Creative Banners and Cupcakes for a Cause

Bake sale! Don’t those words just conjure all good things? The smell of fresh baked treats, hanging out with friends at the sale table, raising money for a good cause… add to that the fact that I was asked to make some crafty signs to advertise our bake sale, and I am in heaven!

For the past four years, a group of my coworkers and our friends have formed a team for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. I’ve always been excited by this event, but I was hesitant to join – partly out of the logistical hurdles of training and walking with small kids at home – and partly out of a fear that after working with people with cancer in my job and having lost my mom to breast cancer, participating in this event might lead to emotional overload. I can’t explain why, but for some reason, this seemed like the year that I wanted to make the Avon Walk a part of my journey.

As part of our fundraising and team-building, we are holding a bake sale this year. If you are in San Francisco and can come by the UCSF Cancer Center at 1600 Divisadero Street tomorrow (Friday, May 11, 2012) from 12-3, you can support our team and taste what I guarantee will be a delicious array of treats. We will be outside the cafeteria on the lower level.

The Signs:

These were certainly not works of art, since I threw them together at the last minute, but I still had fun with the design. I had some cake-themed papers from a large pack, so those were the inspiration for the colors. Of course, the pink also tied in to the Avon and breast cancer awareness colors.

I made the cakes stand out from the poster by folding a paper “spring” on the back. And the little pennants give a sweet homemade flavor, just like our desserts!

bake sale banner

I hope our homey bake sale signs with the cheerful pennants attract lots of hungry customers!

The Goodies:

The slight incongruity of selling sweets to raise money for a health-related cause has not escaped me. While I will no doubt be indulging in the brownies and truffles some of my friends have planned, I decided to offer a slightly healthier option, with the banana bread recipe my mom used when I was little. This recipe is in a notebook she gave me when I got married. It has a lot of our “comfort” recipes from childhood and blank pages to record my own. I’m so very glad I have this book. I’m sure it’s just the description she transcribed from the magazine or recipe book, but the sentence “Very ripe bananas and slow cooping are the secret of this banana bread” makes me feel like my mom is sharing a secret just for me.

recipe book

I love seeing my mom’s handwriting in this recipe notebook she gave me when I got married.

Banana Bread:

Very ripe bananas and slow cooking are the secret of this bread.

4 medium very ripe bananas

1 1/4 c sugar

1/4 tsp salt

4 1/2 tsp baking soda

4 eggs

3 1/2 c flour (I mix some whole wheat in)

1/2 c oil (you can use butter for a richer taste)

2/3 c buttermilk (you can substitute yogurt or add a tablespoon of vinegar per cup of regular milk and let the milk sit for five minutes)

Peel very ripe bananas. Combine with sugar, baking soda, and salt. Beat at high spee for 1 minute (can use blender)

Mix in eggs, one a time; then mix in flour

Add oil and buttermlk Combine and beat for 2 minutes

Divide batter into two loaf pans

Bake in preheated 275F oven for about 1 3/4 hours

It’s hard to get a lot of very ripe bananas, at least in this house, because they keep getting eaten. This recipe calls for four, so if we have one or two overripe bananas, we put them in a bag in the freezer to save up until we have enough for banana bread or hubby’s amazing banana waffles.

The new thing I’m trying this time is chopping some of the bananas into chunks and folding them in at the end with the chocolate chips. I had banana bread from Tartine Bakery on Guerrero, which I think is very possibly the best bakery in the city, the other morning that had the small chunks in it, and they were caramelized and delicious!

chunks of banana

Chunks of banana mixed into the batter for a fruity flavor and sweet caramelized morsels.

I love this bread with walnuts and chocolate chips, but we appear to be out of walnuts tonight, so I will have to “make do” with chocolate chips only. Hubby recently articulated that he thinks nuts ruin baked goods, while I think they make them – they’re crunchy, rich, and I love the bit of bitter taste of walnuts against the sweetness of a cookie… obviously he’s wrong, right? He did make me a batch of chocolate chip cookies with nuts for my birthday, and he presented them to me, saying, “I put nuts in these, even though I don’t believe in it.” That’s love.

Sweet dreams!


