DIY Hand-Stamped Tea Towels – Teacher Holiday Gifts

“So….,” says Steve with studied casualness, “Um, I noticed a lot of new towels in our house…?”

My awesome hubby gets a lot of points for calmly observing many the craft obsession. Dozens of beaded snowflakes? Check! Table full of dip-painted utensils? Check! Washing machine filled with felting? Check! He rarely seems phased, so I know this must look particularly strange.

I’m stamping tea towels to give as holiday gifts for our teachers and coworkers this year. And there are a lot of them!

DIY Hand-Stamped Tea Towels | Jewels at Home

Supplies:

Instructions:

  • Prewash and iron the dish towels
  • For the stamps, spread some ink on a plate or flat surface, spread it with the brayer, and then roll onto your stamp and stamp the fabric
  • For the cookie cutters, you can dip the cookie cutter into the paint directly
DIY Hand-Stamped Tea Towels | Jewels at Home

Fun citrus print! I made this stamp by sticking adhesive foam to the wooden block from another stamp. I spread the paint onto a flat surface with a brayer and then rolled it on to the stamp.

DIY Hand-Stamped Tea Towels | Jewels at Home

  • Hang the towels to dry. This drying rack came in handy!

DIY Hand-Stamped Tea Towels | Jewels at Home

DIY Hand-Stamped Tea Towels | Jewels at Home

DIY Hand-Stamped Tea Towels | Jewels at Home

  • I read a lot of ideas about how to heat set the paints to make the colors last. I ended up letting them air dry for several days, running the towels on the hottest setting in my dryer for an hour and then ironing to finish them. I tried using the oven to heat set, because the ironing was so tedious, but a few towels got scorched, so I would try that with caution.

DIY Hand-Stamped Tea Towels | Jewels at Home

DIY Hand-Stamped Tea Towels | Jewels at Home

DIY Hand-Stamped Tea Towels | Jewels at Home

DIY Hand-Stamped Tea Towels | Jewels at Home

DIY Hand-Stamped Tea Towels | Jewels at Home

DIY Hand-Stamped Tea Towels | Jewels at Home
DIY Hand-Stamped Tea Towels | Jewels at Home

DIY Hand-Stamped Tea Towels | Jewels at Home

DIY Hand-Stamped Tea Towels | Jewels at Home

DIY Hand-Stamped Tea Towels | Jewels at Home

I love how our new towels look in our new kitchen!
DIY Hand-Stamped Tea Towels | Jewels at Home

Look who joined in the fun!
DIY Hand-Stamped Tea Towels | Jewels at Home

And off we went to play Santa!
DIY Hand-Stamped Tea Towels | Jewels at Home

I’d love to try some more designs soon. Check out these other cute stamps from Yellow Owl Workshop!

Yellow Owl Workshop Mushroom Snail Stamp Set
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Yellow Owl Workshop Apple Honeybee Stamp Set

IMG_2965.PNG

Yellow Owl Workshop Le Menu Stamp Kit
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Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

“Jewels”

Ten Tips for a Clutter-Free Kitchen

When we renovated our kitchen, I couldn’t bear to see the fresh new space get all cluttered up. I wanted to ooh and aah at the gorgeous counters and tile all day.

So, I went on the search for tips and tools that would help keep our space looking organized, and here are my favorites!

1. Dish-drying mats

After almost two decades of marriage and three kids, Steve and I agree on so many of the most important things. And yet, the topic of where to dry our hand-washed dishes became a battle. He was all for function – big clunky red dish drainer sitting on the counter.  I was for form – hide the drying dishes inside a sink. In the end, I conceded that there were better uses for our sink, so I set out to find the most unobtrusive dish drying racks possible. I settled on this OXO Good Grips Large Silicone Drying Mat for drying large items and this OXO Good Grips Dish Rack for reusable water bottles and lunch containers.  These are both compact enough to store under the sink, when we’re not using them.

10 tips for a clutter-free kitchen: sleek dish drying racks that hide away when not in use | Jewels at Home

 

2. Suction cup sponge holder

Is this a new thing? I don’t remember seeing them before, and now it seems like everyone has one! I tuck our bottle brush next to our suction cup sponge holder, so it also stays off the counter.

10 tips for a clutter-free kitchen: a suction cup sponge holder keeps the counters clear | Jewels at Home

 

3. Clear vase for holding utensils

We hide most of our kitchen utensils in a drawer next to the stove, but I like having a few frequently-used items at our fingertips, including the dip-painted utensils I made for holiday gifts last year. A clear vase or mason jar gives a clean look while showing off those pretty painted handles!

