Simple Heartastic Valentine’s Crafts

ValentinesFromTheHeart

Have you ever heard the saying, “Valentine’s day is a Hallmark holiday?”

Humbug!

With winter raging outside, what could be sweeter than a day spent in the craft room, making pretty things, and reveling in all things heartastical? That’s a word, right? Well, it should be.

Some people dream of warm, sun-drenched escapes. I dream of a dining room table covered with pretty papers, colorful ribbons, rubber stamps, felted wool, and lots and lots of glitter.

There’s something incredibly decadent and rejuvenating about taking some time for yourself to go off-the-grid. Turn off the tech, and tune-out the noise. Make stuff. Make meaningful stuff, that you put a little bit of yourself into, to share with your Valentines.

Here are a few ideas to get you started.

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Gift wrap from Cavallini Papers. Available at http://www.papersource.com.

Gift Wrap Valentines and Garlands

I found some really fun vintage and Victorian gift wrap at a local boutique and fell in love immediately. The texture and thick stock were fabulous. Too pretty to just wrap a package and have it torn up and thrown away. These Italian wraps can be found in 20 x 28″ sheets online at Paper Source.

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The first thing I did was use glue stick, thoroughly covering the back of  the wrapping paper and applying it to large sheets of tag board or thick card stock, to make it extra durable. Smooth, smooth, smooth with your hand and then set a couple books on top to make sure the paper is firmly adhered and your card stock doesn’t curl.

After just a few minutes of dry-time, it’s time to put your preschool construction paper cutting skills to work. I find this part remarkably relaxing.

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At this point, you can finish off individual Valentines with some additional flourishes such as red or pink glitter glue, fabric or Washi tape around the edges, or use a hole punch and adorn with tulle or grosgrain ribbon.

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I decided to make a garland, and it couldn’t have been easier. I just used a hole punch and about 4 feet of red and white baker’s twine, and voila! Now I have a darling vintage garland greeting my guests, along the length of a shelf, when they come in my front door.

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Printables from Brit & Company. Find them on the Smart Perks’ Pinterest Board.

 

Valentine’s Printables

Given my affinity for cutting and pasting, my own personal Zen, I go crazy for free printables. You can find a zillion of them on the Smart Perks Pinterest boards. Here are two projects I completed this weekend.

The first are some sweet treats, Hershey’s Miniatures candy bars, wrapped in fun 90’s pop wrappers (see above). Too cute. Love to surprise my coworkers with a little something unexpected to make them smile.

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My second Free Printable Project was inspired by fellow blogger, Super Mom. This is an awesome and hilarious idea for a non-candy related Valentine that kids with allergies can enjoy. And it won’t be forgotten any time soon.  I simply glued the printed designs onto cardstock, cut them out, and I’ll use red and white baker’s twine to affix the darling Valentine’s Whoopee Cushions that I found online at Oriental Trading to the cards. I think you might want to save these for an in-home party though. Can you imagine a classroom full of third-graders with Whoopee Cushions? OH. HECK. NO.

 

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Fun With Felt

I love felt. Needle-felting is one of my favorite hobbies. It’s extremely satisfying to take a mound of raw, dyed wool and shape it into something completely new. There are many YouTube tutorials on needle-felting. All you need is clean wool, a felting needle and a piece of felting foam. Careful, those needles are sharp. I recommend Dream Felt on Etsy for all needle-felting supplies. Their wool colors are fabulous. I used their wool roving to make the felted wool hearts and ball garland shown in the main photo.

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But if you want to do something a little simpler, you can buy sheets of regular felt at Michaels or your local craft store, along with various Valentine shades of DMC embroidery floss, and create some one-of-a-kind Valentine’s coasters with a personal touch. I used some of my favorite song titles and lyrics, such as Tainted Love, You Sexy Thing, and Love is a Battlefield, to create unique Valentines that won’t be thrown away on February 15th.

You only need to know two basic stitches to complete these simple hearts – a running stitch for the word or design, and a blanket stitch to sew the two hearts together. Just cut two heart shapes from your felt, approximately 4 inches in diameter. Stitch designs on front (and back if you want), add buttons or other embellishments. Then blanket stitch the two hearts together, design-side facing out. Easy Peasy!