Silver Spray Paints – DIY Apothecary Jar and Painted Screen

Spray paint itself is an amazing product – goes on quickly and evenly for a smooth finish. Metallic spray paint takes the level of wonder a step higher. I have been experimenting with two paints from Krylon’s Special Purpose Metallics line that I found at our neighborhood hardware store, and I think I’m addicted!

Dull Aluminum (1403) is what I used on the little box from the rummage sale. Despite its name, I don’t find it dull. It gives a cool grey/silver finish that looks like it’s painted – okay, I know that sounds obvious, but I mention it in contrast to the Bright Silver (1401), which looks more like a real metal finish.

metallic spray paints

Projects using Krylon “Dull Aluminum” and “Bright Silver” paints.

Here are some projects I’ve tried with each, and I’m already thinking about what to do next. Let me know if you have suggestions!

Bright Silver Paint
I’ve been trying to find more projects that reuse old things. Recycling is great, but it still uses a lot of energy and produces waste. Reusing is good for our planet and our pocketbooks, too! The challenge is to find projects that reuse old items but don’t look like a preschool art project!

This idea for a DIY apothecary jar is not original to me. I’ve seen it in several places, including Parties for Pennies.

DIY apothecary jar

DIY apothecary jar made from a used jar, a cabinet knob, and metallic spray paint.

You will need:

  • glass jar with lid
  • cabinet knob with bolt
  • washer
  • drill
  • sandpaper
  • spray primer
  • metallic spray paint
  • clear finish spray

1. Sand the lid to roughen it up for the paint to stick.

2. Drill a hole in the center of the lid

3. Insert the the bolt and washer from under the lid and screw on the knob

4. Spray primer, then paint (2 coats), and seal with a clear finish. Let each coat dry before continuing.


Another view of a DIY apothecary jar made from a used jar, a cabinet knob, and spray paint.

It’s such a creative and satisfying project. We use jars all the time, and I have a ton of knobs leftover from replacing the dated brass and black ones in our kitchen, so I’m thinking of making lots of these as gifts!

Dull Aluminum Paint

I used this paint on a couple of projects recently. This is actually a pretty silver-colored paint; I don’t like the word “dull” in it’s name! The first was for painting this box I picked up for five dollars at a rummage sale:

side table styling

This dull old box was painted silver with Krylon Dull Aluminum paint and looks beautiful in our living room!

I also used this more muted (I refuse to call it dull!) metallic paint to finish off a screen I was painting to hang in our master bathroom. This was an example of “the third time’s a charm.” I started with the bare wood screen, and hoped to use it that way, but it was just too rough and unfinished. Next, I painted it a pale blue (Swept Away by Benjamin Moore), which I had leftover from painting our kids’ bath and also used to paint another screen. The blue paint was an improvement, but it still felt unfinished, so I masked off the center and sprayed the border in silver. Sometimes, it takes a few tries to get the look you want, but it was worth it!

painted screen

It took a few tries to get the look I wanted for this screen. The silver spray paint really makes it feel elegant and finished!

painted blue and silver screen

A closer view of the finished screen in blue and silver.

These metallic paints are really so easy to use for a spectacular effect. Some other great uses I’ve seen and would love to try are:

  • spray branches for a vase arrangement
  • spray a decorative tray
  • spray ceramic vases or bowls for display
  • make pendants out of clay – thumbprints, engraved words, etc. and spray with silver, so they look like stamped metal
  • more DIY apothecary jars for sure!


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Sew a Growth Chart – Tutorial

Bad news: I’m blogging and sewing tonight while sitting on a step stool. Good news: it’s because I am in the middle of making over my free Craigslist Queen Anne chairs for the sewing room. They are already repainted, and I just need to re-do the seats, which I hope to do this weekend.  Wait! What was I supposed to be talking about… oh yes…

In a recent post, I brainstormed ways to help my friend preserve the record of her children’s heights marked on a door jamb in their house. I loved looking at all the great ideas out there, as well as coming up with some of my own.

At the end of that post, I included a picture of the hanging fabric growth charts I made for my kids. In case you want to make one for your family or as a gift (I first designed this as a baby shower gift!), I’ve broken down the steps here. Let me know if you have any questions!

