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!


Bottle Brush Tree Mania

Here's a little post that I should have written weeks ago.  

But since I am not one of those bloggers who starts thinking about Christmas in July, I am publishing it today.

On Christmas Eve.  

Merry Christmas.  



Loyal readers (hi mom!) will remember that I recently had the opportunity to teach a session at San Diego's Urban Craft Camp.  I am happy to report that the class was great and people loved their bottle brush snow globes.

And those snow globes whet my appetite for all things bottle brush.  So, inspired by this blogger, I went ahead and whipped up a few of these:

I think this craft is pretty self explanatory so I'm not going to do a tutorial, however if you want more information about how to make one, let me know in the comments.

What I will tell you is that if you use a wide mouthed mason jar like the one below, you can fit a gift card in with the bus.

I also probably don't need to explain these DIY present toppers since I've discussed similar ones HERE.

What I will tell you how to make, however, are these colorful bottle brush trees!

I whipped them up a few weeks ago and have been having a great time sprinkling them around the house.

The first thing you want to do is bleach your bottle brush trees.  (You can buy bottle brush trees HERE if you don't have any.)

I should warn you right now that if you're looking for exact measurements and  precise instructions.... well, you're in the wrong place.

I bleached these by filling a bucket with hot water and pouring in some bleach.  (Maybe half a cup?)

Then I threw in the trees and left them there until they looked like this:

(Kids, don't try this without adult supervision.  Seriously.  Bleach is hardcore.)

After that I filled some old pickle jars with hot water and RIT dye.  Again, no measurements, I just poured in a few splashes of the RIT until I liked the color of the water.  Then I tossed in the trees until I liked their color.

And here are the results!

I love them and I hope you do too!

Merry Christmas, everyone!  


Ornament Full of Memories

Years ago my sister-in-law began making handmade ornaments for her nieces, nephews, and godchildren.  It has always been my intention to do a big post featuring all of the different ornaments but three years into the blog and that still hasn't happened. Yesterday, however, I was playing with my camera taking pictures of the Christmas tree and I found myself focusing on the ones you see below.

I have always loved them, and while they are by no means the most intricate of her creations, they hold a special place in my heart.

To make them, she began—as she often does— by reaching out and asking for some of the highlights of each girl's year.   She then took those anecdotes and typed them on little strips of paper in a pretty font.  Finally the strips were inserted in a clear glass ornament.  I just love pulling them out from year to year and reading those sweet memories.

I'm not sure where she got the idea (or if she made it up herself) but it is so simple and beautiful that I thought it was worth sharing.  It would be a great gift for a child to give to a parent, don't you think?


Thanks Anthropologie!

Last week I got shanghaied into graciously agreed to take three girls Black Friday shopping.

Now I love to shop but Black Friday has never really been my thing.

So needless to say I was a little, shall we say, reluctant... to brave the mall, but all of that changed when I walked into Anthropologie, a store that I just can't help but love.

Sprinkled over the displays that day were walnuts.  Walnuts that had been spray painted gold.

Freaking genius!

(For those of you who are new here, I love to spray paint things gold.)

So naturally I had to copy them.  (And share with you.)

Here's the tutorial:

  1. Purchase your walnuts.  This was probably the hardest part of the whole process.  I ended up ordering some on Amazon (link HERE) because I couldn't find walnuts in the shell anywhere. 
  2. Spray paint said walnuts and let dry for 15 minutes.  (I used THIS paint.)
  3. Turn the walnuts over, spray the other side, and let dry.
And that's it!  The world's easiest DIY brought to you by Anthropologie.  (And me.)

I am setting some of my walnuts out in a bowl.

Others I have glued to the tops of mason jars in which I have stored homemade granola.

Wouldn't that be a cute hostess gift?  

Way to show me the silver gold lining in black Friday, Anthropologie!  


Urban Craft Camp

Back in October I celebrated another birthday, and though I have reached the point where birthdays are often described as "better than the alternative," I have to say that this one was pretty good. Spending my birthday morning at Urban Craft Camp was definitely one of the highlights.

I'm not exactly sure how I first heard about Urban Craft Camp but I'm pretty sure it was through Instagram.  I was already familiar with the craft workshops run by Jordan Ferney of Oh Happy Day up in San Francisco and Bri Emery of DesignLoveFest in LA, and while LA isn't too far from here, I was beyond excited to discover an option that didn't involve that dreaded commute up the 5.  