Obviously I had a busy weekend, working non-stop on my crafty fun times. But with 3 weekends left until Valentine’s Day, you still have plenty of time to try one of these projects, or one of the many, many others you’ll find on our Smart Perks Pinterest board. I love shopping! But handmade Valentine’s are good for the heart, and the soul! Enjoy.

Blogger Mel B., a Smart Perks employee, has pinholes in her pointer finger and a scissor blister on her knuckle.

 

 

 

 

How-To: DIY Home Renovation Project

 

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“Your home should tell the story of who you are and be a collection of what you love.”
Nate Berkus

When my husband and I moved into our big two-story farm house in 1993, we knew it would take a lot of time, effort and money to update it. Besides having the wiring and plumbing redone to bring it up to code, the interior of the house needed a serious makeover. It was obvious the previous owners didn’t have any decorating sense whatsoever.

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Though it wasn’t quite this bad, it was still pretty bad.

The walls in the dining room and living room were painted light green (the color of pond scum), the windows were hidden under heavy full-length drapes (the kind you’d find in a funeral home or the Munster’s house) and the floors were covered with filthy shag carpeting (I’m sure it harbored all kinds of nasty microscopic critters). The downstairs bathroom looked like it was straight out of a 1970’s flop house – big gold sunflowers against an olive green background, a grungy mustard-colored linoleum floor and a bathtub they probably hauled out of a junk yard. The bathroom upstairs had a long closet decorated with goofy duck stickers instead of a bathtub or shower. I kid you not. It was ridiculous!

Our realtor referred to this 1917 fixer-upper as the “Bates Motel”, but beneath all the unsightly trappings we could see that this place had a lot of character and loads of potential.

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Not exactly welcoming…

For starters, beautifully carved woodwork, plate rails and beveled mirrors in the spacious dining room, bay windows in the dining room, living room and master bedroom, and underneath that hideous shag carpeting we discovered a magnificent oak floor with mahogany inlay. We were also impressed with the size of the kitchen – 17 ft. x 17 ft. with high 10 ft. ceilings – and the charming built-in cabinet, not to mention the transoms above the bedroom doors (something you’d usually find in grand hotels, not private homes.) Suffice it to say this house was a diamond in the rough.

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This is the detailing I’m talking about. Beautiful, huh?

After buying the house for a song, we decided we could save a lot of money if we tackled minor renovations ourselves. It’s taken quite a few years (and muscle) to do some of the improvements and, as with most old houses, there’s still plenty to do. But, anyone who has seen the before and after pictures will agree this place looks ten times better than it did when we first moved in.

If you’re thinking of remodeling your home, I have some ideas for easy and affordable upgrades you can do yourself.

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Look at that technique!

Red Walls

An example of a burgundy dining room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Give walls a fresh coat of paint. Probably the easiest and least expensive way to change the look of any room is to repaint it. Think beyond the usual shades of beige and go with colors that reflect the mood or purpose of the room or your personal decorating style. For example, try bright yellow or tangerine in the kitchen, rich burgundy or hunter green in the dining room, and fresh lilac or jade green in the bathroom.

  • Need help selecting the right colors? Check out the interior paint guide at bhg.com
  • Learn how to paint like a pro with help from diynetwork.com

Restore or replace your flooring. If you’re lucky enough to have hardwood floors underneath your worn carpet (like we did) and they’re in relatively good condition, you may just need to spruce them up with a floor sander/polisher from a rental place or buy this handy Floor Scrubber/Polisher. You can always get an area rug if you want to add some color and warmth.

hand painting oil color on wood floor  use for home decorated ,house renovation and housing construction theme

It looks harder than it is, we promise!

On the other hand, if your floors are in bad shape, you’ll want to hide them under new carpeting or flooring. Look for special deals from Empire Today, one of the featured offers in Smart Perks.

Refinish cabinets, shelves and furniture. Instead of investing in new kitchen cabinets, consider refinishing your existing ones with paint or stain. Why not dress them up with different knobs or handles too?

