2017Occasionally Crafty: 2017

July 11, 2017

Things to Do in Milwaukee with Kids

Here are some great things to do in Milwaukee Wisconsin with kids!

A year ago, we moved here to a smaller town in Eastern Iowa.  Jokingly (or maybe not), the locals tell me we are "five hours from anywhere fun!"

While I've enjoyed getting to know our new town, it has definitely been fun to make some overnight trips on long weekends to nearby "big" cities.

Recently we visited Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  We had a blast, so I thought I'd share some of our favorite things we did, along with recommendations from others who have visited recently.

Things to Do in Milwaukee with Kids

June 27, 2017

Patriotic Pop Up Card

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, INC. and The Coca-Cola Company. All opinions are mine alone. #USOCarePacks #CollectiveBias



Want to share some love with the servicemen or women in your life this summer?  Make this easy Patriotic Pop Up Card and share the love with our troops!


Our family is fascinated by researching family history. In our family, generations of men have served in the military in some way or another. One great-great-great grandfather even died (many years after the fact) from a bullet he received as a Confederate soldier in the Battle of Chickamauga

My dad was the last of our immediate family to serve in the military.  He was in the Navy as a young man.  Now, our tradition of military service is carried on by my brother-in-law, who is serving in the US Army.  We are proud of him and thankful for the service he and each our of our servicemen and women give for our country.

One of the ways you and I can show our support for the troops is by buying Coca-Cola™ products at your local Sam's Club!  Look for the cans with the custom patriotic packaging!  My Sam's Club didn't stock these special cans but they are available in most Sam's Club locations.

Want to share some love with the servicemen or women in your life this summer?  Make this easy Patriotic Pop Up Card and share the love with our troops!


When you purchase Coca-Cola products at Sam's Club this summer, you'll be helping to provide care packages to the troops overseas!  Sam's Club is partnering with the USO and is hoping to provide 3000-5000 care packages this summer.

If you can't make it to the club anytime soon, or if you're like me and your club doesn't carry the special products, you can order Coca-Cola products with the special USO packaging online, or you can simply donate to the USO for care packages here.

I can't think of an easier way to give back to our troops this summer.

To make it extra special, I've put together a tutorial for an easy patriotic pop up card you can include with a care package or give to your favorite serviceman or woman.

I was inspired by this tutorial for a pop up card, but I know a lot of people don't have fancy cutting machines.  So, I figured out a way to make a similar card with just paper, scissors, and glue!


Patriotic Pop-Up Card


You will need the following supplies:
2 pieces 12x 12 solid Cardstock- different colors.  
1-2 pieces of coordinating patterned paper 
Glue dots 
Tape runner
Scissors
Xacto knife.
Template for stars (download here)

Instructions:
1. Cut a 4.75x12 inch strip of solid cardstock. Fold in half at the center. Using my template, trace and cut with Xacto knife, two stars evenly spaced from the center of the strip, leaving the feet closest to the center attached.
(my Xacto knife was so dull!  It took some work to cover those rough edges up.)

Glue stars together at the center tips.


2. Cut 2 4x4 inch squares to back the star cutouts. (solid contrasting paper)
Use a tape runner or other adhesive and glue to the front and back of your card.

You should see the contrasting paper through star shaped holes.

Want to share some love with the servicemen or women in your life this summer?  Make this easy Patriotic Pop Up Card and share the love with our troops!

3.  Cut a 4x8 piece of patterned paper.  Trace and cut two stars evenly spaced from center of the strip, again leaving the feet closest to the center attached.  Glue stars at center tips.

4.  Cut these stars out at the feet, making sure they stay connected.  There should be a hexagon at the bottom.

5. Add strong tape to the bottom of hexagon. Cut up the fold to remove the hexagon, leaving the taped feet of the stars.

6. Push the fold of the patterned stars right up against the feet of the solid stars.

Want to share some love with the servicemen or women in your life this summer?  Make this easy Patriotic Pop Up Card and share the love with our troops!

7. Repeat steps 3-6 for the other side of the card.

8. Use leftover patterned scraps as embellishments for the card. You can add embellishments as desired.  You can cut small stars and swirls to glue to the card.  Use glue dots.  Smaller stars layered in different colors make even more interest.

Want to share some love with the servicemen or women in your life this summer?  Make this easy Patriotic Pop Up Card and share the love with our troops!

Trace and cut label frames for a greeting.  I actually printed out the phrase I wanted in a cute font and traced it onto my label :)

Want to share some love with the servicemen or women in your life this summer?  Make this easy Patriotic Pop Up Card and share the love with our troops!




