Architecture Alphabet Personzlied Gift Tutorial and discount from Artistic Letters!

Wedding season is in full swing!  In fact I attended two weddings in the last three weeks! If it were up to me I would go to a wedding every weekend, I just love them (I know, not everyone does!).  For me they are so much fun, I love to dance and get dressed up.  Part of attending a wedding is, of course, a gift.  You know me well enough to know I like to make my gifts when ever possible, which for kid gifts is easy, but a wedding!  I find it a bit more challenging.  Lately my go to gift has been personalized art made from architectural photographs.  I'm sure you guys have seen this fun art around, it's been popular for some time now, but I bet you didn't know you could DIY it! 

My favorite part about this gift (aside from the fact that I think it's very classy and more personal than a toaster!) is that you can completely adjust the price of the gift.  Once you've invested in the letter set(s) the cost of each gift completely depends on the frame you put it in!  So you can go all out (I got my cousin an amazing vintage looking letter block frame about two years ago that was really nice quality, and large!) or you can get a more budget friendly frame for someone you aren't as close to.  Heck, you can even pick up a frame at Good Will and paint it up, your a DIY kinda gal! 

Up until this year I was pulling my letter images from here and there, I didn't have a great collection, sometimes I had to repeat letters and didn't have options so I had to use the same image again for each letter.  I knew I needed a better solution (and higher quality images) and I found Artistic Letters!

Photographer Jodi Gerber of Artistic Letters has created a catalog of black & white letter images throughout the past 3 years – all by taking photos of objects in nature that resembled letters of the alphabet. She recently decided to offer her ENTIRE catalog of 400+ letter images to the public on CD or Download so that anyone could create their own designs!   

Today I thought I would walk you through how I make my go to wedding gift!  So let's get started.
What you need-
A high quality set of letter images
A frame
Photo editing program (my tutorial uses Photoshop Elements, I love PSE! Artistic Letters has an awesome tutorial using a free photo program if you don't have one you love.)
Glossy photo paper
Matte photo paper (or other quality matte card stock)
Paper cutter or razor knife

*Important* I'm embarrassed to admit this, but I think it's only fair to share because it's somewhat funny..... make SURE you check your spelling!  When my cousin got married I failed to notice that her husband spelled his name unconventionally :( Not only did I mess up his first name, but his last name! Hello!!!  A misspelled personalized gift! Oh Taylor! Luckily it was my cousin whom loves me anyway, imagine if it were someone I wasn't as close to!  So so embarrassing, so don't assume that the spelling is traditional, check the wedding invitation, and double, triple, check your finished work! 

Jodi has created several images for each letter as you can see from the files below, so you won't need to duplicate your repeating letters! 

Setting up your new document.  I wanted my final product to fit on a standard sheet of paper and fit an 8x10 matte.  Although I'm printing on an 8.5x11 inch standard size paper, I created my document at 8x10 so that it would fit my matte properly.
If our using a different photo editing program (any one will work!) you will probably have to open all your letter files and drag them onto your document..... BUT if your using PSE like I am here's a little trick!  Go to file, PLACE.  Choose your image and it automatically puts your image onto your existing document.  This really keeps my workspace from getting cluttered with a bunch of open files.
You will need to shrink your letters a bit as you place them all on your document.  Don't worry to much about sizing until you have them all there.  It will be different every time depending on the length of the last name.  So here is my rough document of all my open letters.

At this point I turned on my grid (view, grid) so that I could align all my letters as I started to shrink them to fit on one line.  Drag and re-size the letters until they are all on the same line.  Make sure the edges line up nice and clean both top and bottom.  It can be difficult to see if everything is aligned with longer names.  I find it helps to turn my background a wild color for contrast.  You will get rid of the color once your done with this step.
Alright, so now all my letters are aligned to each other, the same size, and fit on my document.  You want to leave some white space around the edges for your matte.  Combine all of your letter layers so that they are one and center the name on your background vertically and horizontally.  I find the easiest way to do this, if your new to using PSE, is click the little eye icon on your background layer to hide it.  Then right click on your layers and "merge visible" then turn your background layer (eye) back on and align by selecting both layers and using the "align" tool on your top toolbar.  It's important that you combine your letter layers first or they will all stack on top of each other when you center!  

