...because home doesn't happen overnight.
02.04.13 / DIY Photo Postcards

My sister, Rihana, is getting married this year. We haven’t been to a wedding in a looooooooong time. I’m so excited to  have something outside of the house to look forward to! As a result, House*Tweaking might get a dose of wedding this year. Consider that a warning. I’m matron of honor {doesn’t that sound so matronly?}. Layne and Everett are ring bearers. Mabrey is a flower girl. And HH just gets to sit there and look pretty. What he does best.

My first job as matron of honor was to send out invites for the upcoming engagement party. Well, it was mine and my other sister, Alina’s, job. She’s maid of honor. I know. That just got confusing. I come from a big family. And we like unusual girl names, m’kay? Anyhow, Rihana was adamant about not labeling the party a “shower” or “celebration.” My extended family is extremely laid back and casual and we like to keep our parties the same. {Beer helps.}

Alina and I thought it would be best to DIY the invites to keep it casual. Plus, DIY’d invites have the added benefit of being a little more personal than store bought ones. A few months ago, I took engagement photos {also totally casual} of Rihana and her fiancé. I asked if she would mind if I used one of the shots for the invite. She was game.


I had 24 photos printed at my local Moto Photo in the 4″x6″ size in sepia tone in a matte finish with a white border. They were ~40¢ each. {I’m a Moto Photo member…so that might be a discounted price.} FYI – I opted for a matte finish because I think it looks more professional and I thought it would hold up better in the mail.


Then I bought 24 of these postcard stickers off the shelf – also at Moto Photo. They were 25¢ each. {I’ve seen them on Amazon for about twice that.} Last Friday night, Alina came over and we set up an assembly line to turn the photos into postcards.


Alina peeled the postcard sticker off the release paper.


I carefully lined up one photo edge with the sticker edge…


…then smoothed it out. FYI: Once the postcard sticker is stuck, it canNOT be removed. So, it’s really important to line things up properly before you smooth it all out. There’s no turning back!


Instant postcard! The sticker is quite stiff so it feels like an actual postcard too.


Alina and I are both lefties but somehow she managed to get all the good handwriting skillz. She wrote out the invite info and I addressed them. I bought fine {as in thin fine, not as in Ryan Gosling fine, although, now that I think about it, that would have been way more fun} Sharpie pens just for this step to avoid indenting the photo side of the invitations. Worked like a charm.


“He liked it so he put a ring on it” came from pinterest. I believe there were dancing Beyonces on the inspiration invitation.


Alina and I were really pleased with how they turned out. Rihana received her invite today and I got a text right away. “Got our invite in the mail today. So cute!!” Two exclamation points. I think that’s a good sign.


You could easily do this for just about any casual occasion or event: baby shower {hello, sonogram pictures!}, birthday party, Valentine’s Day {just around the corner!}, graduation open house, birth announcement, we’ve moved, Christmas postcards, etc. Really, anything. The best part is you save money by: 1) forgoing envelopes and 2) buying less expensive postcard stamps. With postage and all, I think we spent less than $1/invite which is pretty awesome considering invitees get an actual photo as a keepsake.

And now I would like to point out that I have exposed the image of Rihana & Jack kissing more than half a dozen times in one post for all to see. Jack, you are loving this, aren’t you?


One more. For good measure.


And one more because you’re a Ravens fan.


And one more because I’m a Steelers fan.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

Today I’m sharing how I DIY’d the mobile in baby’s corner. It was super easy and inexpensive. Plus, it’s completely temporary so when we blow this joint {our interim apartment housing} we should have no problem taking it with us.

First, let’s talk supplies.

1 – embroidery hoop I bought a small one {~16″ circumference} at JoAnn’s for $1.

2 – double-sided scrapbooking paper I found this metallic gold 12″ x 12″ sheet at JoAnn’s for $1.

3 – paint samples I chose coral and red swatches {Martha Stewart’s Bergamot MSL019 & Maine Lobster MSL024} and had a sample jar of each mixed up at Home Depot in the Glidden brand. This was more than enough paint but I wasn’t able to find the colors I wanted at my local craft store in a smaller container. Also, purchasing the paint samples at the home improvement store made asking for 16 paint sticks more palatable. The two jars of paint cost me $6.

