent Pinterest finds?!  No?  Oh… well, that’s because that’s happening now!  

(To check out my previous posts of “Things that (P)inspire Me,” go here.)

As I did an inventory of my vast ornament collection last Friday, I was surprised to discover that none of my ornaments were handmade (or at least, handmade by me).  Of course, all of my ornaments are a product of penny pinching (or gift-receiving), so that’s nothing to balk at, but still… there remains a DIY-sized hole in my heart that must. be. filled.  So, I turned to my tried, true, and trusted friend, the Pinterest bookmarklet (nope, not a typo).

(In case you’re confused check out
Below are some of my most recent finds (also thanks to Google image search).  Hope you are as inspired as I now am!
(Click on the pictures for the links to the original sources.)
Pinned Image
 Pinned Image
 Thumbtacks and a styrofoam ball!
Pinned ImageScrabble pieces glued together
Pinned Image
Small dollar store frames with pretty paper
Pinned Image
An oldie, but a goodie.  These would be especially nice with metallic or patterned paper.
Felt ornament — read the instructions, it’s actually easier than it looks!
Pinned Image
I guess these are a little more obvious than most, but aren’t they pretty?  And with the length of these pipe cleaners, they can be a statement ornament (like… a “statement ring”) :)
Pinned Image
This particular pin is from Young House Love and was a product of the Pinterest Challenge that they recently co-hosted.  38 DIY ornaments for a total of $27.  Not too bad!
Pinned Image
An old key, spray painted (also part of the “Challenge” from above).  Vamping on this same idea, many household items, however seemingly mundane, would make great ornaments!  Silverware, earrings, those are just the first two that come to mind…
Pinned Image
Tree topper, made from pipe cleaners and a styrofoam ball.  But you know me, I would have used a different color.
Pinned Image
I love ANY home decor idea involving recycled sheet music (and I have plenty of it).  So fun as a tree topper!  (More on sheet music/Christmas decor on Wednesday!)
Hope you enjoyed those!(Subscribe, silly!  What are you waiting for?)

Twelve Weeks of Christmas, Week 6 (continued): Cyber Monday

***”Twelve Weeks of Christmas?  Is this some evil ploy driven by corporate greed to get even more money out of me and my vulnerable, consumer-driven wallet?”  No, not exactly…. this is just a blog!  But if you want to check out the other parts in this ongoing, 12-part series, which are not particularly evil and only mildly consumer-driven, check it out right here.  You won’t be sorry.

***ALSO, check out previous parts in week 6, “Black Friday Shopping Tips” and “Small Business Saturday.”  Kind of like a series within a series… a miniseries?  No, that doesn’t work… sounds like something on the Lifetime channel.  Anyways, check it out!

Ok y’all, I’ve asked you to put on your “focus pants” before– today I need you to turn on your listening ears (and whatever other metaphoric accessories will help you pay attention).  Today we’re talking about…

Cyber Monday!

My thoughts exactly. (Though I'm not sure why the heart has eyes and a smile. Creepy.)

Now, about ten, fifteen years ago, back in the age of chat rooms and “the-internet-is-still-a-novelty” this would have sounded like a very naughty thing, indeed.  So, dirty jokes aside, Cyber Monday is my favorite shopping holiday!

I love the internet (did I mention that a couple…3 dozen times?).  I love shopping!  I love getting a good deal (“duh” to the fifth power).  When all three of these things merge in a sweet, sweet union — in a weird kind of polygamist who’s-the-real-bride-and-groom thing — I am one happy lady!

(Quick, not boring) History Lesson:  Cyber Monday began as an official shopping holiday in 2005, after online retailers noticed an upsurge of online shopping during the weekend (and week) after Thanksgiving.  Wanting to capitalize on this,, the National Retail Federation’s digital edition, declared the Monday after Thanksgiving “Cyber Monday,” thus encouraging online retailers to reduce prices or offer a percentage off their purchase, free shipping, free gifts, et al.  Needless to say, the holiday took off and has only grown over the past years.

History lesson aside, Cyber Monday is a day to get some of the best deals imaginable, but careful planning is key for success.  So… guess what?  I made a list!  (I know what you’re thinking:  I never do that :)  )  Well, kind of a list, kind of a step-by-step, ya know… it’ll all be clear very soon.  And soon = NOW:

1.  Review your Christmas list, specifically what you have left to buy.

I know… Black Friday and Small Business Saturday haven’t even gotten here yet!  However, for some items on your list, it will be clear that you won’t find those things on either of these days (or you’ve already looked at the websites I recommended and know that you won’t find what you need on Black Friday).  Small Business Saturday comes with hidden surprises, so wait until after that before you make any solid decisions, but you should still have some idea of what you’re going to need/want online.

(Oh, and if you’re at a loss for online resources, look no further than this post.)

2.  After you’ve figured out what you may need to purchase online, comparison shop to find the best prices.

Bookmark these websites, save the links in an e-mail to yourself, whatever.  Obviously, the price you see today may be reduced on Monday, but it will usually be relative to its original price on the website.  If you have an extra minute and you feel pretty strongly about a particular website (for example, my go-to’s are Amazon and Overstock), go ahead and save yourself some time in the future and set up an account with them (this is a free account by the way, I’m not saying to open up a credit card account with them — Danger, Will Robinson!).

