Sunday, October 30, 2011

Wood Sign - How to Distress

In my previous post, I showed how I took an inexpensive pine board and stenciled it to create a primitive wood sign. The video below is a very brief tutorial on how to sand and stain the sign to make it look aged and distressed.

I used an electric palm sander because it goes quicker, but you can sand the piece by hand. I used a fairly dark stain. You can experiment with different stains to achieve the desired look. I also stained the back and all sides of the board. You'd be surprised at what a nice, rich look a piece of ordinary pine can have when it's been stained.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Fort Worth Zoo and Other Low-Cost Family Daytrips

Fort Worth Zoo Gorilla - Zachariah Barton Photos

The cost of a family vacation has become prohibitive for my families. Airfare, and food and lodging has risen while many income levels have dropped. Does that mean we all have to forgo family vacations altogether? Not when there are plenty of low-cost day trips available.

Regardless of what area of the country you’re located, there’s bound to be a botanic garden, zoo, aquarium or several museums. These local destinations provide a full day of education, entertainment and activity for all family members.

The Fort Worth Zoo

Zoos are not what they once were. Gone are the days where animals are kept in small cages and in environments that don’t even remotely resemble their natural habitat. Over the years, many zoological associations and societies have recognized the fact that attendance at zoos was declining. This caused them to make great strides to improve and add to old and outdated facilities. The result is a greater number of animals, more permanent exhibits and an increase in visitor amenities.

For example, the Fort Worth Zoo, in North Texas, boasts a collection of 519 species of animals, of which 42 are currently on the endangered species list. With 12 permanent exhibit areas, Penguins, World of Primates, Asian Falls, Raptor Canyon, Cheetahs, Flamingo Bay, Meerkat Mounds, Australian Outback, African Savannah, Parrot Paradise, Texas Wild! and the Museum of Living Art, there’s an abundance of animals available to entertain and educate. The on site carousel, miniature railroad train, and old west town provides additional fun for all ages. Admission fees vary among zoos, but are almost always reasonably and affordably priced. Several zoos offer a weekly half-price day.

Botanic Gardens

Botanic gardens are a sometimes overlooked family day trip destination. Tucked inside many U.S. cities, these natural wonders offer visitors the opportunity to walk among exotic and domestic foliage. Taking along a picnic lunch cuts down on the cost of stopping for a meal. Most botanic gardens admission fees are under $5 and often free for children.

In Chilly Weather and Colder Climates

Not all parts of the country are as warm as the southwest, but there are other opportunities for family activities. Aquariums and museums provide an inexpensive day of family fun in cold climates and winter weather. Many larger cities have children’s museums where hands-on learning is encouraged. Parents can often relax and sit nearby while little ones experiment in water and sand exhibits.

Most of these places are open year-round. Many of them offer special exhibits and discounts at holiday time and have websites that can be easily accessed. Parents and caregivers can easily refer to the facility website to check times, dates, special attractions and admission fees. Planning a family day trip or mini-vacation can be just a click away.

My eHow Article of the Month

Well, imagine my surprise when I read the Demand Media Studios newsletter and found out that my article, "Halloween Haunting Projects" won article of the week. It's got plenty of ideas for Halloween haunts, treats and projects! Thanks for looking!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Floating Open Shelves Idea

 When we moved into our house the kitchen had very little storage space. I decided to create a wall of floating shelves for utility purposes and to showcase some of my kitchen collectibles.

I LOVE using inexpensive pine boards as shelving. For very little money, between $3 and $5 per board, plus some corner brackets (also inexpensive) you can add a really nice decorative wall to your kitchen decor. Our kitchen is still a work in progress (hence the light fixture wiring hanging from the ceiling), but I just wanted to show that you can make a pretty big impact without spending a lot of money. Click -here- to see the brief video I made that shows and explains what I've done. You can also get a look at the creepy clown cookie jar that haunts our kitchen. Thanks for looking!

Handcrafted Primitive Wood Sign Stencil Tutorial

I decided to make a stencil tutorial to show how easy it is to take a plain pine board and turn it into a handcrafted primitive wood sign.