Now get rid of the wild color in the background and flatten your image.  Lock this layer and create a new layer.  We are going to create our matte right on top of our art to make it easy to place, then we will transfer it to it's own document to print.  On your new layer, choose a complimenting font and use the dash to create a line before and after your text.  Make sure the dash turns into a solid line with the font you chose (Amery is a good font for the dash portion).  Below you will see my dashed line is still dashed, I changed the line portion to Amery before I went on.  I like to include the first names of the bride and groom and the date of their wedding.  You can adjust the information if you like, or maybe it's a baby gift and you want to put the babies first and middle name and their date of birth, or height/weight info. 

Now that you have everything sized (I like my lines to go just past each end of my letter images.  Create a new document (the same doc as last time) and transfer your your text layers (again, merge them first so they keep their proportions, like you did with the letters) to your new doc.

Now print out your two pages, I print my letters on glossy paper and my matte on matte photo paper.  You can choose to use a different paper for your matte, but I do find the photo paper makes for a much nicer (professional) looking gift.  Once you've picked up your supplies for the first time you make this, you have enough for every wedding or event gift you'll need for a long time! 

So now everything is printed out, you need a paper cutter or razor to cut the window in your matte. Stack your papers together and take them over to the window.  This will allow you to see how big of a window you need to cut.  Use a pencil to make a light mark in each corner then connect the dots with your cutting tool.

Now fit everything into the matte that comes with your frame.  I like to use some scrapbooking glue dots to tack everything into place. 

Clean your glass really well and put everything into the frame!

Ready to make your own?

Jodi and I have teamed up to offer you an exclusive discounted pricing of up to $6 Off!  Please visit her website www.BuyAlphabetPhotos.com and browse the images, testimonials, and ideas. 
Then check out the exclusive pricing and freebie by clicking on this link.  (This link is only accessible here for my readers – you won’t be able to find it on her website.) 

FREEBIE ALERT:  Jodi is also offering MJ&G readers a Freebie alphabet set (with purchase)! As an added bonus you also get to choose a Damask set from 6 different galleries!  More info is available on the special link above.

 The exclusive pricing and freebie offer expires Saturday, July 2 at midnight so be sure you take advantage of this great deal while it lasts.

You can also visit Jodi’s facebook page and click “Like” to find more info, freebies, giveaways, and receive future promotions.


Preparing your space

Continuing with my Outdoor Living Space.... today we are going to prep our space.  Both the cement and the wood of the deck had been painted in the past.  They are for the most part bare right now, there was some (brick red) paint left on the rails of the wood, and a little on the edges of the concrete. 

As the wood has been around for years, there was some moss and rough spots on parts of the railings.  If your surface has these kinds of impurities it's important that you take the time to remove them before you paint.  Trust me, you do not want all your paint to chip off in the first year because you didn't prepare your surface.

Of course you will need to clear everything off before you pressure wash.  You need it all off to paint anyway.  You may also need to tape off around areas you don't want painted.  If your using a paint sprayer (like we are for parts) there may be things you need to cover and protect from over spray. 

Can't wait to get that paint we picked down and see some major progress!


DIY Chapstick Tutorial

I spent the morning feeling like a crazy mad scientist and had an absolute BLAST!  First I should tell you.... I'm the furthest from a scientist.  I very much disliked science class in high school.  History was even worse, but science and I weren't the best of friends.  Luckily for me I didn't have to do too much thinking, just some fun mixing with droppers and tubes that made me FEEL like I was doing something crazy complicated (but super simple!).

I really wanted a fun favor to give to the kids at the upcoming camping themed birthday party.  My kids LOVE lip balm so I thought.... how fun would it be to have marshmallow scented lip balm favors! So I started out on Etsy (because I love to buy handmade) and quickly realized if I was going to have enough for everyone I either had to shell out a ton of money.... or make them MYSELF!   But I had never made chapstick before, and despite all the other tutorials out there, I was afraid that the various Vaseline and Petroleum Jelly concoctions would be a melt in your pocket disaster.  Fine for home use, but I wanted a more durable result that I could feel good about handing out.  So my search results turned up LipBalmTubes.com and I couldn't be more excited when I saw "Marshmallow Fluff" available!  Not to mention a super easy, just melt, formula for the actual balm!  A few days later and I'm a lip balm mad scientist, and the kids are having a blast!

