The Ugly Christmas Sweater DIY of 2013

I’m a little absent-minded these days, but the least I could do is wish everyone a very Merry Christmas! To go along with the festive times, today I am featuring my ugly DIY sweater for the year!

Coincidentally, two weeks ago I had an Ugly Sweater contest sitewide at work AND a holiday party with the same theme to attend on the same Friday. I figured I should put some effort into finding a pretty darn good bad sweater.

Featured today is my own crafted sweater vest (EW!). I found this utterly tacky/kid-friendly vest at Goodwill with a Thanksgiving and fall theme. With 3 items from the dollar store, I added some festive cheer. Enjoy!

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Figure 1a. and 1.b. Before front and back! I bought this thing because of the lonely floating head. Makes me laugh every time!

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Figure 2. Festive savior! A reindeer felt bag, a snowman felt bag, and a Christmas stocking.

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Figure 3. Final product!

Happy Holidays to all ❤

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Variations on a Word: The Synonym

I was writing up my investigation report  today at work, when I decided to pop onto http://thesaurus.com to look for synonyms. It featured this cool article on the evolution of two synonyms: gifts vs. presents.

It got me thinking about a technical writing workshop I attended before Thanksgiving. It was a great course overall, but it emphasized an important point:

  • The great (and sometimes complicated) thing about the English language is that we have multiple words that can mean the same thing, but with slight variations that can change the overall tone of a sentence.

Choosing the appropriate word for a document or situation reminds me of finding the right shaped piece to fit into an empty puzzle spot. It takes some trial and error, but when you find the right one, it can really help you communicate your message in a cohesive and logical way.

Another plus of careful word choice is that you can say a lot without using a ton of words. People like compact and concise sentences that still somehow leave a lot of impact on the reader. Contrary to what we have been taught in school, it is a lot harder to write shorter documents that still drive the same message versus filling up our writing with “fluff” to reach a specific page count.

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Figure.  A cute Language Arts poster I found from http://www.classroomcreative.com that displays the power of synonyms.

So next time you have to write a memo or write your resume, think about your word choices and how you can consolidate your document to be more reader friendly.

I’ll leave you with a quote (also shared from the writing workshop):

“If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter”

— credited to Mark Twain at the end of a 10 page letter to a friend, though the origin of this quote is disputed.

Thriftshops = Decorating For Cheap!

As the focus of my posts have drastically shifted, you can tell that I’ve got bitten by that home decor bug. I’v always liked decorating my dorms and rooms I have lived in before, but for the first time I have an entire place to populate with items by myself! I’ve found it to be a lot of fun, but kind of frustrating. It’s sort of like a creative puzzle. You want things to look like they belong together, but I personally don’t like the matchy matchy look. Also, even though I’m working doesn’t mean I want to break the bank!

My biggest tip? Visit your local thrift shop.

I found the following goodies at the Goodwill by my apartment.

1. A Malma Ikea mirror for $1.99! It was a little banged up, so I primed it and repainted it to fit my bathroom’s design.

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Figure.  Before! A normal Malma mirror, square and a bit beaten up.

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Figure. Primed and ready for a face lift!

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Figure. Tadaaa! Pretty in pink and shining bright like a diamond.

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Next up, this framed quote! Apparently it was a custom frame and very well done.

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Figure. I resonate with the quote very much.

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Figure. Just in case you can’t read the framed version 🙂

Finally, this nifty candle holder that caught my eye before leaving.

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Figure. It reminds me of a tree!

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Figure. Here it is with an old candle I had.

It can be sometimes hard to see the potential of old or use items versus brand new and shiny items lined up in department stores, but I personally think it adds a story to the recycled piece.

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Figure. Action shot of my two thrifted items flanking the ends of my living room feature wall.