Of note: The paint desk employee informed me that Home Depot will no longer be carrying the Martha Stewart Living paint. However, they will have MSL formulas in their computer so they can color match them in their Glidden brand.

4 – small foam brushes I bought cheap foam brushes to apply each of the paint samples to my paint sticks. They cost me $2.

5 – 3M Command hook I always have a slew of these on hand. With a hanging weight capacity of 5 lbs, this hook is strong enough to safely support the light mobile from the ceiling.

6 – scissors I used these to cut the scrapbooking paper into circles.

7 – fishing line Another item I always have on hand to hang decor. It’s extremely durable and invisible. I used the fishing line to suspend the paper circles from the mobile and to secure the mobile to the adhesive ceiling hook.

8 – paint sticks Since I was buying paint samples, I kindly asked the paint desk employee if I could have 16 paint sticks. He was more than happy to let me take as many as I wanted because I was a paying customer.

I’ve always been on the fence when it comes to ‘borrowing’ paint swatches/sticks for DIY craft projects. Although they are free products, I’m assuming home improvement stores tack on the cost of that lost inventory to other items somewhere down the line. Who knows? Maybe someday we’ll have to pay for our swatches and sticks. Remember when you could put air in your tires at no cost?

To determine the number of paint sticks you’ll need, simply measure the circumference of your embroidery hoop in inches.

Mine was ~16″ around. Paint sticks are roughly 1″ wide, so I grabbed 16 paint sticks knowing there would be a little space in between each stick on the mobile. I ended up only using 15 sticks.

9 – pencil {not shown because my baby brain hadn’t thought of it yet} I traced circles onto the scrapbooking paper with a pencil.

10 – tape {not shown because I think Everett was playing with it} I used clear packing tape because that’s what we have on hand at the apartment for moving day.

11 – hot glue gun & glue sticks {not shown because I had it plugged in} This is what I used to secure the paint sticks to the hoop.

Once I had everything set out, I got to work.

I removed the inner embroidery hoop {the one with no tightening screw} from the outer ring {the one with the fastener} to use as my mobile base. Essentially, you could make two mobiles from one store bought embroidery hoop if you wanted.

I separated my paint sticks into two equal piles and placed plastic shopping bags under them to use as drop cloths. I reused my JoAnn’s and Home Depot bags…waste not, want not!

Using the foam brushes, I gave each paint stick two coats of paint front and back. I didn’t bother with the sides since I wanted a homemade, imperfect look. I thought the raw wood edges would give me that. I made sure to let them dry in between each coat.

Before glueing the painted sticks onto the hoop, I tied some fishing line onto my hoop so that I’d have something to hang the mobile from.

Once all the painted sticks were dry, I started hot glueing them to the hoop. I found it easier to place the sticks by applying the glue directly to the hoop…not the sticks. I chose to attach the sticks about 2″ – 2.5″ down from the flat end {not the end with the curved indentations that are meant to act as handles when used to stir paint} and left about ¼” gap between the sticks. I held each stick firmly in place for 10-20 seconds after glueing it. I alternated coral, red, coral, red, coral…you know what comes next.

Placement wasn’t perfect. I didn’t measure as I went along glueing. I just eyeballed it and figured I could make adjustments at the end if I ended up with a gap or two reds next to each other…you know, just hang that part facing the wall. Ha! Luckily, it all worked out and the worst that happened was that I had to squeeze in my last paint stick. In the end, I used 7 coral sticks and 8 red sticks.

I let the glue dry while I moved onto the paper circles that would dangle from the mobile.

To keep things simple {and to keep me from getting up off the floor!}, I used one of my paint sample jars as the template for my circles. I traced around the bottom of the jar and filled my paper with circles.

I cut out the circles by hand. An easier option would be to use a large circle punch but I don’t have one and wasn’t willing to spend $10+ to buy one. Yes, to me, cutting by hand for 10 minutes is definitely worth the $10 saved!

Using tape and fishing line, I attached my gold paper circles to the inside of the mobile. I found this step easier when I hung the mobile from something {in my case, a floor lamp so I could stay on the floor…still} which let me see how the circles were falling and vary their heights accordingly. Basically, I hung the circles at random distances from the bottom of the mobile for a loose, casual feel. Oh, and I didn’t use all the circles I cut out. After suspending 10 circles, I felt any more would feel too busy.