Since it seems to be nearly impossible to upload videos to Blogger, if you click: here, you can watch the tutorial. I've given some time-saving tips.

Keep in mind that it's possible to purchase stencils with full words and sayings, but they're usually expensive. I use basic lettering stencils; whatever I can find and wherever I can find them.

This particular wood board cost me less than $4 at my local Lowes. I painted it lightly with some ordinary white house paint. I used acrylic craft paint for the stenciling.

In my next tutorial I'll be showing how to distress and stain the board to make it look antique and primitive.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Handmade Primitive Doll Dress

For some unknown reason I am unable to upload my tutorial video from my computer on this post. Fortunately, I've uploaded the video to Please click here: tutorial video , for the primitive doll dress how-to.

Please visit my previous posts where I show how to make the doll. Next up: Creating the doll's face and hair.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Easy Primitive Doll Staining Techique

Here is step 2 in my primitive doll tutorial. I had read how people coffee stain muslin in the oven and thought, hmmmm...I wonder if this will work in the microwave? To my delight (and lazyness) it works perfectly. I use this technique all the time on my primitives. It's a great time saver! Here's the tutorial video:

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Reuse That Pickle Juice!

Did you know you can reuse leftover pickle juice to pickle raw and frozen veggies? Why, yes you can and it's delicious! All the work of making the pickle brine has been done for you.

First, I started with a jar of pickle juice. We like Best Maid because they're made right here in Texas. This particular jar currently has broccoli pickling in it.

Then I cut up some yummy celery sticks. These are the bitter, end pieces that often get discarded, but are perfectly good for pickling.

Next, I cut some carrot sticks.

I put the celery and carrot sticks in the pickle juice jar. In a couple of days, we'll have delicious pickled veggies.

The rest of the veggies were cut up and stored in a plastic food storage container for dipping in ranch dressing later. ALWAYS take the time to cut your own celery and carrot sticks. You save money when you do it yourself instead of buying pre-cut sticks. Plus, you know for sure that those nasty pesticides have been washed off thoroughly.

You can do this with any kind of veggies. Use whatever you and your family enjoy. You can also pickle hard boiled eggs the same way. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Recycle Old Bed Sheets Into Rag Rugs

Do you have old, worn sheets taking up space in your linen closet? Chances are you probably do. Before you throw them out...WAIT...

You can recycle those unused bed sheets into a functional, attractive rag rug. Here is a rag rug from yucky old bed sheets tutorial that shows you how. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Homemade Primitive Wood Signs

I’ve always been a big fan of rustic wood projects. Making primitive reproductions is one of my favorite things to do. Unlike making fine wood furniture and accessories, you don’t have to be as particular with primitives. They’re also in high demand among collectors. Real antiques cost hundreds of dollars. Reproductions give people the opportunity to accessorize their country homes for far less money. When I sold these primitive wood signs and similar items, at craft shows, they sold out quickly, long before the sale was over.

I went to my local Home Depot and picked up a 12-foot long pine board for just under $12. Mine was 7 inches wide and 1-inch thick, but other widths will do fine. I had the lumber associate cut the board in 3 pieces, so each sign only cost me $4!

I sanded the board on all sides and rounded the corners to add a look of age. I used a palm sander, but you can sand by hand if you like.

Then I added a coat of mustard yellow craft acrylic paint and let it dry. I used letter stencils; not full word stencils, which is a teensy bit more difficult since you have to take care to keep your letters properly spaced and straight. But, that's what I had to work with, so I made do.

And here's the finished product. I used two different size letters to accent "Home" and included some stenciled chickens, roosters and primitive stars. Finally, I lightly sanded the entire piece with the palm sander and applied a coat of light wood stain to really make it primitive looking.

So, now I have a primitive kitchen sign that I made myself at a fraction of what I would have spent on a sign purchased online. Anyone can do this. They make great gifts too! I'll be posting some more pictures of other signs I've made. My mom gave me some scraps and I've made some nice signs from those too...and the best part was they were free!