Curious what else is there? Here’s a list:

  • Lovely photographs my brother in law took and framed for me as a 23rd birthday present.
  • A set of 3 floating shelves from Ross, though I have seen similar one’s at Khols, Amazon, and Bed Bath and Beyond
  • My own DIY canvas art pieces. Learn more about them [here]
  • 3 frames I got from Pier One. What’s framed? Blood cells! I got these images from my old college textbooks. Why? Because that’s just how biologists roll and science is quite beautiful.

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Figure. Close up of my biologist blood cell decor frames. Left: Red blood cells with sickle cell anemia formation, Center: White blood cell attacking an E. coli cell, Right: Healthy human Red blood cells.

“Breaking Bad” Alternative Ending

This alternative ending is available on the “Breaking Bad” extras DVD on the complete series collection. Love Bryan Cranston as both Hal from “Malcom in the Middle” and Walt from “Breaking Bad?” This video is for you. Holy crossing of TV universes!

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Figure. Is Bryan Cranston better as Walt or Hal? Maybe he’s both at the same time…

Stumbled upon this while scrolling through my Facebook feed. Apparently the video has been removed by Sony from YouTube, but BuzzFeed was able to upload it before the link was gone.

Video link and Buzzfeed article: http://www.buzzfeed.com/jacelacob/this-breaking-bad-alternate-ending-must-be-seen-to-be-believ

While I usually hate endings that cop out and say “IT WAS ALL A DREAM,” this is just a fun little extra that I think any “Breaking” fan would get a good kick out of. And, can’t get enough of Walt vs. Hal? Take this quiz testing how well you know these quotable characters.

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Figure. Another Walter White vs. Malcom’s Dad face-off.

Another Buzzfeed link: http://www.buzzfeed.com/jenlewis/who-said-it-walter-white-or-malcolms-dad

And to finish off this post:

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Figure. This meme seemed appropriate. 

“Breaking Bad,” I miss you so much.

DIY: Braided Rag Rug

Hello, and here is another DIY for the home! I wanted my kitchen to have some pop of color, so I decided to make a very bold rug. It is simply made of braided scrap fabric I had laying around.

Reference: I used this tutorial from Moda Bake Shop that I found on Pinterest as a guide: http://www.modabakeshop.com/2009/02/braided-rag-rug.html

Materials:

  • Bedsheets/spare fabric
  • Placemat
  • Hot glue gun and glue sticks
  • Non-slip shelf liner OR rug grip pad

Note: some of these materials may sound familiar from my last rug DIY.

Procedures:

1. First, I ripped up a bunch of spare bedsheets and fabric I had lying around the house. Then, I started braiding using a clipboard to help me keep the tightness between the strands even.

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Figure 1. Blue, mint, and white seemed to fit my kitchen’s motif! 

2. Repeat the braiding until you have  a super long strand you are happy with!

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Figure 2. I think my braid ended up being over 5 feet when I was done haha.

3. Now to start the mat creation process! I measured about 6 inches in the center of the placemat so I would know where to start my braidrug.

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4. And so begins the winding of the braid! I suggest to make sure you have enough fabric to make your rug as big as you want before hot gluing it to the placemat. Alternatively, you could sew the braid onto a fabric placemat instead, which would enable you to throw it into the washer when it gets dirty. I wanted a quick rug DIY and figured by the time this one gets gross I will want a new rug to DIY 🙂

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5. When attached, flip over and glue some of that non-slip shelf liner or rug grip so you don’t slip and fall when you step onto your almost ready rug! Again, I was able to get an entire roll at my local Dollar Tree.

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6. Tadaaaaaaa!

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And an action shot!

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Hope you enjoyed this simple, easy, upcycle DIY!

Faceoff Episode “Flights of Fantasy” Thoughts

I was waiting for the Faceoff Season Finale for the Vets vs. Rookies season when my friend Megan started talking to me online. She sent me a pic of what she thought Laura’s bird-human hybrid looked like.

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Top pic: Laura’s interpretation of an elderly umbrella cockatoo beginning to lose feathers and molt.