10 tips for a clutter-free kitchen: a mason jar or clear vase for holding utensils | Jewels at Home

 

5. In-drawer knife block

I like having the knives out of the way, both for safety and to free up the counter. There are many varieties of these knife blocks, so you can find one that’s perfect for your needs. We have the Victorinox Swiss Army 14-Slot In-Drawer Cutlery Tray, which leaves us a little room left over scissors and other kitchen tools.
10 tips for a clutter-free kitchen: a knife block inside the drawer keeps the counters clear and protects little ones from sharp objects | Jewels at Home

 

6. Appliance storage

There seems to be a gadget for everything these days, and it’s hard to find a place for the waffle iron, the crock pot, the mixer… We compromised by leaving a few daily essentials – the toaster and coffee/tea supplies – out on the counter, and the rest are stored in cabinets. I put the heavy and/or heavily used items down low and the rest in our high cabinets that we access less often.


10 tips for a clutter-free kitchen: Tuck away as many appliances as possible| Jewels at Home

7. Group items on decorative trays

Using a tray to collect smaller items definitely clears off the counter.

10 tips for a clutter-free kitchen: Use a pretty tray to corral loose items| Jewels at HomeYou can buy a tray or try one of these beautiful DIY ideas:

My friend Ariana wrote a great post about using trays over at Revolving Decor. Her site has a daily blog and listings for great used furniture.

8. Under-sink storage

Measure your space, and you’ll find the perfect garbage can, shelf, or organizer to make the most of the area under your sink.

10 tips for a clutter-free kitchen: measure and maximize the spaces under your sink | Jewels at Home

 

9. Semi-opaque glass fronts

I like the look of glass fronts on cabinets, but I didn’t want to worry about keeping everything perfect inside. This fluted / reeded glass pattern gives an open feel and a glimpse of the cabinet contents, without sharing all the details!

If you already have clear glass in your cabinets, you can add Etched Glass Window Film to your glass. I did this to a hall cabinet we have upstairs.

10 tips for a clutter-free kitchen: fluted glass is stylish and hides a multitude of clutter | Jewels at Home

10 tips for a clutter-free kitchen: fluted glass gives an open feel but means you don't have to keep your cabinets perfect!| Jewels at Home

10 tips for a clutter-free kitchen: Using this fluted glass in the cabinet fronts gives an open feel without spilling all your secrets | Jewels at Home

10. Out-of kitchen storage

The last tip for a clutter-free kitchen isn’t in the kitchen.  We have an overflow pantry area in our basement that has a deep freezer and all the extras of pantry items and kitchen supplies.

10 tips for a clutter-free kitchen: An overflow pantry out of the way in the basement or garage can be a spacesaver for your kitchen| Jewels at Home

Looking for more beautiful and functional finds for your kitchen? I always find some good deals on great items at Zulily!

Those who know me might be surprised that I am writing about organizing, since I’m definitely not the neatest person around, but that means that if I can do it, so can you!

“Jewels”

 

Mudroom Locker DIY: Bookcase Makeover

With our recent renovation, we finished the basement and garage – yay! The garage entry gets used quite a bit when the boys are playing out back or running in after school, so I wanted to create a little mudroom area to corral their jackets and shoes. I especially love this project, because it’s made entirely with things we had in the house already!

Mudroom locker made from a repurposed bookcase | Jewels at Home

I got the idea for turning a bookcase into a mudroom locker from Melissa at Polka Dot Chair, who did this great project using IKEA Billy bookcases. I was going to do the same thing, when I realized we had all the parts I needed at home.

I started with this big heavy bookcase I bought off Craigslist ages ago. I never want to move it again! I shifted the shelves towards the top and bottom – which was perfect, since the bookcase was already missing a shelf, and added hooks for coats and the dog leash. The hooks were from two over-the-door racks we were no longer using. I cut off the hangers and just screwed them in place.

The two baskets on top were also repurposed and fit perfectly, holding all the extra soccer cleats and other shoes waiting to be passed down from one brother to another. Finally, we’re lucky to have pretty mild weather here, so I don’t need my boots too often, and the space on top is the perfect place to store them for a rainy day – haha!

A bamboo doormat finishes off our garage entry!

Mudroom locker made from a repurposed bookcase | Jewels at Home
I’d love to spruce up this area even more by painting the back of the bookcase and the door, but if you could see all the boxes that are half unpacked upstairs, you’d believe me that I’ve got bigger fish to fry!

“Jewels”

“Stainless Steel” Contact Paper Tray

Okay, so I just discovered this faux stainless contact paper, and I’m sure this project is just the first of many projects!!

Remember the tray project that took less time than writing the post? Here it is again with faux stainless contact paper.