Here is what I used- 
Shea & Jojoba Lip Balm Base  (I got the pound container, you can take out a little at a time and it stores beautifully.  It's not at all waxy on the lips, light and glossy!)
Marshmallow Fluff Lip Balm Flavor Oil  (don't let the name fool you, it's not actually flavored, just a scent)
Sweetener (this is what actually adds a bit of sweetness to your balm, the smell tricks your nose into thinking your tasting the "flavor")
Lip Balm tubes in white (as well as matching white caps)
Microwavable container (an inexpensive liquid measuring cup works great!) 

I also got some other "flavors" and a variety of balm tubes and pots to test out.  My pound of base will make a lot more than I need for the party so I'm making a few with the other flavors for gifts, myself, and the kids (because they were begging the whole time I was making them!  Are you kids as into lip stuff as mine?)

To get started, there are a couple things you need to know.  I promise, nothing to intimidating.  
  • Make sure your ingredients aren't too hot.  Pouring too hot liquid into your balm tubes can cause them to warp and leak.  IF you get things to hot, let them cool a bit, you can always reheat them if you wait to long.
  • If your making a few at a time (like me), a rubber band around a group of tubes works great for holding everything up and together while you fill them.
  • To determine how much "flavor" to put in you will need to do a tiny bit of math (don't get scared, just grab a calculator and your scale).  You need to weigh the amount of base your using and multiply by .03.  This is the amount of flavor you need to add.  Make sure you don't include the weight of the container (I measured my container empty and subtracted it from my total weight).  Some of the flavors have a stronger scent than others.  I found with the marshmallow I added a bit more than what it called for and the scent is still pretty light where as the Lemondrop Pucker was very fragrant and didn't need any extra.  
  • You will find the pipettes very useful when adding flavor and sweetening.  For the cost through Lipbalmtubes.com you can't go wrong. 

So lets get to it!  
  1. Spoon the desired amount of base into your microwave safe container (one with a spout really helps!).  Weigh your product and subtract the weight of the empty container.  Now grab that calculator and multiple by .03 to determine the amount of flavor you need. 
  2. Melt the base in your microwave in 15-30 second increments depending on how well your microwave works and how much base your using.   I found the base melts a lot like chocolate, if you have any little clumps give it a stir and it kind of melts itself.  Make sure not to get it to hot!  
  3. Add your flavor and a few drops of the sweetener (if you chosen to use it).
  4. Pour into each tube or pot being careful not to over flow, they fill up quickly!
  5. Allow your tubes to cool.  

Simple right? You can totally do this!

All of the containers I received were excellent quality, what a variety!  I really like the tall skinny ones, a lot like the drugstore balm I usually get.  But my favorite (which surprised me) ended up being the clear standard tube with the colored lid (like the pink one below).  I like that you can see the balm through the tube and you can coordinate the color with your flavor (I put a yellow lid on my lemondrop, this pink would be great for the bubble gum!).

So what other flavors did I pick up?  I asked the fun gals at LipBalmTubes.com to send me a variety of their favorite flavors (mostly for kids since I'm doing a kid party).  They have 38 different flavors! Here is what they sent-

Dill Pickle!!!  Seriously, these smell just as good as those dill pickle chips LOL..... amazing and so unique!  I will be working them into a birthday party sometime, I just HAVE to!
Bubble Gum- smalls AH-MAZING
Cherry Berry- I tested this one out because it smells so fun!  Who doesn't love cherry balm!
Lemondrop Pucker- love it, as I mentioned earlier, great lemon scent
Popcorn!- smells just like a popcorn jelly belly (which is my least favorite jelly belly flavor, but the kids love it!)
French Toast- um.... YUM!  Smells amazing
Pink Lemonade- which to me smells a lot like the lemondrop pucker, both very good!

Like I mentioned, the prices are so reasonable you can afford to test out quite a few and if you get a pound of the base you will have plenty to try them all!

Now I'm going to print up some fun "thank you" party favor labels and I will share the finished product with you at the party!  Can't wait!