Then I hung the whole thing from the ceiling via a 3M Command hook and more fishing line. I tried taking a picture of this so you could see it in more detail but fishing line is invisible and the ceiling is white, so this is what I got…

Instead of looping the fishing line around the hook as you would if you were hanging something from a wall, I looped the fishing line around the back of the adhesive hook {yup, right where the adhesive is} and just in front of the actual hook part that juts out. That arrow is pointing to where the fishing line is tied since it’s not highly visible. You could always use a screw-in ceiling hook but, again, I was trying to keep things as damage-free as possible since we’re renting. The adhesive hook is working really well so far. I’ve had it up for over a week now with no signs of it pulling loose – even with the textured ceiling.

I said it before. I just love the playful pop of color and whimsy that the little DIY mobile brings to baby’s corner.

Of course, there are all kinds of ways you could tweak my design into something different:

  • use even more paint colors for a happy, striped effect
  • use a larger hoop and more paint sticks for something bigger…like a tween girl’s faux chandy
  • fold/cut paper into different shapes
  • leave the outside of mobile natural {not painted} but paint the inside a bright hue for an unexpected surprise
  • add inexpensive cord lighting to create a pendant

Do you have any other ideas for alternative spins on my DIY paint stick mobile? I’d love to hear your brainstorming!

In other baby news, well, nothing really. I’m 38 weeks. I was 3cm dilated at my last OB appointment. Just last night I had several hours of regular contractions {about every 5-6 minutes, lasting about 1 minute}. I took a shower to see if that would stop things, thinking then I’d know if it was the real thing. The shower had no effect. We had my dad and his wife come to pick up the boys in case things progressed. I called my doula just to let her know what was going on but assured her that my contractions – while quite strong and regular – were not crazy intense and that I was coping well. She encouraged me to rest, so I did. I got some sleep off and on for a few hours with contractions still coming and going. Then all of a sudden at 8am this morning {nearly 10 hours after the contractions began} everything came to a screeching halt. HH is working from home today and I’m just going about my day, pretending last night didn’t happen.

The popular midwife adage is holding true for us: Firsts are long. Seconds are fast. Thirds are unpredictable.

FYI – Click here to see if you won the BrideBlu giveaway this week! I really enjoyed reading about all the creative ideas for ‘something blue’ on a wedding day. So much has changed since HH and I got married!

images: all Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

I’m working with Apartment Guide to dress up and organize our apartment for the holidays. It’s part of the Holiday Home Organization Blogger Challenge that they’re sponsoring.

I’ve been sprucing things up over the last few days and today I’m sharing my holiday decor with you. That means you also get a mini tour of our apartment. Let the festivities begin…


Square footage is precious in our ~900 sq ft apartment, so I picked up a live tabletop tree but chose to use it on the floor flanked by two side chairs.

I placed the petite tree in front of the patio sliders so it can be enjoyed from the inside and outside. A larger tree would have jutted out into the room too much and blocked much needed natural light from the sliders.

Our Christmas decorations are in storage but I did manage to coax Handy Hubby to hunt down one Christmas tote {mainly for the Elf on a Shelf for the kids} and was able to reuse some of our past tree dressings: lights, ribbon, bead strands. The rest of the items I picked up at various craft stores.

As much as I like natural light photos, there’s just something about a glowing Christmas tree at night that makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.

The tree came with a small stand and watering bowl. I propped the stand up on a box inside of a metal bucket that I already had on hand. {It was previously corralling rolls of toilet paper in a closet.} I disguised the base with our traditional tree skirt from storage.

There aren’t any ornaments on the tree. Instead, I bought 10 of the glittery ornamental wands from JoAnn’s {crazy cheap!} and stuck them throughout the tree for some more shimmer.

The topper consists of a few glitter wands zip-tied together with a trio of peacock feathers. {I have plans for gift wrap that will pull the dark teal color from the peacock feathers.}

I fell in love with the feathers at the craft store. When HH saw them, the first thing he sarcastically said was, “Peacock feathers just scream Christmas.” I could have kicked him. I didn’t.

I like the way the feathers resemble the plume of tall ornamental grasses used in landscaping. Maybe it’s just me. Layne and Everett told me feathers don’t belong on a tree.