I’m sure this beer-themed tray has its uses, but it’s not the look I’m going for. I did, however, like the teal blue color of the edges and the price ($5.49!! at Ross). A quick addition of the metallic contact paper totally transformed it, don’t you think?

Transform a decorative tray with stainless steel contact paper | Jewels at Home

Transform a decorative tray with stainless steel contact paper | Jewels at Home

Transform a decorative tray with stainless steel contact paper | Jewels at Home

Transform a decorative tray with stainless steel contact paper | Jewels at Home

Transform a decorative tray with stainless steel contact paper | Jewels at Home

There’s also Brushed Pewter contact paper, which I already bought, and Brushed Copper contact paper, which is next on the list. I already have ideas for those!

What are you going to make with these fun finds?

“Jewels”

Overlapping Circles Tray in Blue and Silver

A while back, my friend Ari got the inspiration to paint decorative trays, and I caught the bug. She finished painting her tray some time ago, and it turned out beautifully with gold spray-painted stripes. I definitely took longer to finish my tray, but at last, it’s done!

Elegant overlapping circles painted tray in silver and blue | Jewels at Home

The inspiration for my latest project was actually a tray that Ari found after I wrote my earlier post on ideas for decorating trays. This gorgeous Circles Silver Round Mirror made by Beaux Maison and was my inspiration piece!

Circles Silver Tray

Circles Silver Round Mirror Tray. This is a beautiful inspiration!

I love the pattern and silver glow, which I thought would be perfect for an old round tray I had lying around. My original tray was from Target, and while I love the shape and the pattern of the bamboo, it had nicks and scratches in the finish, and the color doesn’t work with our current living room.

The tray had a very glossy finish, so I started by sanding it with a coarse (100 grit) sandpaper and using heavy-duty Zinsser Bulls Eye Primer.

I could have painted the tray in matte and glossy silver paint, to come closer to the Beaux Maison version, but I thought that might be a bit dressy for our living room, so I used a base of pale blue paint. The leftover can of Swept Away by Benjamin Moore has worked for several other projects already, like these painted screens.

Making a contact paper stencil:
To get the overlapping circles design, I found a simple graphic by searching the internet for images. This pattern actually came from a picture of a doormat!

I enlarged it and printed several copies to fit the large tray. After joining the pages together, I taped the whole template to a piece of contact paper. I then used a craft knife to cut out the design. This took a long time, but it made a good activity for a quiet evening, or should I say many quiet evenings!

When it was cut out, I used the stencil with some silver craft paint and created the design.

To finish the project, I applied several coats of a clear spray finish.

Elegant overlapping circles painted tray in silver and blue | Jewels at Home

Elegant overlapping circles painted tray in silver and blue | Jewels at Home

Elegant overlapping circles painted tray in silver and blue | Jewels at Home

Elegant overlapping circles painted tray in silver and blue | Jewels at Home

I’m still trying out ways to style this pretty addition to our living room. What arrangements do you like?

Elegant overlapping circles painted tray in silver and blue | Jewels at Home

Elegant overlapping circles painted tray in silver and blue | Jewels at Home

Elegant overlapping circles painted tray in silver and blue | Jewels at Home

Yay! Very happy to have this one off the project table and into the living room! Just in time for an icy winter holiday theme?

“Jewels”

Milestones: A Korean First Birthday

When you welcome a baby into your life, you can’t help but think a lot about his roots and his future.  One special tradition that Steve’s parents introduced us to was the Korean first birthday celebration – the Tol (also called Dol).

Even before our oldest son was born, his Harabuje and Halmoni (Korean grandfather and grandmother) were planning K’s Tol.  This is a special celebration that originated in a time when infant mortality was high, and a baby reaching his first birthday was an important milestone.

I didn’t know much about the Tol at first, but it became a sweet tradition that we continued for all three of our boys. With a few simple and meaningful elements, you can add this special event to your family’s memories, too!

Hanbok:

Steve happened to have gone on a business trip to Korea while I had been pregnant and he had brought home a traditional outfit (hanbok) for baby. Steve’s parents searched high and low and found the special socks and shoes to match. You can buy these in the US, too.  Here is a link to a baby boy Hanbok and a baby girl Hanbok.

Milestones: A Modern Korean Tol | Jewels at Home

Harabuje (grandpa) helps birthday boy L adjust his Hanbok.

Milestones: A Modern Korean Tol | Jewels at Home

Baby J wore a mix of his older brother’s outfits.

Milestones: A Modern Korean Tol | Jewels at Home

There are even special socks and shoes!