Want to share some love with the servicemen or women in your life this summer?  Make this easy Patriotic Pop Up Card and share the love with our troops!

This patriotic pop-up card and a Coca-Cola care package are sure to brighten anyone's day this summer!  How are you going to celebrate the 4th of July?



Want to share some love with the servicemen or women in your life this summer?  Make this easy Patriotic Pop Up Card and share the love with our troops!


June 16, 2017

Missionary Themed Girls Camp Tshirt

Have a missionary or service-themed girls camp?  Here's a great girls camp tshirt idea for you to make!


Our girls camp is coming up next week!  Last week I gave you a sneak peek of our camp shirts, so I thought I'd share the details with you today.

Have a missionary or service-themed girls camp?  Here's a great girls camp tshirt idea for you to make!

June 9, 2017

Girls Camp Beaded Zipper Pull Gift

Need a great gift idea for girls camp or other occasions?  These beaded zipper pulls will be adored by any girl in your life!

Need a great gift idea for girls camp or other occasions?  These beaded zipper pulls will be adored by any girl in your life!

I love Girls Camp so much!  Even though I moved halfway across the country, I still ended up being in charge of our ward (church congregation) girls camp!  This is my 5th time being in charge (in 3 different wards) and I couldn't be happier, especially because it is my daughter's first year!  It will be so much fun to experience that with her.

So, every camp does things differently.  So I am sure that some of the things I'm used to doing will be different.  No matter what, I always like to give the girls something special while I'm there.  This year, I decided to use my minimal jewelry-making skills to make each girl a super-cute beaded zipper pull.

May 26, 2017

Craft Room Organization Ideas

Make the most of your storage space with these easy craft room organization tips!

Make the most of your storage space with these easy craft room organization tips!
Now that you've seen how I made my custom craft desk and my giant pegboard, let's talk about how I'm organizing all my stuff.

Having recently moved, I have significantly less stuff than the average crafter, as I had to get rid of a ton of goods for the cross-country moved.  I know if you're starting from the middle of a closet full of junk, organizing your stuff is a lot harder!  But maybe I can give you some new ideas.


May 24, 2017

Summer Survival Tips

Hey All!  I'm over at Cedar Rapids Moms Blog, where I'm a monthly contributor.  Seriously, even if you're not local, you're going to want to check out this post.


School is just about out for summer, and while I’m excited to have my kids home, the fighting and moans of “I’m bored!” just about kill me every year.  So, I thought I’d put together some Summer Survival Tips for you (and especially for me!)

If the thought of a summer full of fighting, bored kids terrifies, you, check out these Summer Survival Tips!


So, head on over and check out my post, then let me know how you survive summers with your kids!


Note: This post may contain affiliate links. By clicking on them and purchasing products through my links, I receive a small commission. That's what helps fund this blog so I can keep bringing you fun new craft projects to try at home!
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May 19, 2017

Visit Universal Studios Orlando On a Budget

If you want to visit Universal Studios Orlando without breaking the bank, you'll want to check out these budget-saving tips for a fun and affordable vacation!

Check out these budget-saving tips for a fun and affordable vacation to Universal Studios Orlando!

I'm not one of those people who enjoys splurging on vacation.  It gives me hives to shell out endless amounts of money for a trip.  I know, I know-- it's all about the memories.  But sometimes you can have the fun memories without blowing your whole budget for the year.

Here are some things we did on our recent spring break (ie peak time!) trip to Universal Studios in Orlando:


1.  Buy Tickets From A Reputable Travel Agency

     I highly recommend (but am not being paid to recommend) Undercover Tourist.  Not only can you get prices discounted from the gate price, but if you subscribe to their emails, you can get a special code for even bigger savings!  Sure it's tempting to buy a package from the official website, but you can save a substantial amount of money if you book things on your own.  We also found a great hotel deal through the same site, which leads me to the next tip.

2.  You Don't Have To Stay On Site

    Yes, there are perks for staying on site, including free Express Passes at several of the hotels.  Still, if you are able to find a cheaper hotel, you can buy Express Passes on your own and come out saving money.  We stayed at the Holiday Inn Across From Universal.  It was within view of the park and an easy walk there or back.  For those times we didn't want to walk, there was a free shuttle to and from the park at convenient times.  And, we stayed there for $99 night!  For a full suite!  Over spring break!  You can't beat that.