3.  Sign-up for e-mails, Facebook friend them or subscribe to their Tweets (or all three).

By registering for an account, you will probably already get their e-mails, but some companies give special deals to their Twitter followers or Facebook friends, so it’s worth the short-term hassle if it means you’ll get an incredible coupon or free shipping.  Needless to say, after Cyber Monday, you can unsubscribe (until next year, of course).

4.  Log in to your account with these websites, and add the necessary items to your cart (but don’t buy them yet!).

Most websites will save the items you added to your cart, and then when Cyber Monday rolls around, you have a much easier job!  You’ve already comparison shopped, so based on the price drops for the big day, you can remove or add more items to your cart.

5.  Check out

Here’s the link:   It’s basically what it sound like: a website dedicated to my fave shopping holiday, and sometimes it divulge leaked promos or other offers that will be available.

6.  Get up early!

This is important, especially if you have to work that day (though the National Retail Federation says that 50% of people who work at a desk with a computer will use it for shopping on Cyber Monday, so I’m not necessarily encouraging you to shop online while at work, but getting up extra early won’t hurt!).  Again, if you already have your virtual shopping cart full, it’s just a matter of double-checking with their Cyber Monday deals (sometimes you have to spend x number of dollars to get free shipping), then entering your credit card information, and wa-bam!  Done.

Another reason to get up early:  Online stores, though they are online, i.e. part of the world wide web, can CRASH or SELL OUT of the items you are wanting.  Eek!  So, get that worm early, early birds (there’s a proverb in there somewhere).

7.  Check out big box retailers’ websites as well.

Traditionally, that’s what Black Friday is for, but in case you were pining away for something and weren’t able to get it on Black Friday, you can still try to find it on their website (,,, ya know).  These big box websites often surprise with some lovely Cyber Monday deals, so check them out!


I know, I know…. I talk about Etsy a lot, but I also talk about my husband a lot and it turns out, I like him… this is also how I feel about Etsy :) (though to a slightly lesser degree).

I know I mentioned this website in my Online Shopping Tips and Tricks post, so you may already be two steps ahead of me, but I can’t mention online shopping without giving Etsy a little love (and no, they don’t pay me to say this… but they could.  Etsy advertising people?  Are you listening? :) )

Since Etsy is an online marketplace comprised of various individuals who have virtual storefronts selling a variety of things, you won’t find any site-wide deals.  However, my tip (that has actually worked for me before) is to contact a seller directly.  Once you find an item or items that you want to buy, contact the seller (via the contact methods given) and ask about their Cyber Monday deals… or ask if they plan to participate in Small Business Saturday.  It doesn’t hurt to ask, and if you start a dialogue with them, sometimes you can open up the possibilities of haggling (quite possibly one of my favorite words in the English language).  Explain to them that you really want such-and-such item, but you plan on setting aside all online transactions for Cyber Monday in hopes that there’ll be some discounts or other perks.  Of course, the seller could go all p’shaw on you and say they don’t participate in such things (awww…..), but at least you’ve asked, and it never hurts to ask.

Maybe the online sellers will already have some Cyber Monday deals in place… or maybe they haven’t even thought of it yet and this will be the springboard for them to consider implementing this into their business plan!

9.  Don’t get spastic with the plastic!

(Can you believe I just made that up?  Will wonders never cease?)  :)

But seriously, remember that your debit or credit card is connected to a bank account (or a soon-to-arrive-in-your-mailbox bill).  It’s not Monopoly money (but oh, how I wish it was!).  It’s one thing to go to a store and swipe a card or hand over cash for your purchases;  it’s another to enter in a few numbers and click-click-click.  Don’t discount the gravity of what you’re doing, however user-friendly it may be.  It’s so easy to get into the mindset of the click-click-click, especially when you’re not dealing with tangible things like cash or a paper receipt.  Have fun, get great deals (I mean, how could you not?), but be SMART.

10.  Number Ten

I didn’t really have a number ten, but I was feeling sort of off balance with a mere nine tips.  I’m sure you understand.

Question time:  Do you plan to participate in Black Friday, Small Business, Saturday or Cyber Monday?  All three?  Just one?  None of the above?  Or are you going the Courtney route this year and giving all handmade, re-purposed, or thrifted gifts (if so, good luck — it’s no easy task)???  Are you going to start using the catchphrase “Don’t get spastic with the plastic,” especially considering I spent 3.75 seconds thinking it up?

Let me know in comment form below!

***To check out my Black Friday Shopping Tips, go here.

***To read my Small Business Saturday spiel, go here.

***To check out the other parts of “The Twelve Weeks of Christmas,” go here.


Twelve Weeks of Christmas, Week 6 (Continued): Small Business Saturday

*** “Twelve weeks of Christmas?” you say, with an incredulous tone.  That’s a lot of Christmas… or is it just enough?!  You decide: here

Small Business Saturday.

Small Business Saturday, which falls on November 26th this year, is a an initiative of American Express, the credit card well known for supporting brick-and-mortar mom-and-pops.  It’s part of the busiest-shopping-weekend-of-the-year triumvirate, which includes Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  However, unlike these other two shopping holidays, Small Business Saturday doesn’t support the big box retailers; it supports the little guys!