The budget {assume anything not included was available on hand}:

  • tree & stand – $15 {Lowe’s}
  • peacock feathers – $3 {Hobby Lobby}
  • 10 glitter ornament wands – $4 {JoAnn’s}
  • pack of 100 zip ties – $4 {Home Depot}

TOTAL: $26

I had big plans to create some sort of hanging tree out of wire, fabric and lights to hang from the blinds’ rod above the patio sliders. But once I realized that the wire I bought wasn’t sturdy enough to support my creation without being all lopsided and my boys frowned at me saying, “It doesn’t even look like a Christmas tree”, I returned everything and resorted to the petite live tree. Sometimes my ideas stay that way…as ideas…for a reason.


Previously, the breakfast bar in the apartment was just one big mess of chaos. I brought two counter stools from our old house to put at the bar but they were far too low to use for eating at the bar. In the last 3 months, we used them once. More often than not they became a dumping ground for coats, backpacks and bags, and they took up precious traffic flow space. I don’t plan on using them at the Underdog, so I donated them to Goodwill {made sure to get a tax receipt!} and got to work redefining the area.

I placed a wing chair and side table in the nook as a place to sit and put on/take off shoes. I put the kids’ school stuff on the chair the nights before school days to make mornings run a little more smoothly.

I sewed a custom skirt/tablecloth for the bar and attached it to the kitchen side of the bar with removable velcro. It serves as a dressy holiday backdrop for the seating area.

For added ambiance, I hung a string of white icicle lights behind the skirt.

I simply tapped a few nails into the underside of the breakfast countertop {making sure not to tap them in too deep to the other side!} and attached the lights with zip ties. The white lights look like little stars at night and give off a warm glow.

But the skirt is not only decorative, it’s useful too. The shorter side of the breakfast bar looks unassuming enough…

…but pull back the fabric to reveal storage.

I relocated this shoe rack from the coat closet to free up closet space for hidden holiday gifts and any guests that may come visit over the holidays. Originally, I had wanted to create a wrapping station here but I came up with a no paper/no tape gift wrap idea that I plan on using for Christmas this year instead. Hence, no glamorous wrapping station is necessary. Still, this space behind the skirt has so many possibilities: wrapping station with hanging wire baskets, boot tray, hanging storage with Command hooks, mail collecting station with hanging organizers, etc. I added a removable hook behind the wing chair and skirt to store gifts until they are wrapped. No peeking!

The budget: {assume anything not included was available on hand}

  • striped fabric – $14 {JoAnn’s}
  • paisley fabric – $18 {JoAnn’s with coupon}
  • gold ribbon – $3 {JoAnn’s}
  • velcro – $2 {JoAnn’s with coupon}
  • icicle lights – $9 {Home Depot}
  • trio of 3M Command hooks – $6 {Home Depot}

TOTAL: $52

My favorite part about this project is that we actually use the space but it looks less cluttered now. The kids love the glowing lights at night.


Nothing says ‘Happy Holidays’ like a wreath. I found two of these gold glitter wreaths at a local craft store on sale. I suspended one wreath by green ribbon in front of canvas artwork.

The sparkle is a shimmery contrast to the matte painting. At night it looks warmer…

I hung the second wreath from a standing shelf in the living room.

I like the circular shape of the wreath against all the straight lines of the bookshelf and bins.

I suspended the wreath by a green ribbon tied directly to the top shelf of the bookcase.

It’s just the hint of Christmas cheer that the corner of the room needed. It glitters at night beneath artificial light.

The budget: {assume anything not included was available on hand}

  • gold glitter wreaths – $18 each {Michael’s on sale}

TOTAL: $36

My wreaths are store bought but you could easily DIY something similar with a plain stick wreath and gold spray paint.


Remember the gold chandelier that hung too close to the ceiling? I hated it. Wanting a cozier, more intimate and warmer feel for the holidays, I finally did something about that chandy.

I DIYed a 24″ high fabric shade and hung it over the existing chandelier.

The new shade diffuses the light from the chandelier in a lovely way.

The oversize scale of the pendant helps connect the once too-high chandy to the dining table.

I can’t keep the light off at nighttime now.

Due to lack of time and energy, I didn’t add fabric to the bottom side of the shade.

I hung the shade from the existing chandelier’s chain with fishing line…it’s strong but virtually invisible.