 

Tol table:

Harabuje and Halmoni hosted our first Tol in a private room at a Korean restaurant. It was a small event with family and a few close friends. The ritual of welcoming and honoring our young baby and his family seemed more important than putting on a display for others.

The main features at a Tol are the table set with an abundance of fruit and special rice cakes (called “duk”) and the Toljabee.

After the restaurant party for K, we hosted L and J’s Tol celebrations at home. While the restaurant had a set of fake fruits and accessories, I opted for something more simple, setting the table with red and blue decorations and fresh fruit and rice cakes. Simple, familiar flavors always go over really well with a crowd (especially if there are some picky eaters among you).

Milestones: A Modern Korean Tol | Jewels at Home

The Korean restaurant’s elaborate Tol table. Half those cakes and fruits are plastic – haha!

Milestones: A Modern Korean Tol | Jewels at Home

Our home Tol table was more modest – but everything was real!

 

Toljabee:

In the Toljabee, the baby is presented several items that each symbolize some characteristic, and the items that the baby chooses are a prediction about his future.

That’s a lot of pressure for a one-year-old! Luckily, the Toljabee is definitely rigged for success. Some examples of things a baby could choose are:

  • A book, showing he will be intelligent
  • A pen, showing he will be well-educated
  • A bundle of string, symbolizing long life
  • A Korean metal bowl of rice, meaning he will have enough to eat
  • Grapes, predicting many offspring
  • Money, representing wealth

Milestones: A Modern Korean Tol | Jewels at Home

Milestones: A Modern Korean Tol | Jewels at Home

L was kind of hungry, and kept trying to eat the grapes. I wonder if that really means I have a lot of grandchildren to loo forward to!

Milestones: A Modern Korean Tol | Jewels at Home

Milestones: A Modern Korean Tol | Jewels at Home

 

For our Toljabee at home, I assembled some symbolic items on a decorative tray. Embroidery floss or ribbon makes a pretty string!

Milestones: A Modern Korean Tol | Jewels at Home

 

Sharing the tradition:

All of our Tol celebrations were small. We kept to a small group of family and close friends. A big party can be overwhelming for a little baby, and there will be plenty of bigger parties to come. If you are having trouble tailoring a guest list, try writing everyone’s names down. This can help you to see who really needs to be there.

When L had his Tol, I mentioned it to his older brother’s preschool teachers, and they asked if I could teach his class of three-year-olds about this tradition. L became a living show-and-tell presentation, and we let each of the kids pick an item as part of the Toljabee.

I also made a picture book for the class to teach them about the Tol tradition. This was easy to do with a photo book and some simple text. Shutterfly has lots of options for customizing a book to make almost anything you can imagine. I made an extra copy for our family, which I put out during J’s Tol, and it was very cute to see L request a reading from every adult in the family.

Milestones: A Modern Korean Tol | Jewels at Home

I made a photo book to teach our kids and their friends about the tradition of the Tol.

Milestones: A Modern Korean Tol | Jewels at Home

The first page of our photo book about the Tol.

 

Milestones: A Modern Korean Tol | Jewels at Home

 

Looking back, we have a lot of special memories from these parties. Our kids tend to be more involved with their Chinese heritage, since they’re in a Chinese immersion school, and above all, their lives revolve around North American culture and interests, so I’m particularly glad to have included this Korean tradition in our family. While it was very important to Steve’s parents, it seems like a lot of other families didn’t know about the Tol, so it was also fun to share this tradition with our friends, and now, I’m excited to share it with you!

Milestones: A Modern Korean Tol | Jewels at Home

Do you have a baby with some Korean roots? This would be a beautiful event to hold for him or her. A lot of Korean restaurants are equipped to host a Tol, or it’s easy to do something simple at home. When I get a chance, I also want to tell you about our Chinese Red Egg and Ginger parties, and I’d love to hear about your traditional celebrations from other cultures, too!

“Jewels”

“A” – You’re Adorable – Baby Shower Alphabet Crafts

A bit of Canadiana for you – Sharon, Lois, and Bram have the greatest kids’ albums – stuff you can totally get into as a parent, and if not, we’ll you didn’t hear it here. But really, please check them out. One of my favo(u)rites is actually a popular song from the 1940s, “A – You’re Adorable.”

You can listen, while you check out this sweet project we did for a baby shower last month. Since this was my friend Nicola’s second baby, we wanted a simple event, but of course, there had to be a craft project!

For baby E’s sister’s shower, we decorated onesies. For baby E, I gathered letter shapes, and we created an eclectic alphabet to decorate the room the sisters will share.

I loved seeing all the creative ideas, including some creations by the under-three set.