Ok, for real y’all, just the name of this special day gives me warm fuzzies.  I love supporting small business!  However, that whole penny pinching quest of mine can get in the way of this more often than not.  However, having a specific day dedicated to this makes it even easier, and hopefully, the specified day encourages small businesses to have their own sales, sharing in the busiest shopping weekend of the year.

Here’s where you come in!  To get the word out about Small Business Saturday, first check out their website here.

No really, click on that link now.  It will open in another window and you can come back to me in a minute.

Ok, good.  If you clicked on the link, you probably noticed the whole Facebook sharing thing.  If not, there’s a direct link here.

Your mission, if you choose to accept it (and c’mon, it’s easy!) is to social-media-nudge the mess out of this!  Share it on Facebook, Twitter, E-mail, in conversations with friends and family… anyone. Get the word out!

Small Business Saturday is still a relatively new holiday (ok, it’s only two years old), so not everyone knows about it.  It’s our job, as penny pinching advocates, to promote this holiday and increase its awareness.  (I know… misuse of the word “holiday,” but that’s what the American Express website calls it, so move on, language purists.)

The more people that know about it means more people will partake in it, which means more small businesses will feel encouraged to drop their prices, take a percentage off, et al, if even for one day.

And of course, the last component of your mission:  SHOP on Small Business Saturday.  Even if a particular (small) business is not in the American Express OPEN Retail Index, patronize it anyway.  When you’re checking out and they say “thank you,” (and hopefully they do), tell them you’re just partaking in Small Business Saturday!  Hopefully they’ll ask you (or look it up) if they don’t know what this means, and you can explain to them (or Google can).  When it comes to Small Business Saturday, the more the merrier!

Well… looks like you’ve got work to do, dear GPP readers and accidentally-stumbled-here-via-search-engine folks!

In summary:

1.  Check out

2.  “Like” them on Facebook and share the link:

3.  Tweet it!

4.  Bring it up in random conversation… with whoever you randomly converse with!

5.  Put it in your calendar.

6.  Shop small on November 26th, 2011.  It’s as easy as getting coffee from that little cafe you’ve been meaning to go to… instead of Starbucks.

Happy (small) Shopping!!!


***To read the previous posts in this ongoing, twelve part series, go here.  Only 5 weeks left!

Twelve Weeks of Christmas, Week 6: Black Friday Shopping Tips

This picture has NOTHING to do with Black Friday shopping, so don’t waste your time trying to find an intelligent correlation. Instead, spend your time appreciating the beauty of this picture (and Josh’s flower drawing skills). This is from when Nola had her “lady parts” removed a couple of years ago. We couldn’t resist decorating her cone, since she was forced to wear it anyway. Isn’t she the cutest little post-op puppy ever!?! (I also posted this picture because I decided every post needs a picture, whether related to it or not.)

**Check out the previous parts in this twelve part series here.

***Sorry for the late post, folks.  To say I have been busy today is an understatement:  I have been on (and off) hold with the gas company for the last 2.5 hours today, and in case you’re wondering, if the previous tenant of the unit you are living in passes away without paying his gas bill for two years, that might result in you having your gas turned off, even if you have paid your bill.  The moral of the story is keep good records!  The only reason they’re turning my gas back on today is because I have a bill from my previous residence proving I lived there and not here with the previous tenant.  Seriously.  Crazy times.  I’m exhausted. 

Ok, ridiculous stories aside, I am so EXCITED!  Why?  Well, aside from being able to use my oven and stove again (very soon), this is a very exciting week in the world of penny pinching!

No, not Thanksgiving… though I like that, too.

Over the course of the next week, you can take advantage of….   (drumroll)

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Small Business Saturday!!!

(Oooh…. Aaaah…..)

Oh boy, oh boy!  Right?!  Today I’ll address the crazy (and slightly intimidating) magic  that is Black Friday; I’ll leave Tuesday and Wednesday for the rest.  Don’t worry, you’ll be fully prepared for bargain hunting nirvana.  I’ll make sure of it.  :)

Black Friday:  It’s the day after Thanksgiving, and it’s considered the “official” first day of Christmas shopping (though if you’re smart GPP readers, you’ve been doing the Christmas shopping thing for a while now).  The term first came into use in 1966, and it refers to this specific day when retailers turn a profit or are “in the black” (as opposed to “the red”).

Typically, retailers open their stores at 5:00 a.m. or 6:00 a.m., though some will open as early as 3:00 a.m. or 4:00 a.m..  Very recently, some retailers have even pushed it back to midnight.   As in, while you are eating your Thanksgiving dinner, stores are getting ready for soon-to-arrive customers.

This opening at midnight stuff has been met with much frustration, and one Target employee even started a petition against this plan, garnering over 190,000 signatures.  It gets worse:  Wal-Mart is opening their doors at 10:00 p.m., with most employees being requested to arrive at 8:00.  Gross.

Clearly, I’m not the biggest advocate of the midnight sales, and I still believe you can get AMAZING deals by just going early in the morning.

That said, here a few tips from a veteran Black Friday shopper, i.e.,  ME! 

