Tag Archives: Do It Yourself

Best Places to Search for Creative Sparks


-Emily Fraysse

I needed to find a clever Father’s day card. Stat.

Searching Google, I had a hard time finding something that I liked and that was creative. These days, I find that when I need some inspiration, I tend to stray away from using generic sites like Google and Bing. Finding that little spark of creativity or imagination can be difficult when you have an innovation block. Luckily, there are a variety of places you can visit to get that extra push.  As Pablo Picasso once said, “good artists copy; great artists steal.”

#1 Pinterest

Growing in popularity over the past two years, Pinterest (shown above) has become the new filing cabinet for online photographs. By easily organizing the photographs into different “boards,” you can easily access your favorite photos of people, places, and things.

#2 Instructables

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Tic-Tac USBtinyISP Programmer, Speaker Monsters, Laser Cut Record on wood, and a steam punk storm glass are only a few items that you can make step-by-step on this website.This site is chock-full of inspiration and information on how to make crazy things, and it allows the users to post what they make.

#3 The Matboard

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Similar to Pinterest, it allows you to categorize your photographs into different categories and moodboards while promoting inspiration. What’s different is it allows for the user to search for a specific talent or occupation to view portfolios and works from people in your area. You can also promote your personal portfolio board by connecting your page with other social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter.

#4 Gentlemint

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Finally, there is a Pinterest for men! Instead of a website with makeup tutorials, clothing ads, and other girly things, Gentlemint is full of topics like cars, alcohol, fitness, and, of course, Ron Swanson’s Man Rules.

#5 Do It Yourself

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Know what you want to do but don’t know how? DIY will help you get there. Appealing to both men and women, the site can teach you how to build a fancy fence, seal an asphalt driveway, or balance the pH in your soil.

#6 Lover.ly

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Made purely for weddings, the users can search by color or keyword in order to plan their dream wedding. Their mission is simple: “to make wedding planning simple and more fun. Discover ideas, things to buy, and people to hire for your wedding.”

#7 I Wanna Nom


They nail their purpose, saying “if the internet is now the world’s largest cookbook, I Wanna Nom is the index where you can circle the tastiest looking recipes and dishes that you want to try later.”

And there you have it: seven whole websites to let your mind wander pages and pages of millions and trillions of photographs to get those creative juices flowing. Now to find that Father’s Day card…

How to make a perfect cup of coffee using the Aeropress

-Casey Klekas

The word addict, as in “I am a coffee addict,” comes from the latin word addictus, meaning “to surrender” or “to pay religious devotion.” My girlfriend has helped me explore new ways of devoting myself to the coffee bean. She has opened me to newer and more elaborate rituals of transforming those roasted seeds into a subtler and more intricate cup of coffee. For instance, she bought me an Aeropress, a plunger of a device that combines the advantages of the French press and the espresso machine—all for less than thirty bucks.

The Aeropress is a cylinder of two inches in diameter, five inches in length, with a screw on cap at the bottom for a paper filter. You’re supposed to put two scoops of ground coffee inside the tube with the filter locked on. You fill it half full with water, wait thirty seconds, then “press” the plunger device to push the liquid out of the grounds, through the filter and into the waiting cup below. This normally gives you a double shot of espresso, which you top with water for an Americano, or milk for a latte. I have experimented with countless techniques for using the Aeropress and have come to accept a variant of the “inverted method” as my favorite. Here’s what I do (at least three times a day):

I heat the water to just below 200 degrees F. Water should never be boiling (212 degrees) when it hits the coffee or else your liable to get stuck with a burnt flavor. If you’re using an electric kettle, let it sit for a minute after reaching boil, or if you’re as sick as me you’ll use a thermometer for perfection.

Put the plunger bottoms up and place the cylinder just over the lip of the rubber, so as to get the same water tightness as the regular method. Take a rounded scoop of medium ground coffee and dump it into the tube (use the funnel that it came with).

Pour the water so it just barely covers all the grounds, then let it sit for thirty seconds or so in order to “bloom.” Blooming is when the coffee puffs up and releases CO2 at its first contact with hot water. It’s important to let the CO2 escape now rather than slipping into your cup.

Stir with the paddle-thing it came with, then fill to an inch below the top of the brewer. Or fill then stir. Just make sure it is stirred and filled, ok? We wanna get all the coffee grinds soaking, alright? Mmkay.

Let it sit for one minute or more, but not more than two minutes because you’ll be flirting with bitterness. While you’re waiting, put the filter in the cap and rinse with your hot water. You want to rinse the filter so as to get rid of any papery flavor, unless you are one of those who liked to eat the paper as much as the cupcake. I am guilty of doing this well beyond my adolescence. Rinse the filter over the cup you’ll soon fill with coffee. You want to avoid any big temperature jumps so as not to stifle the potential flavor of your (Roma) beans.