Preschool Project Ideas

Moms and caregivers looking for new and interesting activities to do with preschoolers, please read my latest article "Fun & Easy Projects for Pre-K Students"

Friday, October 7, 2011

Work at Home Scams - Don't Be a Victim

Many out of work Americans are struggling to find ways to generate income and keep themselves from financial ruin. Unfortunately, this has opened up the flood gates for many unscrupulous scammers to take advantage of desperate job seekers.

While some work from home businesses are legitimate, many are not and can be costly mistakes for unsuspecting targets. The following tips will help when evaluating the legitimacy of an offer to work at home.
  • What tasks will you be doing in your home business? Ask for a detailed list of each specific job requirement. Many work from home scams make it practically impossible to be paid for a job accomplished. Some companies require you to assemble items then routinely deem finished products “subpar” as an excuse not to pay workers.

  • Will you be working on a salary basis, piecework basis or on commission. Undoubtedly, a salary is most advisable, however not many companies pay on this basis.

  • Who will be paying you? You’ll want to know this upfront. If the company pays workers through an outside agency this could become an issue if your check is not remitted in a timely manner.

  • When will you receive your first paycheck? You don’t want to complete any job and then be forced to wait months for payments, but this often happens.

  • What will be the cost to you? Far too many work from home companies require workers to purchase kits, supplies, equipment or pay membership fees. Upfront fees place further financial burdens on struggling workers. 99.9% of companies requiring some kind of upfront fee is a scammer.

  • Research any company before you commit. Visit the Local Consumer Protection Agency, State Attorney General’s Office or the Better Business Bureau in the state where the company is located as well as your own state. These organizations will list complaints about the work at home program that interests you. But be aware that the absence of complaints doesn’t always mean the company is legitimate. Deceitful companies often settle complaints, change names, or relocate to evade legal action.

  • Above all, trust your instincts. If a claim to make a lot of money working from home sounds too good to be true it almost always is. Promising workers a guaranteed income of $17.00 an hour to stuff envelopes is an outrageous claim and therefore an obvious scam.

If you feel you have been a victim of a work from home scam you can visit the website, or you should contact the Federal Trade Commission or any of the agencies listed above.

Blog for Fun and Profit

So you have a blog and happily post as often as you possibly can. You write about things that are important to you. You share funny stories about your children, spouse, co-workers, neighbors. Maybe you even use your blog as a way to let off some steam. Unhappy with the customer service you’ve received at your local superstore? Write about it. Your boss is a jerk? Write about him (leaving out his or her name of course). Your husband constantly leaves the toilet seat up or hogs the remote? Share all the irritating details on your blog. There are literally millions of blogs out there in cyberspace so why shouldn’t you be joining in on the blogging fun?

It's Free and Easy

There are many reasons why you should consider starting a blog. Many free blog sites exist so there’s no financial commitment to make. Register, choose a theme and begin posting. It’s as easy as that. As mentioned above, blogging is a good way to share your life with others.

Staying in Touch with Friends and Family via Blogs

Families set up blogs where each member has a chance to post updates to let relatives near and far know what’s going on in their lives. Include photos and videos and it’s almost like being there with your loved ones.

Blogs are a Great Career Move

If you’re looking to change careers or are currently out of work you should consider creating a blog. Include a resume page and links to relevant accomplishments and you can advertise yourself via your blog easily with one click. This is definitely an overlooked free marketing strategy for job seekers.

Blogs as Extensions of a Website

Do you have a business website? If the answer is yes, you should absolutely include a blog on your site. Write articles and how-to’s related to your business field and your customers will appreciate the added information.

Let’s say you own a tree trimming business and you have a business website. You can write articles about types of trees to plant, the best time to trim and prune, known diseases prevalent in certain varieties of trees, how to start a leaf compost bin, and on and on. Inviting readers to leave comments and questions gives you the opportunity to put in a good word for your company.