1.        Pre-Black Friday sales:

As someone who has worked in retail, I know that at some stores, Black Friday sales actually begin the Monday or Tuesday before.  Seriously.  One such retailer that has always done this in the past is the J. Crew Factory store.  Random tip, I know… but you’re welcome all the same.  :)  This means if you don’t feel you’ll have the necessary game face ready for Friday… or if you are working or otherwise unavailable, you can still get some great deals RIGHT NOW.  It’s totally possible.  (In fact, my mother and I usually go Tuesday or Wednesday before Thanksgiving, where she does the majority of her Christmas shopping.  She refuses to be a part of Black Friday and “all those crazy people” as she says.  I guess she forgets that I am “one of those crazy people.”)

2.        Get up early!!!

This really does make a difference as a lot of retailers, particularly department stores, have “doorbusters” or “early bird” specials that are only available before 9:00 or 10:00.  The crowd can be a bit crazy, but it will totally be worth it if you get a great deal (genuine leather Etienne Aigner boots for $40?  Ok!).

3.       Eat breakfast.

Many irrational decisions can be made when you’re hungry.  Don’t let it happen to you (more on this in a future post scheduled for December).

4.        Stay hydrated.

This is in the same vein as #3, but seriously, very important.  Piggybacking on this concept, go ahead and bring your own water bottle, too.  You may think you can just buy something somewhere if you’re really thirsty, but I promise, everyone else will think that as well, and while Black Friday is a big day for retail, it’s also a GREAT day for the restaurant business (read: a day for CROWDS/LINES everywhere).

5.        Pack lightly and dress even more lightly.

Nothing is more frustrating than carrying a too-heavy purse when you’re on a serious Black Friday shopping mission.  Just pack what you need, i.e., wallet, sales fliers, water bottle, a snack, and a first aid kit (just kidding… or am I?).  The “dress lightly” part:  Perhaps equal in frustration is having to carry around a coat or scarf while also trying to carry shopping bags and push through the crowds.  Wear something where you think you’ll be comfortable both inside and outside (hopefully, you’ll be inside most of the day and it won’t matter beyond the trip you have in walking to your car).

6.        Check out Black Friday deals BEFORE Black Friday.

Thanksgiving day is THE day to buy a newspaper if you want a tangible copy of the sales fliers, but if you’re wanting to plan even earlier – perhaps before you slip into a turkey induced coma – there are a few websites that feature the “leaked” deals, so you could know as early as NOW!  Here they are:

The Black Friday

Black Friday @

Yeah, sensationalized is an understatement…

 7.       Make a list.

If you don’t have a battle plan going into Black Friday, you could fall victim to over-spending (eesh!) or overwhelm-edness.  With the crowds and the general state of frenzy, it can be easy to just say “This is too much – I don’t need to shop this badly.”  But… don’t do that, silly!  Because… again, this is both the busiest shopping day of the year AND the best if you’re looking for great deals.  For real.  It’s not just mass hysteria  (though it is that, too).  Make a list, know what you’re looking for and where you’re looking for it, stay tough, and make me proud :)


Hope these tips help!  Yes, Black Friday is a CRAZY day, but if you come prepared to do battle (I’m only sort of kidding in my tone), you’ll be fine (and maybe even slightly surprised to discover it’s not even as crazy as I’m making it out to be).

Good luck.

And, as always, please pass along any other tips you may have for Black Friday shopping in comment form below!

Coming up this week…

Tuesday:   Cyber Monday

Wednesday:  Small Business Saturday

Stay Tuned!

The Odyssey of the Curtain-Rod-Bookshelf Thing

Slightly confusing title, I know.  But that pretty much sums up the whole decor thing that Josh and I have been trying to resolve the last three months.  I know… that still doesn’t clear up any confusion.  Ok, I’ll explain… let’s start at the very beginning:

(I feel like a quasi-nun with a guitar ready to sing to an audience of Von Trapp children…. Aw… )

As you may remember, Josh and I moved here to Brooklyn just three months ago.  Prior to that, we had lived in Atlanta (in three different apartments… we’re gypsies).  Obviously, moving to most anywhere in NYC pretty much guarantees you’ll be living in an apartment, and our case was no exception.  However, Josh and I have always made the commitment to make anywhere we live feel like a home, regardless of whether we’re renting it or not.  For us, this usually means painting, adding shelving, and hanging art — paying no mind to whether or not we may have to spackle, prime, and re-paint back to boring contractor white in the future.  Whatever.  It’s always worth it in the end, and the amount of money spent to achieve this is never much.

Well, as you may remember from one of my previous posts, “Books and Nooks: The Living Room Edition,” we already completed our living room and kitchen/wall (calling it a kitchen would be an insult to real kitchens everywhere — it’s a “kitchen/wall”).

Wait.  What’s that?  You want to see some pictures of it to remind yourself and/or you don’t feel like navigating away from this page to check out that link?

I can take care of that!  Worry not!

Here you go:

there's that houndstooth rug again... mmmm....... :)

The Baker's Rack of Champions... definitely making up for what's lacking in the kitchen/wall.

That is a dining room table made out of an antique Singer sewing machine base. Yes!!!

A corner. A chair. An unnecessarily fuzzy picture.

Precious. A kitchen/wall.

P.S. -- Since I took this picture back in September, this particular corner of our living room has calmed down quite a bit... cause there's a lot going on over there.

Ta da!!!

So… living room: check!  kitchen/wall:  as “check”ed as it’s ever going to be!