3.  You Don't Need Express Passes

    I know this one is up for debate.  Certainly all the posts I read and all the advice from friends was that Express Passes are necessary and totally worth the money.  That might be true, depending on how long you're visiting the parks, what time of year you are going, and how many people you are paying for.
     The little secret about Express Passes is that each person needs a pass for each park, and for each day of your visit.  In off-peak times, that's $49/day per person.  Not too bad.  But at peak times, it is $100/day per person or more!  For a 5 person family visiting the parks for 3 days at spring break, as we did, that's $1500!  On top of the $1500 for regular park tickets.  No thank you.
      This is the only time I would suggest looking into staying at a resort hotel with passes included. For us, it still was too expensive. So if you're like me and don't want to pay outrageous resort prices, here's what I suggest--
  • Plan at least two and maybe three days to visit the park. 
  • Buy park-hopper tickets so you can go between parks.  
  • Be there before the official opening time so you are ready to go.  
  • Line up closest to the busiest rides (Hulk, Kong: Skull Island, Amazing Spider-Man, Harry Potter stuff, Despicable Me, and Rip Ride Rockit all get super busy pretty fast.  
  • Ride two or three first thing, then save the other big, busy rides for the next day.  
  • Use the app to check wait-times, then use the rest of your day to ride less popular rides, watch shows, and eat treats!
  • If you have older kids or just adults, use the single rider lines!  
  • Be prepared to wait in line.  Using this strategy, we only waited more than a half hour for one ride, and we rode every ride in both parks except the water rides (it was freezing when we were there!)  and Rip Ride Rockit (which kept going down the whole time we were there.  Boo.)  Anything longer than a 35 minute wait, we put off till another time when the waits were shorter.
Remember, you can always buy Express Passes at the park if you decide you hate waiting in line.

Custom Harry Potter t-shirts

4.  Consider A Shuttle Instead of a Rental Car

     If you're only visiting Universal, you don't need a car.  You'll probably just be paying to park it anyway.  Factor in tolls and gas, and you're wasting money.  Our hotel was a short walk away from several restaurants and a Walgreens, so we picked up a few groceries to keep in our room from there.  No car needed!  If you're there longer, you can get groceries delivered from local services too.  So, hire a shuttle to and from the airport, or stay in a hotel that offers one.  For us, it was cheaper to pay for a private shuttle for 5 than to rent a car, so we booked ours through Orlando Shuttle Service.  There you can compare prices and ratings. Ours was right on time and very professional.  It was worth it!


5.  Don't Buy The Dining Plan

     Every single post I read in preparation from our trip said that the Universal Dining Plan is NOT worth the money.  I can't give you more details, but I can refer you to some of the articles I read here and here.  Instead, eat outside of the parks as much as possible.

     We started off the day with breakfast in our room, using groceries we picked up at Walgreens.  We packed snacks to take with us in the parks, and we usually supplemented that with other snacks in the park, such as the famous Butterbeer, Lard's Donuts, and a few other snacks purchased along the way.
One great way to save is to buy a refillable popcorn bucket for $5.99, with refills at $1.29 each.

Lard's Donuts at Universal Orlando


  We ate dinner in Citywalk.  There is a little food court with a Burger King, Moe's Southwest Grill, and Panda Express.  There are a few other quick service restaurants as well as some larger sit-down restaurants there too.  The food court worked perfectly for our family the first two nights, and then we splurged and ate at Hard Rock Cafe our last night there.

6.  Buy a Refillable Cup

     If you're a soda drinker or your kids like Icees, then the Coke Freestyle Refillable Cup is a great deal!  It costs $11.99 the first day and $5.99 any additional days.  Then refills are free! You would have to fill it 4 times to break even the first day.  We bought one and just shared it all day long, so it was totally worth it for us.  If you don't like sharing drinks, it may not be your best bet.
     The other option is to buy a standard refillable cup for around $9, with refills for $0.99 each.  If you are buying multiple cups or aren't as much of a soda drinker, this might be a better option.  There are numerous other options for resort cups and beer mugs, but these are the two most commonly seen around the park.

I hope this helps you realize that you can afford an awesome trip to Universal Studios Orlando!  It's not going to be cheap, but it is certainly more affordable when you follow some of these budget-saving tips.

Have you been to Universal Studios?  What's your best budget-saving tip?



Check out these budget-saving tips for a fun and affordable vacation to Universal Studios Orlando!