The budget: {assume anything not included was available on hand}

  • large embroidery hoop – $6 {Hobby Lobby}
  • fishing line – $6 {Target}

TOTAL: $12

Could it be that my favorite holiday decor project is the one the cost the least? Yes! I plan to post the DIY specifics in a future post.

Keep in mind that all of these projects are completely temporary and easily removable – great for our temporary living situation. Thanks to Apartment Guide for sponsoring my holiday projects. I probably wouldn’t have put too much effort or thought into our apartment’s holiday decor otherwise. But now that it’s all done, I’m feeling pretty good about our warm and cozy interim housing. It was definitely worth all the time and effort put into it. My hope is that someone is inspired to make their home {whether permanent or temporary} an organized and inviting place for the holidays.

FYI – Apartment Guide is owned by Consumer Source, Inc. Apartment Guide partnered with bloggers such as me to participate in its “Holiday Home Organization” Blogger Challenge.  As part of that program, I received compensation.  They did not tell me what to purchase or what to say about the products used for the “Holiday Home Organization” Blogger Challenge. Apartment Guide and Consumer Source believe that consumers and bloggers are free to form their own opinions and share them in their own words. Consumer Source’s policies align with WOMMA Ethics Code, FTC guidelines and social media engagement recommendations.

Don’t forget to like Apartment Guide of Facebook or follow them on Twitter!

images:  1) Apartment Guide  all the rest) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

If you’ll remember from our apartment tour, this is the kitchen…

Looks like an apartment kitchen, doesn’t it?  It’s teeny but fine for what we need right now – which is just somewhere to store and cook food while the Underdog undergoes some major surgery.

Right away {even before we moved into the apartment} I noticed something about the kitchen that caught my eye.  The countertops appear to have been painted.  Not by us.

That’s the breakfast bar countertop above.  {Yes, I ordered the new Design*Sponge at Home book last week.  No, I haven’t even cracked it yet.  It’s just been sitting on the bar ever since it arrived. I’m waiting for a rainy day…}

The main background color is creamy with flecks of tan and gray on top to give it a little more dimension.  For an apartment countertop, it’s not bad.  Not bad at all.  It’s light, clean, stain-free and wipes down easily.

On the other side of the breakfast bar is the sink with a little bit of counter space on either side of it. This is where I prepare meals/snacks and where dirty dishes sit before they’re washed.  {I’m hand washing everything because, ironically, the dishwasher does NOT wash dishes.  It just squirts some water around and makes a bunch of noise, leaving our plates and silverware looking like they did right after we finished eating with them.}

I’ll be honest.  I don’t necessarily try to be nice to the countertops.  Sometimes, I put hotter-than-recommended pots and pans on them, cut directly on them and clumsily drop pointy/heavy dishware on them.  But the counters have held up very well so far.  No dents, scratches, blemishes or anything.  Of course, I have no idea how long the countertops have been painted. We very well could be the first to use the painted surface.  Still, it seems quite durable.

Even the edges are holding up.  I told Handy Hubby that I thought the countertops had been painted and he didn’t agree at first.  But we got to looking around and there is telling evidence that they have been painted.  Some of the countertop paint is on top of the caulk around the 4″ backsplash against the wall.  There’s no other explanation for it.  Must have been due to a shoddy tape job.  HH believes me now.

The surface is what I would call a satin finish.  It has some shine to it but it’s definitely not glossy. It’s textured too.  I’ve tried my darndest to figure out what the original countertop may have looked like because I’m weird/curious like that.  But the original surface is covered really well and I can’t find a single painting ‘miss’ that would give me a clue as to what it was. Because it’s an apartment, I’m guessing faux butcher block.  Oh, how happy I am it’s painted if that really was the original look.

I must say I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the durability and appearance of our painted countertops.  Although it’s not something I would ever want permanently, I think it’d be a great temporary holdover project for someone saving money for natural stone {or the like} who can’t bear to live with, say, faux butcher block anymore.  Needless to say, it’d be a DIY project for a rental too {as long as the landlord gives you the go ahead}.  And maybe even a good investment for someone trying to sell a home that has cringe-worthy, dark, hunter green countertops.  Taking a peek at some prices, it looks like you could achieve a transformation like this for less than $300 with one of the countertop transformation kits available at home improvement stores.

Have you seen painted countertops before?  Ever tried ‘em yourself?

images: all Dana Miller for House*Tweaking