In the meantime, there’s the bedroom.  For the most part, we were reusing our previous design and colors from our last apartment (I’d love to show you pictures — it was lovely — but I never took any… what’s wrong with me?).  However, we were gaining a few exciting additions for this particular apartment….

Mrs pillow

A Teresa Foster original, of course.

Mr and Mrs Pillows

(We took two pillows whose facades we were getting tired of and covered them in these DIY Mr and Mrs pillow covers.  There were super easy and super cheap:  white duck cloth, a little velcro (in the back), green fabric paint, and the steady hand of one Teresa Foster.)

The other differences in this apartment had less to do with additions and more to do with subtractions, i.e., the subtraction of square footage.  This was no surprise to us (as we were clever measurers beforehand), not to mention it’s an NYC apartment.  If it’s not a little small, something’s probably wrong with it (or the neighborhood… or both).  Armed with this knowledge and the measurements (I mean seriously, we were very Type A about this particular matter — I made a scale drawing and everything), we realized we would have to use a lot creativity when it came to storage options.

After considering every nook and cranny — under the bed, in the closet, on the bookshelf — we realized we would still need more storage space.  Making said storage space aesthetically pleasing was another matter, too.  In the true vertical tradition of New York City, I thought UP.

I also thought of an excellent post that I’d read a couple of years ago from one of my favorite blogs, Young House Love.  This couple used Ikea wardrobes on either side of their bed  and then hid them with curtains to create additional closet space.  Here are some pictures of their brilliance:

Bedroom with Lights

Bedroom During

Without the curtains (this is also a "progress" shot as you will see from the unpainted wood on the ceiling)

Being a renter, I knew it wasn’t worth the time and trouble (and extra bucks) to add molding to the top like this couple did, but I knew I could use the same concept for our bedroom.  After all, with about three feet on either side of our bed, it seemed silly to waste all that space on a mere night stand and a lamp.   Instead, I thought we could get two bookshelves, hide those with curtains, and gain loads of storage space in the process.

I also knew that this project needed to be an inexpensive one, so I turned to my tried and true inexpensive furniture retailer, Ikea.  I decided their Billy bookcases — which measure 79 1/2″ high, but only 15 3/4″ wide —  would be the perfect option:

BILLY Bookcase, white Width: 15 3/4 " Depth: 11 " Height: 79 1/2 " Max load/shelf: 33 lb  Width: 40 cm Depth: 28 cm Height: 202 cm Max load/shelf: 15 kg

Mr. Billy Bookcase

While Ikea furniture is famously inexpensive (this bookcase is only $39.99), I knew I could probably find one or both of these bookcases on the ol’ Craigslist.  So the search began… and quickly yielded results:  I was able to purchase one Billy bookcase for $15, less than half of the original $39.99! I continued searching for the second one, but couldn’t find one that I thought was reasonably priced.  We really wanted to buy both of them before we moved, so we caved and went to Ikea (but less than $55 for two bookcases?  That’s not so bad).

Once we moved in, we assembled them, placed them on either side of our bed, loaded them up with our stuff, and said “ahhhh…….”

wait for it...

But only for a minute, because we still had to address the aesthetic issue: covering up the less than lovely and super cluttered bookcases.  We had navy blue curtains from our previous apartment that were only a few inches shy of being ceiling height, so we decided that these could be reused for this same project.  The only question was how to hang them. This is where the difficulty began.

To help you fully understand our three month plight, let me go through each of our “solutions” and then show you how we determined that they were anything BUT solutions:

1.  Hang the curtains to the wall using a curtain/drapery rod as if the bookcases were windows.  

(This is that moment in the game show where a buzzer goes off, making us feel silly for even suggesting such an answer.)

We knew this wouldn’t work aesthetically because the book cases stick out about two feet from the wall.  This would pull the curtains out from the wall and drape over the bookcases in a not-so-cute fashion.  Wrong answer.  Try again.

2.  Use a curved curtain rod

The problem is, these don’t really exist. They have curved shower rods, but these usually run about $30 EACH, so after buying two, we’d be out $60.  Nope.

However, I thought it would be cool to use plumber’s pipe and make one of our own considering plumber’s pipe comes in different lengths and also has corner pieces.  I thought we could attach one end to the back wall and the other end to the side wall. We had a $60 Home Depot gift card, so why not!?

This is an example of what I'm talking about...

Well, after using the WHOLE gift card on plumber’s pipe (really — it cost that much!), we looked forward to attaching it to the walls, hanging the curtain, and being done with the whole thing  (because at this point, the living room was finished, so we figured the bedroom should be, too!).  What we didn’t take into consideration was the weight of these pipes on plaster walls.  Whoops.  To make a very long and aggravating story short, we tried EVERY method out there, and try as we might, we never figured out a way to hang these things without ripping out a chunk of plaster (which maybe almost happened?).  Deep guttural sigh………  Back to the drawing board.

3.  The third method involved attaching Ikea cable to the ceiling and hanging the curtain from this.  Well… count this as Epic Fail #3 and I’ve got the pictures to prove it:

Are you KIDDING me?!

As you can see, the cable sagged under the weight even though we had it as taut as possible.  When we tried to tighten the cable a second time so it wouldn’t sag, it literally popped out of the ceiling (forget those screws that were holding it in place).  Fortunately, the rest of the ceiling didn’t come with it.  Whew.