Paint for Your Outdoor Space

Now that we have a plan it's time to talk color! Choosing a paint color is extremely difficult for me.  As I mentioned in the planning stages, I want the deck to feel moody, bistro, cafe like.  To me that means warm colors, but I also want it to be FUN!  So I browsed around the web for color inspiration.  I also had this floor from my friend Lori in mind, I'm very much in love with it!  In the end I'm thinking it will be more fiesta than bistro... but I'm good with that, after all, it's mostly for the kids!

I picked up the color swatch guide for the True Value Painter's Select Porch and Floor.  It's important to choose the right kind of paint for your job.  Your True Value employee can help you if your not sure what to use.  It's also important that you understand how to clean up your paint when your done.  Latex water based paints can be easily cleaned up with water where as Urethane paints need mineral spirits to clean up.  In our case I knew we were going to be using a paint sprayer so I wanted clean up to be as simple as possible.  But I'm getting ahead of myself!  The swatches.....

For the wood I wanted something with a gray tone.  I decided to go with the "After Hours" shown above.  Or here on the awesome color picker from True Value's website-

If you know the color your looking for by name you can type it in and it brings up the whole swatch family.  You can also zoom out to see that entire area of the swatch catalog.

If your any thing like me you go to the store, look at all the swatches, pick one out and have it mixed up immediately!  I would like to take this opportunity to highly discourage you from that approach.  It's no fun to wait, I understand.  When your painting something it's fun and exciting (until you actually get to the painting part right!  We always forget what a task it is to paint, it's like childbirth..... eventually you look back and say "that wasn't so bad, lets do it again!"  Ha!).  We're getting away from my point... Take your color swatch HOME!  Look at it in the space your planning on using it in.  This is not a new tip, you guys have heard it before.  That's why they make those handy little samples of paint, so you can test it out before you paint an entire room and hate it! 

Well thank goodness I wasn't quite ready for paint yet when I brought these swatches home because I fell completely in love with "Boa" which I hadn't even noticed in the store, but suddenly at home it was the most perfect mustard yellow (for the cement area, not the wood).  Oh I was smitten.  So I took the swatch back to the store to have them mix it up, pulled it out at the paint counter, and said "OH HECK NO!"  You see.... what was the perfect shade of mustard yellow at my house was actually an awful green at the store and an entirely different color when you look at the swatch gallery.  See below!

What!  That color was NOT what I had in mind.  And although it looked perfect in my space I couldn't bring myself to choosing it.  So I grabbed a different swatch book and took it HOME!  Lesson learned!

Oddly enough, the color I did end up going with is not in the online gallery.  Maybe it's new!  I will share it with you soon! Actually it may end up being a color of it's very own, I'll explain that later! 


Clean Mama Printable Winner!

Congratulations to Mindy!  She won the $50 gift card to Clean Mama Printables.  


Creating an Outdoor Living Space- planning

Ahhhh!  June has been such a whirlwind at our house.  Between weddings and graduation parties, I'm sure you've all been just as busy!  I mentioned to you guys that I'm one of the ten True Value Blog Squad members for 2011 (super exciting!).  Well the adventure is well underway and I wanted to share with you my main project.  
When I was contacted by True Value I started to brain storm ideas of what kind of projects I would like to do.  The main one that came to me is creating more space for my family to enjoy.  We have a HUGE deck that's half concrete half wood that the kids LOVE to play and ride bikes on, but I don't really enjoy being out there myself.  I have sensitivity to the sun and heat so I usually find myself watching them play from the window, which isn't much fun for anyone. So my main project for the summer (which started a little later than we would have liked due to the strange weather here in Wisconsin this year!) is Creating an Outdoor Living Space.

Here is what I'm working with....

The lens I had on seemed to make a funny distortion, but you get the idea.  It's half wood, half cement.  Fully gated.  There used to be an above ground pool at the end where that odd archway/hanger is.  The pool was gone before we were here so I'm not sure exactly how it worked..... but it's a nice big open space that could be so much better utilized!  So it's my mission, create a space that actually makes me want to GO outside! 