Pour out the water in your cup, screw on the filter, then carefully but quickly flip the whole brewer on top of your mug. Press until you hear the hissing of the last bits of liquid being squeezed out of your grounds. Sometimes I press all the way, but you’ll get a “cleaner” cup if you don’t.

Fill another half of the mug with water, let sit for a minute, then pour it on your keyboard, I mean, all over your pillow—no wait, just drink it. Drink it with your mouth. Open your lips and start to suck. Once the liquid fills and scolds your entire mouth, then swallow…

On Trend: Spring Nails

-Rache’ll Brown

Trends aren’t just limited to clothing and accessories. Hair, makeup, and nails matter too, and this spring some easy DIY nails trends are in. From fun designs, to hues that are bright, dark, or pale, there is something to match everyone’s style. So this spring, pair white clothing with one of these nail designs to be completely on trend.

After a little research, I found the top nail trends for spring 2013, and decided to give one a try. With pops of color, two-tone nails, and metallic accents to choose from, I decided to combine a few and create a nail look that fit my style, but still kept the trends of the season in mind.

First, I had to choose my colors. I went with “Dulce de Leche” by OPI to match the natural/pale color of the season, and decided to use “Hot & Spicy” by OPI (a bright, orange-y coral) as my pop of color. I painted all of my nails (except my pinkies) the pale color, then let them dry almost completely. Next, I took some pieces of tape, and placed them diagonally across each nail. I decided to make my diagonal “pop” gradually get bigger from the pointer to the ring finger, and I ended up leaving the thumb nails just the pale color, and the pinky nails just the bright color. I chose to do this because another trend I noticed (more on celebrities than the runway) was each nail looking slightly different from the next, but all still looking cohesive as a whole. After placing the pieces of tape on my nails, I painted the uncovered portion and my pinky nails with the bright color, waited for the polish to be partially dry, then peeled off the tape. And that’s it! Cover with a topcoat, and a trendy spring nail look is complete.

If nail art seems too complicated, stick with solid colors. White nails, pastels, and bright colors are always in, and this season, dark nails are making an appearance too. Remember: in fashion, every detail down the nails matters, so grab some polish to create a polished look.

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Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes

-Whitney Gomes

I may not have a drop of Irish blood in me, but I can sure appreciate an old Irish whiskey. I particularly relish in a glass of Jameson neat or Bushmills on the rocks. An Irish friend (and fellow whiskey enthusiast) of mine created the perfect dessert recipe for our St. Patrick’s Day dinner party: Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes—an impeccable combination of delectable chocolate Ganache-filled cupcakes, Irish whiskey, and Irish cream frosting.

[An Irish Car Bomb is a popular “bomb” or “drop” shot cocktail. To make, fill a pint glass half-full with Guinness and pour 1 part Jameson Irish Whiskey in a shot glass before floating a thin layer of Bailey’s Irish Cream on top. The idea is to drop the shot into the pint glass and begin drinking once the shot glass hits the bottom.]

Shannon Flowers, the recipe master and baker, combined her personal chocolate cake recipe with two other “Irish Car Bomb Cupcake” recipes found online. The chocolate was rich, but not too rich. The cupcake was moist, but didn’t crumble in your hands. She tweaked a couple ingredients and added her own to create what our friend Mitch deemed “a life-changing cupcake” after just one bite. He’s not alone—these cupcakes blew my mind and my taste buds. Shannon’s original recipe, which is thorough yet easy to follow, exposes novice bakers to the tricks of working with a variety of ingredients. These cupcakes were a hit at the party and one of the highlights of my St. Patrick’s Day. But it doesn’t have to be St. Patrick’s Day for you to enjoy them as well!

The Cupcakes:
1 ¼ cups Guinness stout
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 cups cake flour (or all-purpose flour)
2 cups granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
¾ teaspoons salt (only if using unsalted butter)
2 eggs
2/3 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla

Whiskey Ganache Filling:
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
3-4 teaspoons Irish whiskey

Bailey’s Frosting:
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups unsalted butter at room temperature
5 cups powdered sugar
6-8 tablespoons Bailey’s Irish Cream


#1. To make the cupcakes: preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line twenty-four cupcake cups with liners. Bring the Guinness, vanilla, and butter to a simmer in a heavy, medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the cocoa powder and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

#2. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl to combine. Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sour cream on medium speed until combined. Add the Guinness-chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and beat just to combine. Reduce the speed to low, add the flour mixture and beat briefly. Using a rubber spatula, fold the batter until completely combined. Divide the batter among the cupcake liners. Bake on a rack until a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean—about seventeen minutes.