4.  Moving on.  For the next idea (that never came to fruition) I thought back to a “canopy” bed I had when I was in high school.  In reality, it was a daybed, but my parents took two metal towel rods, attached them to the ceiling, and draped a piece of fabric over my bed (glorious…. again, no photos).  I thought we could use this same method on either side of the bed, but instead of draping the fabric, we could attached the curtain with rings of some sort (a problem to be solved in the future).  After pricing numerous towel rod options, I realized this was going to be WAY more expensive than it was worth.  Either the towel rods were too short or they were too expensive.  At one store, it would have cost $80 to buy both towel rods of proper length (WHAT?!).

5.  A solution!

I had pretty much removed the situation from my mind, because it was aggravating both of us so much. And we still couldn’t think of an economically effective, plaster wall friendly solution.

I say “pretty much removed… from my mind” but that’s a lie.  I mean THIS is what we had to look at every day:

angst angst angst

Well…. the solution came one day, rather unexpectedly at Ikea (though the Ikea part is not unexpected).  I was shopping with my friend, Maria, helping her with her $100 apartment makeover (future blog post comin’ at ya in December — look out!).  I was totally not even thinking about my wretched curtain situation, when I stumbled upon the solution.  In the kitchen section, Ikea has three foot long metal rods, with curved ends that are meant to be attached to a wall.  They’re called BYGEL Rails and they are a mere $2.99 (though right NOW they are on sale for $1.99).  They are great for towels, but their main purpose is to support different types of caddies and hanging kitchen objects.  Here’s a picture so you know what I’m talking about:

BYGEL Rail, silver color Length: 21 ¾ " Height: 2 "  Length: 55 cm Height: 5 cm

That’s right!  For $6 plus tax, I found the solution!  Given that they’re metal, they won’t sag, but given that they’re small, they won’t run the risk of ripping plaster off the walls or ceiling.  When I realized this was the solution, I was a mixture of joy and fury.  We’d already used an entire Home Depot gift card (and returning the pipes was not an option), we’d bought a package of Ikea cable (about $25), and we almost bought two towel rods (would have been $80).  To know the solution was a mere SIX dollars almost made me crazy.

Well, we went home, Josh and I attached them to the ceiling (easy!) and then we approached our next hurdle: how to attach the curtains to the rods.  The curtains are the type with big metal grommets at the top, but the openings were still not big enough to slide the curtain rod through.  Obviously, shower curtain rings or drapery clips/rings would be the solution, so I went in search of such a thing at Target.

I knew that in order to get enough rings to go through all of the grommets, I would have to buy two packs.  After pricing a few options, I realized this cost anywhere from $3 for the clear, plastic, shower curtain rings to $40 for the fancier drapery rings.  Crazy talk!  You know which ones I went with :)

And yes, if you look very closely (they are clear after all) you could think they look decidedly shower-like.  Which would be accurate as they are indeed shower rings  However, because of where they are hanging (on the ceiling, ten feet in the air) and given that clear, acrylic things are home-decor-hip right now, we can pretend they work.  (But they really do!)  For now.  I see a future of metallic silver spray paint, but I’ll worry about that later.  I’m just going to enjoy the end result for now. This is our bed nook in her day wear and evening wear:

In the evening


And here are some sassy side angles…


Yes, from this angle you can totally see the difference in the ceiling height and bookcase height, but I’m OK with that.  In actuality, you can’t really see it this well from any angle of the room — I kind of stood in the doorway and held the camera to my side, so normally this isn’t visible.

Here’s a close-up:

Pardon the camera.

And the lamps are both Ikea as well — they were easily screwed into the bookcases and we stapled the cord (quasi-discreetly) done the side of the bookcase.  Ooh la la :)

And here’s the reality of the situation, more often that not:


Those are my dogs.  They’re pretty spectacular, huh?

So instead of spending an extravagant amount of money, all we needed were our $3 rods and our $1.47 clear shower sings.  Of course, the process (read: 3 epic fails) was a bit more expensive than that, but we learned our lesson… and hopefully you can benefit from it.  Huzzah!

What do you think?  Have you ever attempted a space saving, storage maximizing project like this one?  Did you “epicly” fail 3 or more times before arriving at your solution?  (Did you have to spend a lot of money in the process?)  Let me know!

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Things that (P)inspire me: Upcycled Cans

The holidays are upon us, and you know that with the holidays, usually comes delicious food…  Likely, a lot of this food will be homemade.  If so, you will undoubtedly incur a lot of food packaging waste.  Some will have to go straight to the garbage (re-using Styrofoam meat trays is not cute), but a lot of it can be recycled… or better yet, REPURPOSED!  (click on the link — you know you want to).

What turned me on to this whole idea in the first place was what I saw as I was walking down the streets o’ Brooklyn on trash day this past week.  Lots of bags of trash, lots of recycling, lots of… “what is that??”


And yeah, I know… Recycling is good.  But… UPcycling is fun!!!  And think of it this way: Free materials!  (because crafting supplies really can cost some serious money.)

So, I thought — and realized, after looking in my own recycling bin — that since a big majority of the food related recyclables are cans (think: cans of crushed tomatoes, pumpkin pie filling, beans, cranberry sauce, etc.) I needed to scrounge up some crafty-whacha-ma-call-its that require cans (you know, so I could sleep better at night).

