Lightening the Background on Your Craft Photos

Today I'm trying something a little bit different.  Typically when I do tutorials I do them in a written, step-by-step format.  This time, since my tutorial is computer-related, I thought I would do a video. If you happen to watch it, I would love to get your feedback. 



Gifts Fit For a Micro Pig

In a recent post entitled, "Happy Mail," I shared the cute postcards that my friend Hammy the Pig sent to me and my girls.

Naturally I wanted to return the favor so I whipped her up some ring dishes using (what else) plastic animals, craft stamps, and paint.

Okay, so the ring dishes are actually for Hammy's human, Melanie.  

(Because Hammy doesn't have fingers.)

Without fingers she probably doesn't have her own keys, but that didn't stop me from sending her a keychain either.  

What about you?  Have you DIY'ed any cute presents lately?  


Ballerina Topped Jars

Almost two-and-a-half years after debuting these alligator topped jars, I am here with a follow up.  

In a few weeks the little boy who received those jars is going to be a big brother.  

To a little sister.  

Naturally I wanted to make something for the nursery and her mom, my former nanny Lauren, suggested ballerinas.  This was great because—as you may or may not know—I happen to have a stash of ballerinas here at the house:

(Don't tell me I'm the only person with a jar full of ballerinas on a shelf in the garage.  If you need your own you can buy them HERE.)

In the past I used them to make these ring dishes.  Learn more about those HERE.

Needless to say, I was thrilled to pull them out for another project.  All it took was plastic jars + extra strong adhesive + gold spray paint and, voila: a sweet accessory for baby's nursery.  

I can't wait to see what she has me do for number three!

Too soon, Lauren?  ;)


Happy Mail

After spending a week in the frozen tundra otherwise known as Milwaukee, I came home to some really fun mail that I just have to share.

The first came from my friend, Melanie, also know as Hamlet the Piggy's Human.  Not familiar with Hamlet?  He's a mini micro pig with one of the hottest instagram accounts out there.  (Click HERE to marvel at the cuteness.)

Knowing that my entire family enjoys Hamlet—and that I love anything with beautiful lettering—Melanie was thoughtful enough to send us these beautiful postcards featuring Hamlet herself.

Mel and Hammy have also started a new blog which you can check out HERE.

The second piece of happy mail that arrived during my absence was actually addressed to my daughters.  Each one received a Sugarwish from their Aunt.  Not familiar with Sugarwish?  I wrote about them back in December 2012 when they were just getting started.  (See that post HERE.)  They've grown quite a bit since then and have really upped their game with the introduction of these adorable dolls.

Each doll comes with an instruction card.  Inside the doll's purse there is a special code which you enter at udeservecandy.com.  From there the recipient chooses her (or his) favorite candy, which is delivered by mail.  It is an adorable idea, just perfect for that hard-to-shop-for person in your life.

(And you don't have to send a doll; you can also send someone their Sugarwish via email.  That way it's instantaneous—for those pesky last minute gifts—which might just come in handy next Saturday, hint, hint...)

As was the case last time I wrote about Sugarwish, neither they nor Hammy sponsored this post.  I just wanted to share a little bit of awesome with the world.



Some Thoughts About the Cold on Groundhog Day

Author’s note:  I wrote the following post during a winter trip to Wisconsin to see an ailing family member, a grim situation made even worse by the weather. The idea came to me as I navigated my way through an icy parking lot during a blizzard, the frigid wind stinging my cheeks.  Please note that this is just an analogy and is in no way meant to belittle victims of abuse.  I also recognize that what I am suggesting is complicated—it was complicated for my family too—but we made it happen.  And for those of you who are wondering, I will be back to my regularly scheduled happy-crafting posts just as soon as I can.

A photo posted by Elena at acasarella (@a_casarella) on

For a person who hates the cold, living in a harsh climate is a little like living with an abusive partner.  It makes you miserable, but yet, like many victims of abuse, you stay.  You tell yourself that it’s not that bad, even as you cringe, and wince, and suffer.  You tell yourself that the pain is normal, that life is supposed to be like this.  You try to remember the happy times (summer), and hold on to those memories as justification for staying.  It’s not all bad, right?  

Well, as someone who broke the pattern of abuse, I am here to tell you that it is not normal.  Living in a painful environment that makes you miserable is not the way life is supposed to be.  Yes, leaving will be hard—so hard.  There will be sacrifices; it will be scary.  But it is SO worth it!  

I broke free nine years ago, moving from Chicago to San Diego.  I have never, ever regretted it,  

Not once.