Here are some of the techniques we used:

  • Paint – we discovered some of our friends had a lot of talent!
  • Yarn – wrapping a letter took a little patience but turned out charming. I had fun with the multicolor yarn.
  • Scrapbook paper – you can paint the sides first; then add a coordinating paper. So many possible variations with this!
  • Craft tape – I couldn’t resist this cute tape with bicycles, since our friends are avid cyclists.

Here are some close-ups of the same letters I made before the party:

Baby shower idea: decorate letters to create a one-of-a-kind alphabet for baby's nursery! Jewels at Home

Creative baby shower idea: guests decorate letters of the alphabet to create a beautiful project for baby's nursery | Jewels at HomeAnd here is our finished alphabet!

Creative baby shower idea: guests decorate letters of the alphabet to create a beautiful project for baby's nursery | Jewels at Home

Creating the art made for a fun and relaxing afternoon!

Creative baby shower idea: guests decorate letters of the alphabet to create a beautiful project for baby's nursery | Jewels at Home

Baby shower ideas: decorate the letters of the alphabet to decorate baby's nursery! Jewels at Home
And, I got to come visit when the letters were mounted on the wall. I love how it looks!

Baby shower idea: decorate letters to create a one-of-a-kind alphabet for baby's nursery! Jewels at Home

I love watching my boys grow up, but you can never get enough of a new baby.  One of my favorite places to find special gifts for everyone from babies to big kids is the amazing sales at Zulily.com!

 

Congratulations to the beautiful family on sweet baby E’s arrival!

“Jewels”

DIY Ribbon- Bordered Roman Shades

Roman shade upgrade: Give your plain shades a new look by adding a ribbon border.  DIY project by Jewels at Home.We’ve moved quite a few times over the years, and I’ve definitely learned a few things. One of those is that while it’s tempting to try to furnish and decorate your new home all at once, it’s better not to take your time. Besides the fact that you’ll make better decisions once you lived in your home for a while, I’ve also found that right after I move, I tend to look for the cheapest possible decor, since I’m still recovering mentally and financially from the move. When I space out the purchases, I usually end up picking better quality things.

That being said, some things just really need to be done quickly, and that includes window coverings. Black garbage bags hung with blue painter’s tape only look good for so long, you know. So, when I bought shades for our house three years ago, I went with the simplest option for the boys’ room. I had it in mind to spruce up the shades eventually, and I finally got to the project this summer.

I really like the look of fabric shades with a ribbon border. I had created a border on the curtains in our master bath, and I love how that turned out. For the boys, I wanted something very simple. I found some cotton twill tape and used tacky glue to attach it to the shades. It’s holding up very well so far. You’ll have to experiment with your own shades, but for reference, the twill tape I used is 1 1/4 inches wide, and I attached it to the shades 3 1/2 inches from the edge.

Roman shade upgrade: Give your plain shades a new look by adding a ribbon border.  DIY project by Jewels at Home.

Roman shade upgrade: Give your plain shades a new look by adding a ribbon border.  DIY project by Jewels at Home.

 

Roman shade upgrade: Give your plain shades a new look by adding a ribbon border.  DIY project by Jewels at Home.

 
I’m so impressed and happy with what a big difference this little change has made! It gives me hope that I might someday be “done” decorating the little boys’ room, a project which usually makes me think of the saying “Cleaning the house while children are growing is like shoveling snow while it is still snowing.”

Roman shade upgrade: Give your plain shades a new look by adding a ribbon border.  DIY project by Jewels at Home.

Hope to be back with more projects soon.  It has been a busy and fun summer.  We’re renovating our kitchen and basement, which is a big project.  I’m very excited and more than ready to be done with the dust and on to the decorating!

“Jewels”

Fleece-backed Baby Quilt

With two of my friends at work expecting babies, I realize I’ve crossed a strange line. Our family is complete, and while little J is just 3 years old, there is a part of me that feels a bit like a doting grandma, looking back on those long-gone days of pregnancy and first-time motherhood.

In any case, I wanted to make something special for my friend Kate’s baby boy, so I put together this patchwork of whimsical prints and backed it with warm fleece fabric.

Fleece-backed baby quilt with modern, whimsical design | Jewels at Home

Fleece-backed baby quilt with modern, whimsical design | Jewels at Home

Fleece-backed baby quilt with modern, whimsical design | Jewels at Home

Fleece-backed baby quilt with modern, whimsical design | Jewels at Home

Fleece-backed baby quilt with modern, whimsical design | Jewels at Home

 

Congrats, Kate and Rob.  You have a lot of fun ahead!  And try to get some sleep and date nights in…

 

“Jewels”