How to make custom wall art from $4 gift wrap.

custom wall art from $4 wrapping paper

Our boys share a room. When Silas graduated from his crib recently, the boys got bunk beds, leaving us with a blank wall that wasn’t there before.

We let Jack decide how to decorate, and he knew exactly what he wanted: giant framed posters from Paper Source. These “posters” are actually wrapping paper–the fanciest wrapping paper you’ve ever seen, for sure–but wrapping paper all the same.

It costs $3.95 a sheet: expensive for gift wrap, but about as cheap as you can get for a 28 x 20 inch poster.

Our Paper Source opened last year, and every time we go we all gawk at the Cavallini gift wrap. They have an amazing selection of vintage-looking designs.

Jack chose this montage of vintage New York images and this NYC transit guide for his room. (We framed them with $10 IKEA frames, but if we wanted to spend even less, we could have used washi tape.)

Here’s a look at some of the other options available:


Shown above:

  1. Fruits and Vegetables
  2. Bon Appetite
  3. ABCs
  4. Vin Francois
  5. Le Jardin
  6. Paris
  7. Les Bicyclettes
  8. Vintage Eiffel Tower
  9. Vintage Typewriters

We just repainted our kitchen (it had been ten years; it needed it!) and I think the fruit and vegetables print would be perfect there, even though the bicycles are my favorite. Sarah wants the typewriters for her “office,” along with a giant Eiffel tower.

I’d love to hear your solutions for inexpensive and/or DIY wall art–for yourself or for the kids.

*****     *****     *****

My friend Judy Gordon Morrow’s new devotional The Listening Heart is on sale through January 31. I’ve been working my way through it and think many of you would appreciate it.

I’m currently making my way through the newly released Clutterfree with Kids. Will is loving this book–even though he hasn’t read it–because I just started it Tuesday and I’ve already purged a whole bunch of shoes and books. The Kindle book is still at the introductory price of $2.99; I’m finding section 2 to be worth that much on its own.

Linking up with Thrifty Thursday.

This post contains my affiliate links. Thanks for supporting MMD!

Adorable rice owls, Valentine’s pocket warmers, sweet baby gifts, and general crafty craftiness at my house this weekend.

Two old friends had babies recently, and I wanted to send the families handmade owl heating pads to welcome their new arrivals. (Making handmade baby gifts was one of my 2012 goals that stuck.) They’re adorable, unique, and great for warming up the crib and the car seat when it’s chilly out.

Rice-filled owl heating pads: an adorable, easy, and frugal DIY handmade craft!

When I was at the fabric store bolstering my stash of fun prints, the pinks and reds for Valentine’s crafting caught my eye. I thought briefly about making Valentine’s rice owls for my kids, but that would be too time-consuming. (These owls are definitely worth making, but they still take an hour each.)

But sweet and simple hearts would be easy, cute, and fun.

Valentine's Day heating pads and pocket warmers

When I pulled out my supplies to get to work, Sarah’s crafty radar immediately went up. She wanted to help, and volunteered the use of her sewing machine. (Our good sewing machine is actually Sarah’s: my mom gave it to her for her birthday, because my mom believes in quality equipment. I should tell you about my mom’s philosophy sometime.)

Rice-filled owl heating pads

My daughter loves these adorable little owl warmers, and she sleeps with hers every night, but we’ve never talked about how I made them. She asked me:

“Mom, did you come up with that idea yourself?”

“No, honey. I saw it on Pinterest a long time ago.”

She sighed. “I don’t look for my ideas on the internet, Mom. I come up with all my ideas myself. People should spend less time on the internet and come up with more of their own ideas.”

(Hmm. She might be on to something. And yes, this is the kid who wants her own Etsy shop.)

heart warmers large

“Did you come up with the idea for the hearts yourself?”

“Yes, babe, I did.”

“That’s good. I’m proud of you, Mom.”

(Sigh. Did I tell you she’s eight?)

“Mom, I have an idea for a new craft right now. Wanna see?”

pocket warmers

And then she asked if she could use all my felt and the grown-up scissors. I said yes–because if a kid is bursting to try an idea, you’ve gotta let them. (I also might have been heavily influenced by my current read.)

Sarah whipped up these little felt hand warmers in ten minutes flat. She calls them “pocket warmers,” which I love. She wants to make a pig and a cheeseburger, a lamb and a tomato, but we were limited by our felt supply. She’ll make more after we replenish our felt stores at JoAnn!

When we were done with our crafting, this is what we had:

Rice-filled owl heating pads. Cute, frugal, easy, and adorable DIY! Great for gifting or just staying cozy during this freezing winter.

Rice-filled owl heating pads

Get the pattern here. I also did a tutorial over on Life as Mom.

We bundled up the owl heating pads with diapers for baby and chocolate for mama before we sent them off to the new babies.

For a sweet baby gift combine something homemade with useful staples every family needs. (Because every postpartum mom needs chocolate, right?) This baby gift combines a handmade rice-filled owl-shaped heating pad with diapers and chocolate.

Heart-shaped hand-warmers for Valentine’s Day

These are so simple.

  • Draft a pattern (or freestyle it–these don’t have to be perfect) and cut two hearts. (Mine are 5 inches across)
  • Place right sides together and sew shut, leaving a 2-inch gap.
  • Turn inside out and fill about half-full with rice.
  • Hand-stitch opening shut.