For those of you who are going to comment in defense of the cold, please note the first six words in the paragraph above.  I am speaking here only to people like myself: people who hate the cold, people who are affected by the lack of light, green grass, and leaves on the trees.  People who hate bundling and unbundling and dry, cracked skin.  

If you are a person who sees fresh snow and rejoices, someone who loves the idea of curling up by a fire and hibernating for months on end, someone who can’t wait to break out the snow shoes, well, more power to you!  

For the rest of you, I offer some hope.  


DIY Oversized Coloring Mural

Last month while buying Hanukkah gifts for my niece and nephew I happened upon the item below.

What you're looking at is a "coloring mural" from our friends at Anthropologie.  It was marked down to $29.95 from $48.  

Now my niece and nephew love to color, and when I realized that the gift could be for both of them, I was able to justify the price.  And I'm really glad I did, too, because as you can see from the text below, the mural was a "big hit!!"

Though I was thrilled with the response, I couldn't help thinking that one could probably have a similar experience for far less money.

Then I remembered one of my favorite crafting secrets:  The engineering print from Staples!  For between $2.00 and $8.00 Staples will print huge black and white prints of almost anything.  

So I hopped on Google to look for free coloring pages that might appeal to my daughters.  

I decided on this cool Mandala print from coloringcastle.com.  

I taped it up on the wall with some Washi tape and my younger daughter went to town.

As you can see, she really enjoyed herself!

In fact, I didn't expect her to like it this much...

Even her thirteen year old sister got lured into the action.

I'm actually thinking about whipping up some more.

The best part is that you can send Staples your file electronically and they'll email you when it's ready for pick up.  (Just follow THIS LINK.)  I made a few so I have them on hand in case of a boredom emergency.  

I can think of so many great uses for these.  Rainy day?  Color a giant mural!  Stalled playdate?  Bring out the giant mural!  Birthday party?  Have the kids color a giant mural!  Last minute gift?  Make a coloring mural, pair it with some markers or crayons, and you have a great custom gift for under $10.

Want to add a suggestion?  Feel free to leave it in the comments below.  

Happy coloring!


Happy Blogiversary To Me!

This past Monday my blog turned three years old (making it the only New Year's Resolution I've ever kept).

And while loyal readers may have noticed that there were fewer posts last year than in years prior, I hope the ones I did write struck a chord.

Blogging in 2014 brought numerous opportunities.  I got to work with some really great companies including Shutterfly, Wayfair, Minted, and Handybook.  I know that people don't always like to read sponsored posts so it's important that you know how many companies I didn't agree to work with.  (Okay, I don't actually have those numbers, but honestly, there were quite a few.)  Although I appreciate being compensated for the work I do here, I will never (ever) write about a company or product that I myself don't love and/or use.

Even more exciting was the opportunity to work with some Southern California creatives including photographer Alyssa Brule (who took the beautiful picture of my daughters below) and Urban Craft Camp Founder Jen Byard, who gave me the opportunity to teach a session on Mason Jar Snow Globes at her holiday workshop.

When I look at my stats to see which posts are pinned, visited, and commented on the most it is clear what people really want to see on this site: small projects (crafts, organization, decorating, etc.) that others can easily emulate.  Fortunately, those are my favorite posts as well and last year there was no shortage of them.  Here are a few of my favorites:

In January, I finally got a room of my own.  (Well, sort of...) If you click on the image below you can read about how I turned an unused corner into a corner office.

One of my favorite mediums (if you can call it a medium) to work with last year was Shrinky Dinks!  In addition to making Shrinky Dink charms for Rainbow Loom bracelets, I also made Silhouette necklaces.

I absolutely loved making these ballerina ring dishes and, based on your feedback,  it looks like you guys enjoyed them as much as I did.

Clearly my gold spray paint got a work out in 2014.  Inspired by Anthropologie I turned ordinary nuts into festive holiday decor.

Speaking of the holidays, I had a lot of fun with bottle brush trees this past Christmas, including the dyed ones you see below.

One of my most popular projects ever was the Mason Jar Wedding Emergency Kit which found new life over at The Knot in 2014.  Although Etsy is no longer allowing me to sell them there (because the contents of the jar are not handmade) you can still order one from me by sending an email to: elena@acasarella.net.

Speaking of weddings, my favorite post of the year was about the wedding reception I hosted in my very own backyard!

A few months later I was back there again hosting a very different kind of event: a candy themed birthday party for my ten year old daughter:

Another special occasion for me last year was the day that my blog hit the one million page view mark.  

I had hoped it would happen before January 12th and it did.  One million page views is child's play to most of the bigger blogs out there, but for a stay-at-home mom who thought the only person who was ever going to read the blog was her mother, it was an exciting milestone.  

Thanks to each and every one of you for being a part of it!