#3. To make the whiskey ganache filling, finely chop the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then, using a rubber spatula, stir it from the center outward until smooth. Add the butter and whiskey and stir until combined. Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped.

#4 Fill the cupcakes: using a one-inch round cookie cutter, cut the centers of the cooled cupcakes, going about two-thirds of the way down. Transfer the ganache to a piping bag with a wide tip and fill the holes in each cupcake to the top.

#5 To make the Bailey’s frosting: using the whisk attachment of a stand mixer, whip the butter on medium-high speed for five minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Reduce the speed to medium-low and gradually add the powdered sugar until all of it is incorporated. Add the Bailey’s and vanilla and increase the speed to medium-high and whisk for another two-three minutes, or until it is light and fluffy.

#6 Using your favorite decorating tip, or an offset spatula, frost the cupcakes and decorate with sprinkles, if desired, and enjoy! Store the leftover cupcakes in an airtight container.

DIY: Make a Mug

-Rache’ll Brown

I grew up in a craft store. My mother was the manager of our local Craft Warehouse, and I used to spend every day after school painting, drawing, and creating random things from models my mother had made herself. Crafting is just a part of who I am—my first job was even at a craft store. Now, as a member of a sorority, I am constantly surrounded by DIY projects and craft ideas of every variety, which I love. A few weeks ago on a run to Michael’s, a sister of mine bought a plain white mug and permanent markers. This to me seemed like an odd combination, but after she explained to me a DIY Mug she saw on Pinterest, I saw the appeal. And after I broke my favorite coffee mug (clumsy me), I wanted to make my own, also.


All that is needed is a plain mug, an oven, and some permanent markers. The mug and markers can be purchased at Michael’s, Target, Walmart, wherever. Just make sure it is a microwave/oven-safe mug. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and then get ready to design a pattern. I had a hard time deciding between a quote or a design, but I eventually decided to go with one of my favorite quotes (Shakespeare typically trumps all) to make it more personal for me. I recommend drawing it out on paper a few times before doing it on the mug, just to avoid possible mistakes. Once the mug is decorated to perfection, place it in the oven on a baking sheet for thirty minutes to seal in the design.

Voilà, a customized mug! Whether you’ve been crafting your whole life or are just a beginner, this is something that anyone can do with ease. It would make a great gift (and you know it’ll get a lot of use), or could be a cute way to enjoy your perfect morning cup of coffee.

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DIY Matchbox Advent Calendar

-Whitney Menefee

During Thanksgiving break, I decided to get creative and make an advent calendar for the month of December. The project was inexpensive, easy, and a fun afternoon do-it-yourself craft project. There are many different traditions during the holiday season and do-it-yourself (DIY) projects are one way to get into the holiday spirit. The total cost of the project was $6—not bad for a fun, festive craft! The Dollar Store has great deals and is a great place to buy supplies for the project. Here are the instructions on how to make it:

What you’ll need:
– 25 matchboxes
– Hot glue gun
– Double-sided tape
– Festive wrapping paper
– Number stickers or markers
– Candy
– Scissors

Step by step:

First, take the matches out of the matchboxes and make sure they are all empty before starting the project. Once the matchboxes are empty use, double-sided tape to attach a row of nine matchboxes together. Follow the same directions for a row of seven matchboxes, five matchboxes, and three matchboxes.

Then, measure each row and wrap the sides of the matchboxes with strips of wrapping paper. Once the matchbox rows are wrapped, fill each individual slot with a piece of candy.
Once the matchboxes are filled with candy, stack the rows from largest to smallest with the row of nine matchboxes on the bottom and the single matchbox on the very top. Then, use a hot glue gun to glue the bottoms of the rows into place.

Use number stickers or markers to label each of the boxes from 1-25. Make sure to jumble the order of the numbers so you have to hunt for each day.

Lastly, use a festive decoration to place on top of the calendar.

In my family, it’s a tradition that the day after Thanksgiving is a time to prepare for the Christmas holiday. I hope this DIY craft inspires you to create your own holiday traditions!

Decorating on a College Budget – Jewelry Board

-Sara Bianchetti

Let’s be honest.  As college students, we don’t have the luxuries (or the banks) to support lavish lifestyles—we can barely afford to buy groceries.  So, when we need to furnish an entire apartment or decorate bare walls, utilizing our creativity can be our greatest advocate.