The very first thing I did, which you can see a little of at the top of the sketch, is made a list of all the things I want to be able to do on the deck.
  • Grill- we do a lot of this in the summer
  • Eat!  Kind of a give after the grill right?
  • Read, I used to read all the time and I need to do it more!
  • Work, I would love to have a spot to work on the computer and actually be able to see my screen
  • Kid's play.  This is a must! 
  • Possibly a fire pit?  
  • Shade!  For my sun issues, shade is a must! 
I also thought about what kind of look and feel I wanted for the space.  I would like to use it both day and night.  I also wanted it to have a real bistro/night cafe feel to it.  I LOVE twinkly lights with the old fashion looking bulbs.  Something cozy, moody and inviting.

So I sat down and came up with a plan!
I did some browsing of the True Value website along the way to get an idea of what things would cost.  I wasn't sure what all I would buy and what I would make so I kind of priced everything out so I could determine where my money would be best spent.  As it turned out the gazebo I wanted as my main structure (the thing that would give me shade and allow me to enjoy the space most) was discontinued between the time I planned my layout and the time I went to order it.  So the dimensions of the one I found to replace it are a bit different, but you get the idea.  It was a rough sketch to get me going.  You probably can't even tell what most of it is right now....

So that's the plan!  We are already underway and I can't wait to share the process with you.  Next up- preparing your space!


Camping Birthday Party Prep

It's just over thirty days until my oldest turns FOUR!  This has officially become the last year that I will get away with controlling the theme of his party without allowing him input.  I knew this day would come.... the other day he asked if we could change his party to a monster truck party! Ugh, sorry little dude, you'll have to wait until next year mommy takes like six months to prepare for parties so I'm well underway on the camping theme! I guarantee he will love the party though, I'm so very excited about some of the ideas!  I'm starting to see some camping parties pop up here and there, but for the most part there isn't much in the way of examples out there so the ideas have really been pretty original!  I can't wait to share the full thing with you!

I've been gathering supplies from Shindigz, I love to shop online!  I'm most excited about the balloon lights.  They are little LED lights that go inside the balloon so they glow!  I'm going to have a dark room as part of the party (there will be a faux campfire and everything!) so the glowing balloons will be a fun touch.  I did consider the glow in the dark balloons... but decided the LED lights would be more fun to try and I'm hoping they give a little more of a moody feel than the glow in the dark would.

I have a fun favor project coming up to that I can't wait to share, but today I wanted to show off the invites.

I started from scratch using a photo of a chalkboard subway art I found on Pinterest as my inspiration.  Using Photoshop Elements I started with a free texture background I've had, I think I got it off flikr, they have a lot of texture groups that offer free textures.

Then with a tiny star bust brush (actually I used two different ones just for depth) I randomly dotted some star burst dots across the texture layer.  Choose a few fonts you like and start layering the information.  Don't be afraid to change the font size of a single letter (like the H&N in Hudson).  I used periods in a large font size to create the dotted line dividers. 

This party didn't require a ton of information, but this style of invite is great for parties that do!  You can fit a lot of text and still have the invite look fun.  Excuse my blurred mess there, it's important not to share too much info these days!

I scribbled a little scene on each envelope for added fun when it arrives in the mail!

Stay tuned for more camping party inspiration!

By request, here is a list of the fonts I used on the invitation.  I download free fonts from a couple sites but my favorite is dafont  so it's most likely I've gotten these there.  If not, a quick google search should find them for you!

oops!  That "Snell ound" was supposed to say snellbound!  I must have an error in my font file. 


Excuse my mess

It's raining outside, the kids are very happily occupied with legos and I'm making a complete mess of the blog as I try to decide where to put things, what's working, what's not, what to get rid of, what to relocate.... You get the idea.  I get bored easily, but I don't like to move things around on you guys to often (that's annoying!).  But I am yet to have a layout that I really love, that I think really works.  I've been adding some ads (as you may have noticed) because that's what I need to do in order to keep this blog running.  I hope you understand!  But I'm trying to figure out where to put the ads without feeling like they are taking over! 

So please excuse my mess today as I fiddle with things.  I promise I'm trying to make it all easier for you in the long run.  If you have any input, anything you HATE or would love to see!  I'm all ears :) 


Get Organized! Clean Mama Printables GIVEAWAY! *closed*

You guys know I'm obsessed with organization and all things printable.  So when I find printables FOR organizing.... HELLO!  Anything that can keep my day running smoother and keep me from spending half an hour trying to remember that thought I JUST had! Errrr... right it down!!  Well now I am.... writing it down.  So I wanted to share some of my favorite printables from the Clean Mama Shop.