Affiliate Marketing Opportunities

Blogs can be money makers all on their own. Most, if not all, free blogging sites do not allow advertising on blogs. But if you purchase your own domain you can include money-making ads on your blog. There are numerous pay-per-click and affiliate programs available online. By placing company ads on your blog you make money when a visitor to your site clicks on an ad and/or buys a product from the company. You most likely will not get rich doing this but you get paid for doing very little and that’s a pretty good thing. If you have several ads going on each page of your blog you up the ante that much more.

Submitting Your Site to Search Engines

In order to make money from advertising on your blog you need to bring visitors to your site. Submitting your blog to search engines is key. An often overlooked method to bring visitors to your site is to write articles. There are many article network sites where you can submit articles on literally any topic. Your information, including your website address, appears with the article and that translates to free advertising for your site. I will go into more detail on this technique in future articles.

Blogging can be fun, an expressive outlet, a marketing tool and a money maker. Once you start blogging you’ll begin to look at things in an entirely different light. News reports, radio programs, even a trip to the grocery store can all be fodder for your blog writing. Keeping a small notebook and pen with you at all times helps you remember little tidbits of everyday life than can be written about later. Happy blogging!

5 Small Business Ideas You Can Do From Home

With 13.9 million Americans currently out of work and jobs at a minimum, many people are looking for alternative ways to generate income. Starting your own business is an appealing prospect and for many good reasons. You can make your own hours and be your own boss. If you work primarily out of your home you’ll have little or no overhead expenses. But you should also be prepared for a great deal of hard work. It takes research, a sound business plan, drive and determination. Your first step is to decide what type of business you’d like to start. The following are 5 small businesses that can be started with little or no start up costs.

1. Resume writing service

If you have good writing, spelling and grammatical skills this is an excellent full or part-time business. A computer and an internet connection is pretty much all you need. You can advertise your resume writing business in local papers and on online classified sites like Craigslist. You can begin by developing a detailed questionnaire for clients to complete via email. Following up by phone or Skype interviews will allow you to prepare a professional, detailed resume for your customers. To get started, consider offering to write resumes for friends and family at no cost in order to build your resume writing portfolio.

2. Catering business

Do friends and family often compliment you on your culinary skills? Are you known for your delicious cakes, cookies or cupcakes? You can specialize in ethnic foods, baked goods only, children’s parties or tea parties, just to name a few. Consider starting out by catering small parties and gatherings. Start up cost is minimal. You most likely already have pots, pans and cooking utensils in your kitchen. Superstores like Sam’s Club and Costco have a good selection of bulk catering supplies at reasonable prices. As your business and reputation grows you can cater larger events. Be sure to check with your local health department to find out what rules and regulations are required. If regulations are restrictive, consider teaming up with a local church or organization that will allow you to prepare food in their kitchen facilities.

3. Daycare business

If you love children and have a lot of patience, a daycare business might be a good choice. Finding quality daycare is a huge problem for many working parents and you can fill this void. You’ll need books, toys and some equipment like cribs and play pens but these can be purchased at thrift stores and consignment shops to save money. Each state differs with regards to daycare rules and regulations so be sure to check with your local agencies. Becoming certified or licensed has the benefit of having access to USDA and other programs. Taking CPR and first aid training at your local Red Cross will make your daycare business more attractive to parents.

4. Affiliate marketer

Having your own website has never been easier or cheaper. Basically all you need is a domain name, a hosting site and a website builder. GoDaddy is an excellent one-shop stop for all of this. Once you have a website set up and you’ve added some valuable, interesting content you can sign up with several affiliate programs. Companies pay you to advertise their products on your website. When visitors to your site click on an ad and make a purchase you get paid a percentage of the sale. Some affiliate programs, such as Google Adsense, are pay per click, but many pay when a purchase is made. Either way, it’s possible to make a nice income through affiliate marketing.

5. Flea market vendor

There are flea markets and swap meets in nearly every city and small town across the country. For a minimal fee (often around $20 for a weekend) you can set up a booth and sell just about anything. Used goods, wholesale products, food and handcrafted items can all be sold for a profit. There are many indoor flea markets and antiques malls that are always actively seeking vendors.