As I mentioned last time, I’m sure there are similar growth charts out there, but I designed this one myself, keeping in mind that I wanted it to be

  • portable – so that we could take it with us when we moved (a feature this post proves is valuable!)
  • easy to store – fabric can be rolled up for compact storage and ironed later – wood, obviously, cannot, and paper could get folds and wrinkles – though you could wrap around a paper towel roll to minimize this.
  • complete – I wanted to be able to record my kids’ growth from birth to adulthood. Many ready-made growth charts stop around five feet. Granted, most tweens and teens may not have any interest in growth charts anymore, but their parents might, so I made mine go up about 6’2″, just in case!

The finished size of this growth chart is approximately 11.5″ wide x 54.5″ high.

For each chart, you will need:

  • fabric markers or sharpies
  • white fabric (8.5″x58″): I used white cotton twill, which I chose for its stability and weight
  • backing fabric: I used twill or denim, again to add stability and weight
  • border fabric (equivalent to 1/2 yard of 42″ wide calico): I won’t be bossy here – use whatever you like!
  • 1/2″ diameter wooden dowel (approximately 2′ long)
  • two small screw eyes
  • ribbon for hanging

1) On a strip of white fabric that is 8.5″ wide for each growth chart, mark out inches from 1’6″ to 6’2″ (or whatever you like) by laying a tape measure on the fabric and using a ruler to draw lines with a fabric marker or Sharpie. I used a different color and longer marking every six inches. The short lines are 1.5″ and the long lines are 2″. Remember that lines on the finished product will be shorter, because a 1/2″ will be in the seam allowance.

If you are making more than one growth chart, you can be efficient and mark lines for two at a time, as shown below. You will need a slightly longer fabric strip and want to number from both ends, so the marks are on the left of each chart.

growth chart

Inches marked on white fabric using fabric markers.

2) Cut out strips for a border. The side strips are 2.5″ wide. The chart should be 58″ long, but cut your strips about an inch longer, in case you are like me, and straight lines magically transform into uneven ones… For preparing the border, I used a rotary cutter with quilting ruler and mat. These tools are designed for quilting, where you have to piece together very precise lines and angles, but they work well for lots of other projects.

Quilting tools

Quilting tools: rotary cutter, quilting ruler, and mat. These are so useful for getting straight lines and square angles on all sorts of projects. I even use the mat and ruler for cutting paper.

3) Sew the side strips onto the white center, using a half inch seam allowance. Iron flat, with the seam toward the border. Trim the border pieces so they are flush with the white section. Again, the quilting tools are great for getting things straight and square.

4) Next, cut strips for the top and bottom border. These are 5.75″tall, and they should be 11.5″ wide. Again, I cut the pieces a bit wider, to compensate for the nasty elves in the sewing machine. Sew these on to the top and bottom, using a half inch seam allowance. Iron with the seam toward the border. Now that the front is complete, trim where necessary to make sure it’s even (square at the corners, same height on both sides, same width at top and bottom).

joiining growth chart

After trimming the center piece, join the top and bottom borders.

You could add any decorations you want to the front at this point. I put each child’s name at the top, piecing together letters from a fun teddy bear alphabet print. I also added a “Made with love by ‘Jewels'” tag to the bottom.

name label

I put each child’s name on his growth chart using letters from this cute teddy bear print.

5) Cut a piece of backing that is the full size of the front (should be about 11.5″ wide and 69″ long, but measure your actual piece).

6) With RIGHT sides together, pin, then sew the front and back pieces together, using a half inch seam allowance, leaving one of the short ends open, so you can turn the piece.

7) Cut diagonal triangles from the corners, so they turn neatly. Then, turn the growth chart right side out and tuck a half inch seam allowance under on the open end. Iron the whole piece flat.

trim corners

Cutting across the diagonal at the corner will give a neater finished appearance.

8) Cut two pieces of doweling that are the same length or a tiny bit shorter than the finished width of your growth chart. Attach the screw eyes to both ends of one piece.

9) Fold towards the back and sew down a 1.25″ flap on the top and bottom to create a pocket for the dowels.  This will also close the end you left open.