Clean Mama Printables is an Etsy shop started by work-at-home mom, Becky that keeps it "all" together with a cup of strong coffee and a checklist. She's a former art teacher with a flair for graphic design. After making her own personal printables for years, she decided to open up an Etsy shop last March to showcase a different type of printable. Her printables focus on homekeeping, organizing and all things clean.

Becky has put together Kits to make everyday tasks a little more fun:

MJ&G's personal favorite!-
The Busy Mama Homekeeping Kit (19 documents), is a complete kit to keep your homekeeping manageable and on-track. The Busy Mama Kit is designed in fun fonts and colors and is meant to be used month after month, year after year. It has documents that every homekeeping binder needs - a variety of lists, perpetual calendars, a deep cleaning checklist, a medical information sheet, daily and weekly planner pages...

The Cleaning Kit (a bestseller), lists a combination of all the tasks that should be done in homes in an attractive, easy to use format that will work beautifully for you and your busy family. The lists are designed to be used together - one for rotating tasks to do year round and one for weekly tasks.

The Organized Kitchen Label Kit is 11 documents in an easy to use, print and label format - the ideas are endless. Get ready to label your entire kitchen - canisters, spice jars, dry storage containers - and with plenty blank labels, you can label other things in your home as well. You can print the labels on clear label sheets, vinyl, white sticker paper, colored paper, printed scrapbook paper......

Not sure where to start?  I know, if your like me you want them all!The Starter Kit bundles 4 of her best-selling kits (32 documents) - The Busy Mama Kit, The Cleaning Kit, The Vertical Weekly Docket, The Meal Planning Kit, and the Christmas Planning Kit (the Christmas Planning Kit can be switched out for any other kit with 5 or less documents). This kit is perfect for someone just getting a homekeeping notebook started or just looking for some guidance in the homekeeping and organizing of the home.

The Holiday and Special Occasions Planning Kit has 16 holidays and special occasions planning sheets to plan ahead.  Each planning sheet includes a place for the year, a place to record your menu, guests, decorations, traditions, and a to-do list.

Want to create your own kit?  Choose the Bucket of 5 (choose any 5 individual documents from any kits), or the Pick 2 Kit or the Pick 3 Kit - you get to choose your own 2 or 3 kits to create your own personalized bundle - and get  a little discount while you're at it!

In addition to the printable kits, Clean Mama Printables also carries individual documents. All printables are in PDF file format so once your order is finalized, you can print the digital files as many times as you like for your own personal use. Becky can create a document just for you - she loves special orders, so if you have something in mind but don't see it, just ask!

Clean Mama Printables is giving away TWO $50 Gift Certificates for lucky two readers!  Enter in the comments section by telling me which Clean Mama Printable (or kit) would make your life easier!

Becky is also offering 20% off through this week to all MaryJanes and Galoshes readers - just enter the code '20MARYJANES' at checkout!

Becky can also be found blogging at Clean Mama - where she blogs about all things clean and organized and other homey things in between.

Giveaway ends  June 21st at midnight central time.  Good luck! 

*Giveaway Closed*


Gearing Up for Junk Bonanza

You may remember me telling you last fall that Galoshes and I have a booth at this years Junk Bonanza! We will be under Galoshes' business name (Sommers Breeze Antiques).

A little preview of just a TINY fraction of what we will be bringing.


Today's featured sponsor! Fresh Eggs


Ice Cream Sandwiches

I've seen a lot of popsicle posts around lately.  I have to admit, I'm not much of a popsicle person.... but I do love ice cream!  So I picked up some chocolate wafer cookies from a local market and blue moon ice cream form the grocery.  If you let the ice cream temper for a minute or two (depending on the brand, mine was actually very soft right away) you can easily squish the ice cream without breaking the cookies.  Scrape the edges flush and roll in some sprinkles!  The kiddos were very excited!  It was so hot I stripped them down and took it outside, what a mess!  They eventually washed off in the sprinkler, can you think of a better summer day!

What is your favorite summer food?