Well… what could be a better place to look than Pinterest?

(I often turn to Pinterest in times like this…)

So, for your viewing pleasure, and hopefully crafting pleasure, here are my Pinterest finds — and some good ol’ fashioned Google search finds — that use cans.

(To redirect yourself to the original location of these ideas, click on the image.  And if you really like these ideas, repin them yourself!  Share the love!)


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Tin can table numbers. These would also be great with a monogram. Source: 100 Layer Cake I love how the inside is painted a different color and it shows through the numbers.

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Tiered vase. Everything looks better when spray painted. Source: Sweet Paul Magazine

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Cans wrapped in textured wallpaper. Source: Martha Stewart

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Spray paint and florals. Yes, please. Source: Luna and Chloe Weddings

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Tin cans for organization. Pretty... Looks like they just added lace, old sheet music or book pages, and some other stuff. Source: Shabby Chic Inspired

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This looks like it belongs in my mother's crafty room. Source: Cynthia Shaffer

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Tin can dog. I don't necessarily want one of these for myself, but it'd be great in a kid's room. Source: Martha Stewart

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Tin can luminary. I smell an outdoor wedding... Source: Viva Terra

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Tin can picture frame -- she just took the outside and unrolled it. Super creative! This would also be great if spray painted. Source: Gingerbread Snowflakes

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Tin can votive. Pretty. Hammer and nails are magic :) Source: Charlotte Upfield Cermics

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Herbs! These would make good teacher's gifts or wedding favors. Source: You are My Fave

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This may seem a bit obvious, but still lovely. Source:

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Tin can mugs with bent forks for handles. Except for the pastel part, these would be perfectly at home on a camping trip (but I wouldn't know). Source:

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Hanging votive.

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Tin can wine rack. Niiice. Source: Michelle Kaufman

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Wall art. Or a great wall organizer. Source: Green Upgrader

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Another tin can wall organizer. Source: HGTV

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Twelve Weeks of Christmas, Week 5: Cheap Holiday Travel Websites

***Twelve Weeks of Christmas.  Because twenty four hours is not enough!  Check out the previous posts here.

With the holidays fast approaching, many people are no doubt making travel plans.  However, in this economy* this can prove to be difficult for some.

(*I feel like “in this economy” is one of the most overused phrases of all time and I have trouble saying it with a serious expression.  “In this economy” is to 21st century adults as “like” is to tweens.  Which doesn’t mean I don’t think we’re in a state of economic difficulty, but… like, you know what I mean.)

Never fear!  The Ginger Penny Pincher is here – ready to offer some helpful, money-saving wesbites for a happier holiday season!

Now, if you have ready any of this blog, you know that I often laud the Internet for being one of the best money-saving resources (here’s an example of my gushing about the dubya-dubya-dubya).  With travel planning, this doubly applies.  More often than not,  hotels or modes of transportation, i.e., planes, trains, buses, rental cars, have their cheapest rates online, e.g., “web rates.”

(Did you see how I just used two Latin abbreviations there?  That was a bit much, even for me.)

Sometimes it takes a bit more work, but if you put forth the effort, it will almost always reap savings.  And… better still, I have provided a list – “What?  You?  A list?!” – of some of my favorite money-saving travel websites, so there’s half the work done for you!

You’re so welcome.

The Ginger Penny Pincher’s Favorite CHEAP TRAVEL Websites:

(note: These tips are offered with a distinctive traveling-within-the-continental-United-States slant.  I’m not a world traveler (yet),  so I have less help to offer in that department, but if you have any tips for international travel, please feel free to leave them in comment form below!)

By the Mighty Mississip' in New Orleans with the Josh (this vacation brought to you bu,, and some frequent travel points given to us by my dad).


This is one of my favorites!  My friend, Naomi suggested this one to me last Christmas, and I have successfully used it on three different occasions.  This website is unique in that it usually offers “last-minute” options (thus, the name of the website).  However, “last-minute” part can be loosely translated as I have seen GREAT deals – and even taken advantage of some of them – that were available even two months out.  Here you can find great deals on hotels, airfare, cruises, packages, and more for silly cheap.  The deal is that they buy blocks of hotel rooms or what-have-you at discounted prices directly from the hotels with the hopes that they’ll be able to fill of their rooms (or in the case of planes or cruise ships, seats or cabins, respectively).  For example, right now there’s a 3-day, all-inclusive cruise to the Bahamas for a mere $169/pp.  Silly times!

When my husband, father, and I visited NYC this past July to find an apartment, we stayed on the Upper West Side (read: affluent neighborhood with high rents) for $85/night.  This is unheard of in NYC, much less any other city.  We used, set the dates and price range, and this was both the best deal AND one of the most highly rated in our search.

Another reason LMT is able to do what they do is because they don’t always offer deals on the well-known hotel groups (though sometimes).  They work with lesser-known, but still high quality groups and hotels in order to offer these deals.  In fact, Astor on the Park, the hotel  where we stayed in NYC, only sells their rooms through LMT and other websites like this, so we wouldn’t have heard about it had we not used this source.  The other catch is that they do not disclose the name of your hotel before booking.  However, they do tell you the general geographic area, the number ofstars (so you have some expectations), and the amenities.  Even though this seems like it would be very nerve-wracking, it’s always more than worked out for us and out lodging experiences!