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Bottom pic:  Nigel, the Sulfur crested cockatoo villain from the movie “Rio.” (Wiki)

Now, I cannot stop laughing during the judging in this episode because I cannot un-see it. Especially if you have seen Rio, you know Nigel has some molting moments himself.  I hope this gives you as good a laugh as it gave me.

DIY: Urban Outfitter Knock-Off Rugs

The work schedule has been a little cray cray with the final push to end of the quarter, so to relieve some stress I have been DIY-ing a lot again for the apartment. I hadn’t realized that Urban Outfitters had a pretty snazzy Apartment decoration section online, until fellow blogger Kristina blogged about it. I had always associated Urban with cute yet pricey clothes based on the store located on UPenn’s campus (that particular Urban never had any good sales).

Anyways, this DIY is a copy cat project! I had been eyeing the following Urban Outfitters, but sadly, I didn’t buy them in time and they are no longer for purchase on the website. 

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Figure. The original Urban Outfitter rugs that inspired this DIY.

Edit: The rug on the right “Plum & Bow Apartment Sweet Apartment Mat” is still for sale for $24! [Urban Outfitters Link to Rug]

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Figure. The versions I yielded after a bit of planning and work. Sorry for the slightly anemic colors; I swear it looks even better in person haha.

Intrigued? Keep reading for steps to make your own!

Materials:

Here is what I used for this DIY to make 2 rugs. I listed the price and places for items I specifically bought for this project.

  • 2 placemats (Dollar Tree, $1/mat)
  • 1/2 yard of burlap fabric (Walmart @ $3/yard)
  • Non-slip shelf liner OR rug grip pad (Dollar Tree, $1/roll)
  • 3M painter’s tape
  • Hot glue gun and glue sticks
  • Heavy books
  • Fabric paint
  • Paint pen (optional)
  • Stencils

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Figure. Your weapon of choice for this particular project.

Procedure

Step 1. First I took this unattractive placement and covered it in two layers of fabric, attaching it with hot glue.

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Step 1 Tips: Alternatively, you could paint the placemat first or use a solid colored one to use only one layer of fabric. Since the texture of burlap has tiny holes in it, you can see through it easily. Also, while you want the fabric to snuggly fit over the placement, do not pull too tightly when gluing or else you might warp the fabric’s pretty texture.

Step 2. After gluing, the mat might look a little puffy, so what I did was iron down the rug and then left it overnight under some heavy textbooks to flatten it out. Haha, this is how college graduates make their old books useful!

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Step 3A. Painting time! I used fabric paint, 3M painter’s tape to make borders, and stencils for the lettering.

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Step 3 Tips: You might have noticed one of my rugs ended up having a messy border. While I liked it for that particular rug’s style, I would suggest not using  sponge to apply fabric paint. Use a normal paintbrush to decrease the chance of paint bleeding through your tape and stencils! Also, highly suggest using 3M brand because it’s the only one that has given me such crisp lines! I freehand painted the comb.

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Step 3B. For the “Apartment Sweet Apartment” rug, I actually opted to freehand it completely. I used the paint pen to write the words in script and a paint brush to make the designs. Surprisingly neat considering how horrific my normal penmanship is (just leaf through my work NB).

Final Step. Cut your liner or non-slip mat to fit the back of your new DIY rug so that it stays in place on the floor! I simply hot glued it to the back, making sure to cover the raw edges of the burlap to prevent fraying.

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I’m not entirely sure of the longevity of these DIY rugs, but I’m really happy with it. I was able to make two of these rugs for super cheap, using many materials I already had in my craft supply. Also, I think they kind of look true to the originals 🙂

BONUS PIC. Engineering in progress on the right! I tried imitating the “Apartment Sweet Apartment” more closely, but it ended in tragedy. Which is how I ended making the one on the left the way I did. I would suggest concentrating on centering the script first rather than making the borders and being concerned about fitting in all the hearts. Also, as you can tell from the prototype on the right, using a paintbrush to write script is super hard. Haha.

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