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. By clicking on them and purchasing products through my links, I receive a small commission. That's what helps fund this blog so I can keep bringing you fun new craft projects to try at home!
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May 16, 2017

DIY Giant Pegboard

Have an empty wall?  Try making a large pegboard to organize your stash!

Whether you have room for a small or large pegboard, follow this easy tutorial to make your own pegboard for organization!

Last week I teased up our giant pegboard in my DIY Craft Desk tutorial.  I have wanted one of these forever, and I knew I finally had the perfect space for it.  

Whether you have room for a small pegboard or a giant one like me, follow this easy tutorial to make your own pegboard for organization!


May 12, 2017

DIY Custom Craft Desk

Make your own custom craft table from stock cabinets, plywood, and peel & stick vinyl tiles!

Make your own custom craft table from stock cabinets, plywood, and peel & stick vinyl tiles!


DIY Custom Craft Desk


One of the first things I did when we moved into our home was hire someone to finish the storage room in our basement.  It was this huge empty space that needed to be something else!

What Our Basement Looked Like Before


After much debate and design, we decided to make it into a large guest bedroom suite with room for a custom craft nook for me!

Make your own custom craft table desk from stock cabinets, plywood, and peel & stick vinyl tiles!

Truth time: we finished the room in November and I still haven't really decorated the room yet!  But I did spend time making my craft nook the way I wanted it to be.

First we made this custom craft table.  We bought these stock cabinets from Lowe's.  They are actually from the closet organization section.  Our nook is deeper than the cabinets, but that gives me room to run cords down behind them and stuff, so it worked out perfectly.

Use stock cabinets to DIY your custom craft table

Next, we cut a sheet of 3/4 inch-thick plywood to fit from wall to wall for the desk.  It is supported in the front by the cabinets on each end, and to support the back, we made these heavy-duty wall braces from 1x4 pine boards.  You can see from the pictures below that we screwed some flat to the wall for the back of the table to rest on, and the braces went in the middle for support for this extra-long desk. 

How to Brace your Custom Craft Table

We drilled a circle hole in the top of the cabinet for cords, and then the top of the plywood desk and braces were painted white (mostly so the adhesive vinyl tiles would stick better) Finally we screwed the desktop into the cabinets and braces.  You could paint the bottom white but I'm lazy :)

Custom brackets for your craft table

We finished off the desk with these wood grain style adhesive vinyl tiles.  Simply cut to size if needed, peel, and stick.  We did have to use some extra glue for the small piece that line the front of the plywood.

Use adhesive vinyl for a custom craft desktop

The tile looks brownish but it is actually a lovely gray color.  Chalk it up to basement lighting :)

Want to hear about this awesome giant pegboard we made?  Tune in next week and I'll share how we made it, where I got my cute buckets and baskets, and more!  Plus someday I'll show you the finished guest suite, if I ever get around to making it cute.

Make your own custom craft table from stock cabinets, plywood, and peel & stick vinyl tiles!


Note: This post may contain affiliate links. By clicking on them and purchasing products through my links, I receive a small commission. That's what helps fund this blog so I can keep bringing you fun new craft projects to try at home!
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May 9, 2017

DIY Family Farmhouse Sign + Free Cut File



Surprise!  I'm back!  It's been almost a year since my last original post.  I wasn't sure I'd ever come back to blogging, and truthfully, I feel a little unsure of myself as I sit down to type today.

Bottom line:  I've missed this.  I have lots of extra time on my hands, and I need a creative outlet.

However, I've enjoyed the freedom away from blogging.  I haven't been tied to a computer and social media.  I haven't been the mom with my face to the computer and the back to her children.

I still love to make beautiful things and share them with people who have the same passion.

So, I hope you'll come by a few times a week and see what's new.  I hope you'll look out for me on social media.  I hope you'll share my posts with your friends and family.  Let's get this thing back up and running, shall we?

April 25, 2017

Skinny Baked Mac 'n' Cheese




Life sure gets busy, doesn't it?

My kids are in school all day.  But once they get home, our life is a whirlwind of homework, piano lessons, dance lessons, baseball practice, Cub Scouts, church activities, and more.

More often than I'd care to admit, dinner is thrown together at the last minute, or we resort to a drive-through window of a restaurant near our destination.

So, when I have a "night off" where everyone is home and I have time to breathe, I want to make my family a fun, nutritious dinner.

My kids absolutely adore mac 'n' cheese from the blue box.  What kid doesn't?  But I wanted something my husband and I could enjoy with our kids that tastes great and is better for us.
I put together a lightened up version of homemade Baked Mac 'N' Cheese.