I’m not sure why more people don’t talk about this website, but it’s seriously another one of my favorites.  I’ve actually been using this one for as long as I’ve legally been able to travel alone (I cannot even count how many college theatre conferences and auditions were made possible because of this website).  It’s a lot like some of the other, more well- known travel websites… but I don’t know… I just like it more!

3.        Megabus

Ok, I haven’t used this yet, but I know so many folks who have and LOVE it!  You can see why, with rates starting at $1!  (“What?!”)  And yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like: a bus, that’s mega!   It services the U.S., the U.K., and Canada and offers value pricing for a limited number of destinations (though they’re adding more and more itineraries all the time).  Here’s the description from their website:  “ is the first, low-cost, express bus service to offer city-to-city travel for as low as $1 via the Internet.”  They also offer luxury double and triple decker buses with free wi-fi, set plug-ins, and more.


This is like for travel (though I’m sure Yelp could help you with travel, too).  With over 50 million reviews and opinions, this is one of the best resources for reading more about a hotel, a specific restaurant, an attraction, etc.  Mainly, I have used it for hotels in cities or parts of town that I’m less familiar with.  If I’m worried that I might not feel safe, or if I think a particular hotel might be dirty or smoky I can look it up before I book it.

5.        Airfare Watchdog

This website is, as the name indicates, a watchdog for the fluctuating prices of airfare.  Ifv you put yourself on their mailing list (or check the website multiple times a day) they will notify you of the best time to buy the cheapest fair., and I mean the cheapest. For example, right now they are featuring numerous round-trip fares starting at $34 from Detroit to NYC, from Myrtle Beach to Atlantic City, from Washington D.C., to Fort Lauderdale, etc.  (and that’s a serious et cetera).

6.        Bing Price Predictor

Powered by the search engine,, this price predictor specifically applies to hotel and flight bookings.  With flights, they either tell you to “Buy Now (Fares will rise).” Or “Wait. (Fares will drop).”  With hotels, they guide you in the right direction to get the best deal (within a city or neighborhood) and they provide an assessment of current pricing so you know whether it’s “a deal” not a deal” or the “average rate.”

These are my favorites, some less known than others.  These are also the ones that I have had the most success with, or have had close friends have great success… or both!  Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the other big sites out there that can undoubtedly offer you great deals, too.

So… here they are:


And more….

As I mentioned, I have had little to no dealings with these bigger, more well-established websites, but of course that doesn’t mean they don’t have their merits.  It’s just that, more often than not, I find better deals on the other websites, or they are more user-friendly, or both.

Here’s where you come in:

Have you used any of the above websites?  Where did you get the best deal?  Or have the best booking experience?  Do you have any other travel websites that I haven’t mentioned that could help the GPP readers out?  Do you want a hippopotamus for Christmas? Let me know in comment form below, or you can e-mail me:!

Thanks :)

***And feel free to check out the previous Twelve Weeks of Christmas posts here!


Things that (P)inspire me: The Power of Paint

It is no secret that paint is the most cost-effective way to make a change in a living space.  Obviously, painting walls is one of the more obvious options.  However, I’ve been playing on Pinterest lately (I often do such things),  and I have found a few other ways to use paint that are a bit more unexpected… mayhaps even craftier.  Click on the pics for original website location (or go to my Pinterest).  Enjoy!

painted pillow

Painted pillow from Joe Montano's book BIG ASS BOOK OF HOME DECOR (I'm a fan)

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Orange dresser. I loooove me some painted furniture.

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Spray paint transformed this flea market find. I could write a book about my love for spray paint. Or at least a good, solid haiku. I'll go work on that...

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Chalkboard paint and magnetic paint had a baby; It became this spice rack wall. Love!

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Chalkboard paint calendar wall. This is before Mr. Chalkboard met Miss Magnetic Paint.

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This image comes from one of my VERY favorite blogs, Young House Love. They have used a dark teal to off-set a white bookcase unit. Purdy.

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Painting a floor! This was done in a rental (on a scuzzy, not-so-cute vinyl floor) with a stencil.

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Horizontal striped shower curtain, hand painted. Makes the room look bigger!

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A compass painted on a rug! Yes!!!

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I like rugs. I like stripes. Logic goes that I would like rugs painted with stripes. Yep.

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Give me anything painted with a chevron design and I'll give you a smile. :)

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Green painted door. "Giiiirrrrl, you is PRE-tty!"

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Glass jars dyed with paint. Find the technique at the blog, Craftberry Bush! (link on pic)

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Painted furniture strikes again! This time, it looks like the owner of this dresser probably got the $2 sample jars of paint from one paint chip. Clever.

I would be remiss if I didn't pin the work of my very own, super talented mother, Teresa. She made this pillow by taking an existing cushion, making a simple cover out of very inexpensive white duck cloth, and using black fabric paint to (free hand) paint Lady Liberty. Not everyone is as talented as Teresa, but a stencil would work just fine here!

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Here are my most recent installments of “Things that (P)inspire me.” 

Paint Chip Projects

Vintage Yardstick and Ruler Furniture and Accesories

Wooden Pallet Magic