Go to hgtv.com for a simple tutorial on refinishing kitchen cabinets.

Cabinet redo

Photo Courtesy of Pinterest User One Good Thing…

Replace faucets and sinks. Make an outdated bathroom look like new instantly by replacing your faucets and sink with more modern designs. You don’t even need a plumber to do it!

 

Re-tile the floor or backsplash. Tiling is relatively easy. All you need is a little know-how and the right supplies, like tiles (standard subway-style tiles are the most common and the easiest to install), a v-notched trowel, tile mastic (adhesive), a tile cutter, and grout. You can find most of these things at home improvement stores. Go to diynetwork.com for step-by-step instructions on tiling floors, backsplashes, showers and more.

Update window treatments. Get rid of those heavy drapes or dated curtains and put up some sleek new blinds, Roman shades or sheers. Or, you could create your own custom curtains, drapes, shades & more out of materials you already have on hand. Check out the amazing (and easy) DIY Window Treatment ideas from hgtv.com!

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Just one of many options from one of our partners, 3 Day Blinds. Check out Smart Perks for a coupon!

You’ll also find some cool ideas in Melanie’s March 2nd blog post!

For supplies and products, look no further than Smart Perks! You’ll find some great offers from Build.com, Lowe’s, 3 Day Blinds, and more in our Home & Garden section.

Final Note: Before you invest in an older home, have it inspected by a professional to make sure it’s structurally sound. It’s easy to correct cosmetic flaws, but if the foundation is fragile you’ll have a nightmare on your hands. If you don’t believe me, rent the Tom Hanks’ movie The Money Pit!

Good luck and remember, it’s worth all of the effort once you see the fruits of your labor! Have any of you renovated your home yourself and have pics to send? Include them in the comment section!

Catherine B., a Smart Perks employee, may not be handy with a hammer, but she does know how to create an awesome honey-do list.

DIY or Pay Someone to Do It For You?

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I have a guilty secret. I must come clean. Several posts back, I blogged about my little-used sewing machine, and the piles of fabric I’d purchased, with every intention of sewing some fabulous curtains just like the ones I saw on Pinterest.

Well, the sad truth is, upon seeing similar print curtain panels at Target that I liked, at $24 a piece, my slacker tendencies kicked in. I decided to take the path of least resistance and bought my curtains instead.

Yes, I admit it. I did not DIM (Do-It-Myself.)

However, before I tattoo Pinterest Wannabe to my forehead, I have decided that sometimes it’s okay not to be able to do everything.
As much as we’d like to believe that, given the time, we could tile a kitchen backsplash that would make Michelangelo weep, some things are just better left to the professionals.

Luckily the advent of a thriving online marketplace has made it easier than ever to hire talented, ethical, reliable and professional service, craft and trades people.

Sometimes we want to attempt to tackle projects and repairs ourselves, whether our motivation is saving money or exercising our DIY-muscles.

But, it’s also perfectly okay to say, “I don’t have the time or the patience right now to do this on my own.” And that’s when you can dive into the ever-expanding and incredibly customer-friendly world of online home service providers for everything from sewing projects and repair work to painting, landscaping – there’s a professional for just about any task you need done. You can even hire a grazing goat service. Seriously! See Amazon Home Services under Other Services.

So, who are the key players?

Well, of course there’s the venerable, subscription-based Angie’s List with its convenient mobile app, Snapfix, that lets you snap a quick pic of whatever needs doing, such as having a retaining wall built or blinds installed, and you’ll receive multiple bids back for your project.
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But, there are also many newcomers on the home services scene that do all the legwork of finding a professional for you for free, from TaskRabbit, pro.com and ThumbTack (who received a $100 million dollar vote of confidence from Google in August 2014) to the just-launched Amazon Home Services.

Dashboard_-_Thumbtack_-_2015-04-14_12.37.37Thumbtack has been around since 2008 and is the company I have used myself, most recently to find a pet sitter in my area within my budget that could meet my specific needs, caring for three dogs in my home, a 6-month old puppy and another with a LOT of issues.

