Easy & economical photobooth strip Valentine’s cards

easy photobooth strip DIY #Valentines for #valentinesday I’ve been working on the kids’ Valentines this year. I’m typically not really a crafty person, but I do like making photo Valentines for the kids. I feel like they are more personal and a fun thing to save in their scrapbook. But on a more practical level, they tend to be easier to assemble than the store-bought variety, it allows me to avoid standing over 4 kids signing 25 valentines each, and it really isn’t all that expensive. The past few years I’ve done optical illusion Valentines using a closet dowel as a lollipop stick: optical illusion valentine's day cards #valentines #DIY (You can see those tutorials here and here.) These cards are really cute, but there is some assembly required, and cutting notches and inserting lollipops can get a little tedious for 4 different classrooms. This year, I wanted to find something even easier, and that cost less money per Valentine.Cheap, lazy, and cute . . . this was my mission. I scoured Pinterest for some ideas and saw some cute photo-booth style valentines. I decided to try the same thing. First, I grabbed a chalkboard and my iphone and took four pictures of each kid holding the chalkboard with the words I wanted in the photostrip. This part took about 10 minutes. easy photobooth strip DIY #Valentines for #valentinesday easy photobooth strip DIY #Valentines for #valentinesday easy photobooth strip DIY #Valentines for #valentinesday easy photobooth strip DIY #Valentines for #valentinesday   Then I used my phone and made a 4×6 collage of each kid’s photostrip using the Diptic app, with three rows across. The Diptic app doesn’t have a 3×4 collage, so here’s how I worked around it. First, I used this template to create the photostrip, changed the aspect to 2:3, and saved it to my camera roll: Easy & economical photobooth strip Valentine’s cards you can make on your phone   Then I used the 1×3 collage to paste the photostrips that I saved on my camera roll together, and saved it to 2:3 aspect (which is the same as a 4×6 photo). easy photobooth valentines you can make using an app on your phone! This will allow me to print them as a standard-sized 4×6 photo on Shutterfly and then cut down each photo to make three separate valentines. The 4×6 looks like this: easy photobooth strip DIY #Valentines for #valentinesday Once cut, each valentine will look like this:easy photobooth strip DIY #Valentines for #valentinesday easy photobooth strip DIY #Valentines for #valentinesday easy photobooth strip DIY #Valentines for #valentinesday easy photobooth strip DIY #Valentines for #valentinesday   I also made a few version using all four kids, to give to family and friends outside of the classroom. easy photobooth strip DIY #Valentines for #valentinesday Prints at Shutterfly cost 15 cents, and each photo yields three valentines, so I’m looking at about 5 cents per valentine. Not too bad! And in all, taking the photos, making the collage on my phone, and sending the photos to Shutterfly took me about an hour. I’m guessing cutting the photos will take me another hour . . . but since Shutterfly delivers I saved myself a trip to the store, which in my book is always a win. Have you seen any other fun ideas for Valentines?

BEFORE & AFTER: converting our garage into an office/playroom

It’s been several months since we moved into our new house but we have just finally finished converting the garage into an office/playroom. I have been working for home for 7 years now and this is the first time I’ve ever had a dedicated office space. Sure, it’s technically the garage . . . but home prices in Southern California are at a premium, which means that we have to use every square inch of space that we’ve got.

Here is a quick look at what it looked like before, and how it looks now:

garage remodel (playroom conversion) before and after
Our first step was to insulate and drywall the walls so it feels more like a room and less like a garage. We also added two windows. We don’t have air conditioning in our home (our proximity to the beach means we usually get a decent breeze) so with the windows and insulation, the garage is now about the same temperature as the house. It’s even a bit cooler when we open the garage door.

For the flooring, we went with a stand cork from Globus Cork. I have always been intrigued by cork floors. They are environmentally friendly, soft on the feet, and they absorb noise (hallelujah).  I really debated putting cork throughout the whole house but chickened out because it was new, so we decided to do it in this space. YOU GUYS. I love it so much. It’s so easy to clean, so comfortable, and it really does dampen the sound. I wish I’d done it through the whole house. It was also insanely easy to install – you just paint the glue on the floor with a paint roller and adhere the cork tiles. It has the warmth of wood with the comfort of carpet.

I wanted the kids’ space to be really flexible, so I found a shorter table at IKEA along with some small-scale chairs that are easy to adjust. This way, the kids can all be seated around the table for a game, or some kids can pull a chair up to the computer desk.



The kids go to a technology school and their homework is all online, so I outfitted three old computers so that they can use them at the same time.  We also found a 30-minute sand timer that helps with regulating their earned screen time.


On the opposite side from the kid’s desk is a bookshelf that holds toys and games. There are also four Montessori mats to encourage the kids to only play with one thing at a time before getting out another activity. (You can read more about that technique here.) A few people have asked where we keep our “crap” and that’s why the bookshelves are there. Behind them is a workbench for tools and all of the junk that accumulates in a garage.




My workspace faces out so I can watch the kids on their computers as well as
when they are playing in the driveway. I cannot tell you how exciting it is to have a dedicated workspace. No more sitting at the kitchen table! I have files and drawers. (My desk is the Bedford set from Pottery Barn with an extra file cabinet, and my chair is an Eames knock-off from Amazon. The lamp above my desk is George Nelson. The kids’ desk is from IKEA.)