Beneficial Bugs in the Garden

I don’t know what it is, but bugs seem to love me. The minute I step outside to sit or work in my garden I immediately feel them biting. Mosquitoes, flies, gnats, they all seem to magically appear and swarm my sensitive skin. And anyone who’s been stung by a bee or wasp knows how painful that can be.

Fortunately for me I can spray my skin so soft and the bugs disappear as mysteriously as they had appeared. However, unfortunately for my poor green babies it’s not as easy to remedy.

Don’t poison your garden with pesticides

True, you can spray your plants with an insecticide, but, to me, this defeats the purpose of having a garden. When you spray with insecticides, like it or not, you no longer have a true organic garden.

Most vegetable gardeners choose growing their own vegetables over buying for many reasons. Among them being the fact that what goes in to the garden can be controlled by the gardener and poisonous chemicals are not something we want to be adding to our food.

In addition, pesticides are not discretionary, they rid your garden of all insects, good and bad. And most seasoned gardeners understand the difference between good and bad bugs. It’s estimated that 97% of bugs found in your garden and home are either beneficial or harmless.

Lady bugs are good luck in your garden

When I was growing up it was considered to be good luck if a lady bug landed on you. Well it’s good luck for your garden too. The lady bug is actually a type of beetle and there are a variety of groups.

Lady bugs are natural enemies of many insect pests and are capable of consuming 50 to 60 aphids in one day. Amazingly, one single lady bug can consume 5,000 aphids in a lifetime. Which is a very beneficial thing because aphids can cause damage and even destroy some plants and trees. Lady bugs feed on a wide variety of insects and larvae besides aphids, including leaf hoppers, mealy bugs and mites.

Some lady bugs also feed on plant and pollen mildew. In order to attract lady bugs in your garden, consider planting herbs and flowers that are popular with lady bugs such as yarrow, dill, fennel, cilantro, coreopsis, scented geraniums and dandelions. And, as difficult as it may be, don’t squash every bug you find on your plants because when you do you’re eliminating the lady bug’s food source and they won’t stick around.

There are four types of beneficial insects found in the garden:
  1. Predators include ladybugs, spiders and lizards.
  2. Parasitoids are insects that complete its larval development inside the body of another insect which it eventually kills. Wasps are parasitoids.
  3. Pollinators are insects that transfer pollen from a plant’s male reproductive organs to the female reproductive organs in order to form seeds. Bees are the most common pollinators. Some moths and butterflies are also pollinators.
  4. Decomposers/recyclers are insects that break down and decompose more complex compounds and turn them into more beneficial, simpler and more usable forms. The lowly fly and humble earthworm are among these types of insects.

Mother Nature knows your garden best
As gardeners, we would do well to utilize and make the most of what Mother Nature has given us. Using and living side by side with the natural gift of beneficial bugs can help us and our gardens as well as the environment.

Bad Credit Hurts Unemployed

With the unemployment rate at 9.2 percent and the economy at an all-time low, finding a job is becoming a difficult task. For every job opening there are hundreds of applicants and candidates need all the help they can get. But, many job seekers don’t realize their credit ratings could be sabotaging their chances of getting a job.

Most consumers know their credit reports are scrutinized when applying for loans, credit cards and mortgages, but many people don’t know employers often do the same background checks on job candidates. And this practice is perfectly legal. There are certain laws employers must follow but the likelihood of being turned down for a job because poor credit, bankruptcies and a variety of other damaging information is becoming greater than ever before.

Your consumer report has a lot of personal, sensitive information including in it. If you don’t know what’s in your report, now is the time to order a copy. The government requires all three major credit reporting companies to supply consumers with one free report per year. You also have the legal right to order a free report whenever you’re turned down for credit. Consumers should never have to pay for their consumer report.

For more information, advice and tips visit read this article. It tells where to order a report and what employers can and cannot do with your consumer report.