10) Insert the plain dowel in the bottom pocket and the one with the screw eyes in the top.  Thread a ribbon through the screw eyes to hang the chart.

finishing the chart

Finish: Sew 1.25″ flaps on the top and bottom to hold the dowels. Insert screw eyes in the top piece and thread a ribbon through for hanging.

Tada!  The finished growth charts are hanging in the hallway outside our kids’ bath, opposite the newly organized laundry area.

finished growth charts

Finished growth charts

Hope I made that clear. I’d love to see pictures, if you make one of these yourself!

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Lining Bookshelves: Decorating Inside the Box

I’m always amazed at how easy it is to beautify a bookcase by decorating the back. There are lots of great examples out there of using paint, wallpaper, wrapping paper, or fabric.

In my most recent project, I wanted to add some color and personality to our baby/ toddler’s room. I was thinking of a solid red background for his shelves, but then I lucked out and stumbled upon this fun graphic paper from At four dollars a sheet, I was able to cover the entire back of the bookcase for twenty dollars and have some gorgeous paper leftover for cardmaking or another art project. The company is based in Britain, but I found the paper at a local store, Lavish, in Hayes Valley.

Red wrapping paper on bookcase

Graphic red and white wrapping paper lining a nursery bookcase.

For our first’s nursery, I spray-painted the backs of old white Ikea bookcases with blue, masking off some white “stripes” with painter’s tape, and I loved that effect, too. I was able to take the back piece off to paint, which made it a lot easier. I never took a picture of the furniture specifically, so you will have to make do with a baby pic and the shelf in the background.

Blue and white painted bookcase

Blue and white stripes painted on back of nursery bookcase.

I think the nursery projects were my favorite results, but I’ve also experimented downstairs with our living room and kitchen storage. I went through a die-hard Arts and Crafts phase, when we bought a lot of very heavy wood pieces in that style. I still love these bookcases for their classic look and incredible quality, but I wanted to brighten them up for our current decor. I chose Imperial Trellis wallpaper in Silver by Schumacher for its gorgeous classic pattern and the glow of the silver. It’s pricey, but you need so little for a project like this that I bought a single (well, it comes as double, though you can find it sold as a single with a cutting fee) roll for this project and one wall in our powder room, and I will still have some left over. I have to say that the effect was not as dramatic as I hoped, because they are still very dark and heavy, but I think it’s a move in the right direction, and I couldn’t bear to paint or alter the shelves in any other way.

Imperial trellis wallpaper on bookshelf

Imperial trellis wallpaper in silver. (The bookcase styling needs some more work.)

Finally, I also applied some fabric to the back of some glass-front shelves in our kitchen. I got the idea, because I felt that our white bowls, cups, etc. were just “disappearing” visually in the white cabinets, so I wanted to add some color for a backdrop. It was a quick fix using fabric scraps from another project, but I think it’s an improvement!

Fabric lining kitchen cabinet

Green print fabric lining display cabinet in the kitchen.

Mounting tip: In the past, I have used 3M mounting strips of various kinds for attaching fabric or paper to the back of a bookshelf. With the wrapping paper project, I was eager to get started and didn’t have time to run to the store, so I just used blue painter’s tape, and it worked fine. Since the wallpaper came in small sheets, I also used tape on the back to join the pieces as I applied them. If you are using a heavier material – such as fabric or wallpaper – or a material that you want to preserve, the 3M strips are stronger and photo-safe (not that these are photos, but I assume that means they are not acidic, etc.). I definitely wanted the photo-safe for mounting on our Arts and Crafts style bookcases, for example. However, the blue painter’s tape is an easy and inexpensive tool, if you’re in a hurry and hanging something light and not-too-valuable.

More favorite papers:

Stunning temporary wallpaper for your next DIY project!

Tempaper Self-Adhesive Gio Temporary Wallpaper in Silver

Graham & Brown Trippy Wallpaper in Orange


York Wallcoverings Silhouettes Fretwork Trellis Wallpaper, Mint Green/White

Hope you enjoy making your furniture look outside-the-box by decorating inside it!


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