Valentine's Day heating pads and hand warmers -- a quick and easy DIY.

Winter pocket warmers

  • Sarah says cut any shapes you want out of felt. Hers are 2-3 inches across. You need matching pairs.
  • Decorate the felt using scraps or ribbons, if desired.
  • Sew together with right sides facing out, leaving an opening to fill with rice.
  • Fill with rice and sew them up.
  • Sarah says you can sew these by hand, but it will take a little longer.

Valentine's Day pocket warmers (tiny heating pads) are a cute, fun, practical gift that even kids can make. (Or make some for yourself because it's COLD outside!) Just pop them in the microwave for twenty seconds and slip them in your pocket.

These little pocket warmers are now in a basket by the back door, ready to pop into the microwave (ours take about 20 seconds each) and then into pockets on our way out into the cold.

Are you into any craftiness lately? And I’m dying to hear what you think about Sarah’s thoughts on Pinterest!

Because the handwritten note never goes out of style.

31 days of cult classics | Modern Mrs Darcy

They say adults don’t need good handwriting anymore: if your handwriting is truly terrible, you can always just type whatever it is you need to communicate.

I disagree. Maybe good handwriting is no longer an essential life skill, but there’s still a place for handwritten correspondence (not to mention the thank you note), and besides, I’d like to be able to actually read my own handwriting on my grocery list.

It turns out I’m not the only adult who feels this way.

But plenty of adults have horrible handwriting these days. Many of us never learn to write well in the first place: cursive is being dropped from the curriculum, and even print is rarely taught past the age of third grade. (It’s hard to believe that until the 1970s, handwriting was its own subject until 6th grade!)

So what’s a grown-up in need of remedial handwriting instruction to do?

Fix it Write. 31 Days of Cult Classics | Modern Mrs Darcy

It turns out there’s quite a market for adult handwriting instruction, much of it self-directed and available on Amazon for twenty bucks or less. Among those programs, one of the most recommended is Fix It Write.

This simple system, created by handwriting guru Nan Jay Barchowsky, consists of hole-punched, loose leaf sheets with instructions and lessons, for either print-script or traditional cursive. Most students are striving for a neater or more sophisticated hand; the desperate just want their writing to be legible.

Fix It Write earns its cult classic status because of the raves it draws from its small core of diehard fans. But I’m wondering if cursive itself will be the cult classic a few years down the road?

(I’m always tempted to try Fix It Write when I stumble across a mention. Some days I like my handwriting just fine, but some days it’s a mess, and I’d love to have more beautiful handwriting. I finally ordered my own set. Amazon is delivering my pages tomorrow–I’ll let you know how it goes!)

Are you happy with your handwriting? Have you ever tried this program, or would you consider it? 

*****     *****     *****

This is the twenty-third post in a series, 31 Days of Cult Classics. You can click here to see a list of all the posts, updated everyday in the month of October.


3 Time Management Rules I Wish I’d Learned 10 Years Ago

I hate to say it, but when I manage my time well, it’s because I’m paying attention to the obvious. Sadly, I haven’t always been very good at noticing the obvious.

No doubt some of you mastered these time management tricks years ago. But I’m pretty sure some of you are right where I am–struggling to pay attention to the things right in front of your face. For you, I’m sharing my own personal time management reminders today.

They may be obvious to some, but it took me a whole decade to figure out these 3 rules. Hopefully, that means someone will find a shortcut today.

1. Do a reality check.

I believe in hoping for the best. But I’ve learned the hard way that I may want to stay up till 2 a.m. to finish my big project, or for my kids to skip their naps for fun plans, or to visit 5 different relatives on Christmas Day.

But I know from experience that I can’t stay up till 2; that no plans are fun with sleep-deprived kids, and that if I’m not exhausted by the second Christmas Day get-together, then I certainly will be by the third.

I’m trying to train myself to do a reality check before making plans. How are things really gonna shake out? I can’t always know, but I can come pretty close if I stop to think about it.

2. Time management is energy management.

For years, I thought time management was about time. So when I planned how to spend my time, I would look at my calendar and book up the vacant hours.

Those plans worked on paper–but I couldn’t follow through in real life. Because time management isn’t just about time: it’s also about energy.

These days, I’m paying attention to not only how much time events take up on my calendar, but how much–and what type of–energy they demand from me. I’m asking myself, how does this event affect me? Do I have the time I need to recharge? Can I maintain this schedule? If I can, will I even enjoy it? 

I’m especially guilty of ignoring the Energy component during the holidays. I’ll pack in the activities–only to find myself too exhausted by the living of them to actually enjoy them.

3. Think 3 steps ahead.

Laura Vanderkam compares time management to chess. Master chess players don’t just think about their next move; they’re always looking three–or more–moves ahead. They anticipate outcomes and make contingency plans. That’s the only way to win.

I’ve been training myself to think ahead when I schedule my time. I’ve been deliberately thinking through possibilities and making contingency plans. Not for everything, of course. But I have been taking Laura’s words to heart: “if the stakes are high, it’s good to be in the habit.”

When it comes to logistics, I don’t think well on my feet. It’s enormously helpful for me to think through contingencies beforehand, instead of when I’m in the midst of a crisis.

Can you relate to my personal rules? What rules shape your personal time management?

3 time management rules I wish I'd learned 10 years ago

photo credit