Urban Craft Camp is run by Jen Byard, a San Diego creative who also runs Thread and Arrow, a hand crafted goods business.   Each session focuses on a particular craft.  They've done everything from floral arranging to book binding.  

I attended my first session last spring.  It was held at the North Park Nursery and in it we learned how to make succulent wreaths.  I made a conscious decision not to bring my Canon to that workshop.  I really wanted to live in the moment and focus on the task at hand.  Of course now I regret that because my iphone photos are kind of meh, but I must have been doing something right because that succulent wreath is still thriving six months later!

Whenever I attend an Urban Craft Camp workshop I always feel as though I've gotten my money's worth.  Every detail is carefully thought out, from the snacks (there are always snacks, often made by local bakers) to the tablescapes.   Upon arriving at the North Park Nursery I was thrilled to find long tables filled with succulents and succulent clippings.

There were other goodies as well, like these fun scissors from We Love Citrus.  Not only did we use the scissors to make the wreaths, we also got to take them home.  

My next workshop focused on canning—as in canning preserves.  That's right, a craft camp wherein we used mason jars for their intended purpose.  (Genius, I know.)

One of the fun things about Urban Craft Camp is that the location changes according to the craft, making it a great way to experience cool, new spaces around the San Diego area.   This time it was held at Zilaro Cellars, a wine tasting room in picturesque Coronado, California

As usual, every detail was perfect: from the name tags and business cards set out on the front table...

To the snacks...

To the baskets of fruit which we eventually cut up to put in the preserves.

Look at these adorable place settings.  We got to keep the painted wooden spoons, the herbs (mine was rosemary), and the recipe cards.  

The class was run by Betsy from BetsyLife, a food blog I've followed for quite some time now.  (I may or may not have been a little star struck when I met her.)  If you're not familiar with Betsy, you probably are familiar with her Samoa Cake.  (It was pinned about a jillion times on Pinterest.)  And for good reason.  (It's a Samoa Cake, for goodness sake.)  Go look at it now.  Seriously.

And here's a picture of the finished product.  In addition to the goodies mentioned above we also got to take home a jar of our homemade preserves (and they were delicious)!  

My third Craft Camp was a calligraphy workshop held at the gorgeous Central Library in downtown San Diego.  Once again I left my big camera at home so please forgive the small, iphone shots.      

Our instructor was Wendy Ware, a Professional Calligrapher and Illustrator.  Here she is demonstrating her craft.

And here are my attempts.

(And my snacks.  I like snacks.)

For this session we got to take home a ton of goodies including a stylus, several nibs, two types black ink, colored inks, tracing paper, lettering guides, and envelopes.

I'd love to tell you that I've used those goodies to become a calligraphy expert but that would be a lie.  (Still, though, the potential is there. )


The last workshop I attended is the one I mentioned in my introduction.  Taught by the adorable Jonnie of Grey Theory Mill, the focus was chalkboard art.  (Fun fact: Jonnie is an artist at Trader Joe's, as in, she does the signage that you see around the store.  Needless to say, she was the perfect person to teach a class on chalkboard art.)  

Here are a few snaps from the workshop.

This cute sign was stuck in my eraser.  (An eraser that saw a lot of use.)

Everyone got a tote bag emblazoned with this quote:

The workshop was held in at The Moniker Warehouse in the East Village neighborhood of downtown San Diego.  It is an incredibly cool space.

Jonnie brought an impressive array of chalk pens.

There were lots of cool examples to emulate:  

And here are some signs made by the participants.  This one was made by my friend Sabine of House of Danlu.

I'm not sure who did this one but I thought it was really well done.

And this is mine.  I love it and can't wait to put it on display for the holidays.

There were so many great signs that I can't possibly include them all here.  If you're interested in seeing more, check out Urban Craft Camp's Instagram page.


When I started writing this post a couple of weeks ago, I had no idea that I would be ending it with this:  I am thrilled to announce that I will be attending the next Urban Craft Camp not as a participant, but as an instructor.  Join us on December 13th for a Holiday Crafting Workshop.  I will be there teaching people how to make vintage-inspired, mason jar snow globes like the one seen below:

photo credit, Jen Byard

Click HERE for additional details and to register for the event.