When working with one of these companies, you’ll provide a summary of the service you need, whether it’s a fence installation or pet-sitting. Then they will analyze the request and provide you with bids on the project. Some companies like pro.com will charge a flat hourly rate. You don’t pay for the service of Thumbtack or Amazon Home  Services. Their Pros pay to bid on your job, or pay the company a percentage of the total job cost. That’s how Thumbtack and others make their money.

TheifWorking with Home Service Providers (HSPs) can eliminate the “meeting in a dark alley,” fear you get when dealing with Craig’s List, or a stranger off a supermarket bulletin board. All of the companies I’ve mentioned conduct thorough background checks on their pros, including scouring court records, sex offender registries, national and local court filings and criminal databases, and bankruptcies, judgments and liens. All customer reviews are verified to ensure they were written by actual human beings who received the services.

Amazon Home Services (AHS) has a clear advantage over its competition, solely based on the outstanding reputation of its parent company. If you buy a flat-screen television on Amazon, there’s now a button right there online to hire an installer to mount it for you with AHS, sparing you the hassle of having to find a contractor on your own. It’s the proverbial one-stop-shop.Amazon_Home_Services_Amazon.com_-_2015-04-14_15.58.59

Then, is there anything worse than taking time off work to meet a repair person and be stood up without so much as a phone call? The likelihood of that happening to a provider listed with Amazon is slim to none, as anyone who has experienced Amazon’s amazing customer service can attest.

Amazon.com_Happiness_Guarantee_-_2015-04-14_16.10.03Amazon’s services are covered by an A-to-Z guarantee and a price match. Plus, their providers must meet ongoing performance targets, including responsiveness, quality and ratings. I personally love Amazon. I am a proud Prime Member and I’m anxious to try their services. But I have to be honest, in my service area the search results were pretty slim pickings right now.  The majority of categories had no providers available within my zip code. However, they just launched, and integrated with TaskRabbit in March, so I’ll check back in a couple of months when I’m sure the service offerings in my area will be more robust.

The other drawback worth mentioning, from my experience is that for emergency repairs, say your hot water heater goes out on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, you’re probably not going to want to wait around for estimates. That’s when you may want to turn to Mr. Google for assistance.

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My Secret Garden by Marjorie Wallace

And there  you have it. I freely admit it. While I would love to devote my every waking hour to recreating an amazing stone garden path that looked like it came straight from a storybook myself, I have a garden that needs tending, books that need reading, and dogs that need a rigorous round of tug-of-war or two. So maybe when it comes to that romantic garden path, I might just swing over to the online marketplace and see how much  local landscapers would charge. What have I got to lose?

– MB, Smart Perks blogger, crafter, gardener, reader, cupcake lover, social media junkie, shopping enthusiast & dog mom

Spring Home Decor Trends, Pinterest Envy, and Delusions of Grandeur

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Source: Shower curtain from Wayfair.com

It’s been two years since I invested in my computerized Janome Magnolia 7330 Sewing Machine.

I guess I imagined that by computerized, Janome meant the machine would magically do the sewing for me. Like Cinderella’s birds and mice, I would simply push a button and my magical new sewing machine would instantly produce adorable throw pillows, darling handbags, charming rag quilts, and new Roman shades for the whole house.

Sadly, however, this did not occur.

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So these past few weeks, after completing project declutter, and inspired by my good friend Yvette, who’d recently made some really fantastic curtains from Pinterest Tutorials, I decided to pay my friend to sew curtains for me!

Luckily Yvette is a non-judgmental friend and  agreed to help with my project, which I assumed meant she would sew them for me, and I got to bypass all the measuring, ironing and cutting, and go straight to the fun part -Shopping for fabrics!

First stop; the place I always go for inspiration, Pinterest.

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” John Lennon once said, prophetically referring to the advent of Pinterest.”

Pinterest is chock-full of beautiful photographs of the recipes we hope to prepare, the clothes we hope to wear, the parties we want to throw, the exquisite gardens we want to grow, and the bathrooms with the freestanding tubs of our dreams, even if we’re shower people, born and raised.