Behind my desk, the wall is lined with wardrobes from IKEA. They were cheaper than the garage shelving at Home Depot and I think they look better. We’ve got some toy storage in them, and it’s also where we keep holiday decorations, suitcases, and all the other miscellanea that tends to accrue in the garage. In front of my desk, we built three IKEA bathroom vanities that I found in their “AS IS” room for $30. I stacked them up on top of each other to create a chest of sorts and it provides some extra storage.


I love having my own desk, but I do have to admit that sharing the space with the playroom is less than ideal. It’s great when the kids are home and I want to do a few small tasks while they play. But it’s hard to keep the space picked up, and I find I’m often being driven crazy by a mess of toys on the floor when I’m really trying to get some writing done. Also, this is common:


So I do still revert to the sofa when the playroom has been left messy and I want to sit in a picked-up space.

Incidentally, some friends of mine recently posted their work spaces and I find it so fascinating. Laura posted hers and then Jenny posted hers, and then Karen made a whole Tumblr of a whole tumblr about Where Bloggers Blog.

If you work from home, I would love to hear what your work space is like. Do you have your own room? Or a section of the house? Anybody else kickin’ it in their garage or sharing the space with kids?

DIY swimsuit drying rack

This little hack for drying swimsuits may seem like a no-brainer, but the concept eluded me until this summer. We used to throw wet swimsuits over the shower curtain rod, which meant that the suits dripped into the bath but also out onto the floor. The other issue with this technique is that the kids could not reach their own swimsuits,  and since they were in and out of their suits all summer it became frustrating for all of us that they required assistance to retrieve their suit.

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A friend gave me the idea to buy a separate shower curtain rod just for swimsuits, that hangs on the inside of the bath so that suits only drip into the tub. I found shower curtain hooks that worked perfectly for hanging suits, and hung the rod at a height that all the kids could reach. And voila . . . swimsuit independence.


DIY personalized bento lunchbox

I’ve been wanting to give the bento box concept another go. We had some a few years ago, and while I loved the idea of reducing waste with it, the kind I bought kept falling open in their backpacks. I’ve heard great things about the Goodbyn Bynto brand so when I saw some on Amazon for $9 I snatched them up. A $9 bento and a $1 cell-phone bling pack = a cheap way to personalize a kid's lunchbox and reduce waste. While we were pursuing the dollar aisle at Target, as we always do, India found a cell phone bling packet and had the idea to use it as decoration on her new lunch box. A $9 bento and a $1 cell-phone bling pack = a cheap way to personalize a kid's lunchbox and reduce waste. I thought it was a pretty genius idea. She decorated it all herself, and it looks cute. And for $10 total ($9 for the bin, a buck for the bling) I’m happy! (The glasses are also from the Target dollar bin and she has worn them every day for weeks. May be a rude awakening when I don’t let her wear them when school starts.) A $9 bento and a $1 cell-phone bling pack = a cheap way to personalize a kid's lunchbox and reduce waste. I’m hoping the bentos can help the kids be more independent with making their own lunches. We are still using our handy-dandy sign to help them make good choices: An easy chart to help kids make good choices and pack their own lunch I’m excited to try these Goodbyn Byntos when we go back to school next week. I will take some photos of our first couple of lunches and let you know how it goes. Do you bento? 

Painting a piano (before and after)

It’s been over a year since I bought our piano (a $100 score at a local Goodwill – you can read about that adventure here).  I had every intention of painting the thing, but as life happens, it never got checked off the to-do list. image Once we moved into the new house, I was determined to get it painted, once and for all. But indecision about the color put things on hold (again). I couldn’t decide between bright yellow or turquoise blue.  Or green?  A simple search of painted pianos yielded so many fun options for transforming a piano with paint. Here are a few that inspired me: Ten Painted Pianos in Bright Colorssources: green piano, light blue piano, dark yellow piano, my piano, turquoise piano with plates, yellow piano with antlers, aqua piano, aqua piano with birdcage, red piano, lime green piano I finally decided on yellow.  We chose Goldenrod from Dunn Edwards because it was a rich yet bright tone. We decided to hire a professional painter because we knew that trying to DIY this one was out of our skill set.  I shopped around for “piano refinishers” but the quotes were outrageous because it involved working on the inside of the piano as well.  Finally I just asked the painters who painted our house if it was something they could do. They were up for the challenge, and charged me $300 (plus materials) for the job. The used a paint sprayer, which I think is the key to a smooth finish. They sanded it, then used a primer (they actually used auto-shop primer!) and then sprayed 3 coats of paint. painted yellow piano The piano did not come with a bench – but I found a stray bench on Ebay that needed a home for only $60.  I love the mid-century legs of the bench. I painted it to match, and then added a faux sheepskin from IKEA ($10) to add some texture. painted yellow piano I love the way it came out! Once it was painted, I went to Anthropologie to choose some funky knobs for the piano. They have so many options and for $16 it made a big visual impact. I actually took India with me and let her pick, in the hopes that having some ownership of the design would encourage her to practice.. I love the knobs she chose. IMG_9911 Painted yellow piano with Anthropologie knobs Between the price of the piano ($100), the paint and labor ($380), and the knobs ($18), our grand total for this piano was just under $500. I’m very happy with how it looks and it now feels like the focal point of our living room.  Now . . . how to get these kids to practice?