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Source: hellobrielle.wordpress.com 1. Target 2. Premier Fabrics 3. Bedbuggs 4. Pottery Barn via Real Simple 5. Amy Butler 6. Colorbee 7. She Likes Purple

My friend Yvette and I created a shared board on Pinterest that we could both contribute to, and pinned all the fabrics we found that matched the current color and pattern trends. Bright! Bold! Big! paired with soft neutrals. 11046403_1084724708220366_2618078523814373780_n

We searched Google, Etsy, and other boutique fabric stores, and pinned all of our favorite fabrics to the shared board, writing down the names of the ones we liked best.

Then we visited onlinefabricstore.net, where you can typically find the yardage you need of the fabric you want, versus some of the smaller boutique shops that have limited quantities at a higher price. Plus, shipping is free on orders of $50 or more.

And finally when it was time to get down to brass tacks,Yvette found a great step-by-step tutorial on Pinterest from Midwest Magnolia, that she followed to make new drapes for her dining room, living room and bedroom.

1924704_10152674317673589_5414340233889026763_nOf course she got a lot of help from her beagle, Lucy.

Here are two of the completed sets. 10957760_10152674523588589_6307927056989610494_nzBold, clean and fresh with a slight nod to mid-century modern.

The big splashy prints are perfect for Spring. 10608568_10152376386808589_6530551657542804450_oz And then Yvette broke the bad news to me…she wasn’t going to sew my curtains for me. It was time to dust off that brand new Janome, and conquer my fear of sewing. Time to quit my Pinterest-day-dreaming and just do it. Sigh…that’s what friends are for, I guess, pushing us to do the things we think we can’t do. Wish me luck!

For more great decorating ideas, visit the Smart Perks Spring Decor board on Pinterest. No sewing required.

 

-MB

When she’s not blogging for Smart Perks, Melanie is staring glassy-eyed at Pinterest, her Pin It finger splinted from overuse. Besides crafting, gardening, shopping and cupcakes, the loves of her life are her three naughty terrier pups, the smartest and best-looking dogs in the world, and her husband.

Valentine’s Day – What Can I Do In Five Days?

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Five days.

Valentine’s Day is five days away…and I haven’t even thought about getting the kids their Valentines cards for their classmates yet. Gulp!

I mean, I was busy. Work, grocery shopping, taxes, dog-grooming , the Grammy Awards! Well, okay, maybe not the Grammys. But you know what I mean. Life…it’s so LIFEY!

And Valentine’s Day falls on Saturday this year. That means a whole day to plan super fantastic, creative, outrageously fun, festive and fabulous food, activities, cards and small gifts for the whole family…including the dogs.

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What can I do in five days that doesn’t involve outrageous shipping fees, a degree from Martha Stewart University, or blowing my diet, and my Valentine’s diet, too?

Worried? Who me? No way. My best friend Pinterest has my back.

I just spent an hour or so scouring the boards of some of my favorite Pinners, and came up with everything I need to create an awesome day for everyone: friends, the kids, my husband, mom, sister, and our dogs, Bacon & Beanie.

I found FREE printables for cards, crafts and games! Even if it’s a snow day (Hello New England!) there are plenty of activities to keep everybody busy. f85ac4a871596f4ff9ff9d72abcd905cTake a look at this darling free printable from quitetheoccasionevents.com.

Check out the Smart Perks Valentine’s board on Pinterest for dozens of great ideas, like Valentine’s lasagne. Or strawberry pancakes. Or White Chocolate Krispie Hearts. (drool)

You’ll love the ideas for a day of crafting with your best girlfriends, too.

https://www.pinterest.com/smartperks/simple-valentines-ideas/

I feel better already. I can do this.

I hope you have a wonderful, stress-free Valentine’s Day!

CHEERS!

-MB

When she’s not blogging for Smart Perks, Melanie is staring glassy-eyed at Pinterest, her Pin It finger splinted from overuse. Besides crafting, gardening, shopping and cupcakes, the loves of her life are her three naughty terrier pups, the smartest and best-looking dogs in the world, and her husband.