When I moved into my apartment this year I had a vision but I didn’t have an unlimited budget to support it.  I needed to be innovative, resourceful and inspired, so I turned to Pinterest – a forum for social photo sharing of ideas, interests, and hobbies.  It was here that I officially became inspired to begin decorating my shabby chic room—on a budget, of course.

Fortunately for me, I started out with a solid basis of furniture from my sister’s old apartment: a bed, dresser, mirror, and vanity.  Anything that was in decent shape and could either be altered, painted, or reconstructed saved me both time and money.

One of my favorite pieces that I created and was Pinterest-inspired was my jewelry board.  It is simple to craft yet aesthetically pleasing and it fits in with the shabby-chic decor effortlessly.  Here’s a tutorial on how to make it:

First, start out with a corkboard of your preference. I recycled one that had a grayish blue border to coordinate with my room. Take out the corkboard and cover it with burlap using spray glue to attach it.

Burlap is popularly used today and gives the board a rustic feel while adding texture.

Once the board is completely covered, reattach the board to the frame and secure it with duct tape.  Most college students have duct tape.  It’s a basic necessity!

To display the jewelry, I went to a home improvement store and purchased an assortment of doorknobs and handles.  I placed them on the board, marked where I wanted them to go, drilled holes, and screwed them in.  Hang your jewelry and you’re ready to go. Simple. As. That.

To check out more ideas about decorating on a college budget, visit my blog.


Get Zombified With Easy Costuming

-Rache’ll Brown

Halloween is around the corner, which means costume parties and spooky delights. This year, I have no idea what I want to be. Cute? Funny? Scary? I don’t know. The only thing I can say for sure is that I need something fast and cost-efficient that looks like I put effort into it, when in reality I will probably throw something together thirty minutes before I go out. Fortunately, I was a drama nerd in high school, which means I have a ton of experience with costume makeup. I know how to bruise, burn and decay skin easily, and if I can do it, you can too. Adding some zombified skin to a plain outfit gives you a little Halloween flare without a ton of thought. Dress as a princess, football player, doctor, or whatever Pinterest tells you to. Heck, you could even dress as yourself if you want, but adding some decayed flesh to your face, arms or other exposed skin creates an instant costume.

First, you’ll need to gather your supplies. Get some two-ply toilet paper, washable white school glue and costume paint or eye shadow (you’ll need dark colors like green, brown, black, and red).

Optional: fake blood and cover-up or concealer.

To get started, add a squirt of glue onto the desired area (I used my wrist). Next, place a jagged piece of two-ply toilet paper over the glue. If you are doing a large area or your entire face, then break it up into sections made from one square of toilet paper, that way you can blend and tear easily.

You will then want to take some glue and smooth down the edges. I also like to use some cheap cover-up around the toilet paper to blend it into my skin, but if you don’t have any, don’t worry about it – you’ll be putting shadow or paint over it anyways.

Finally, take your shadows or paint and dab it all over the toilet paper; there really isn’t a specific way to do this, I literally just take my fingers and dab it on random spots. I like to use dark, earthy tones like brown, green, and black to make it look rotten. You could also add red for a more bloody appearance. Since the toilet paper is two-ply, the first layer might come up and create the illusion of peeling skin. You could also add some fake blood into those crevices to create an oozing effect.

So, this Halloween don’t stress about coming up with a costume or the price of a fancy outfit. Just add some sick patches of skin to your face and you are set!

More Than DIY: How One Woman Took “Do It Yourself” to a New Level

-Whitney Barton

Spring term is just around the corner, and what better way to prepare for the new season than to take “spring cleaning” to the next level with a few home décor projects?  At least that’s what DIY guru Dianne Kelley would say.  Now a featured artist/designer for Anthropologie’s local spring fashion show, she has been “doing it herself” since birth.  I sat down with Dianne to take a peek into her world as a crafter and see what tips she has for those looking to do it themselves.

Whitney: Have you always been into crafts and DIY projects?

Dianne: Yes, for as long as I can remember.  When I was young, I was sewing Barbie clothes by hand, crocheting, painting, you name it – I always prefer to make it myself versus buying it.

WB: How often do you have a project that you’re working on?

DK: I am pretty much in the midst of a project (or two) all the time.  It’s my way of relaxing, believe it or not.  I can forget about whatever is stressing me out and just throw myself into the project.

WB: Where do you draw your design inspirations?

DK: I’m inspired by so many things: color, fashion, trends, magazines – but I am constantly finding ideas – to jump start my own version on Pinterest.  I see great ideas on there and change them to suit my style and vision.

WB: What are some ways pursuing this passion has impacted your life?

DK: My passion for crafting and DIY-ing has given me an outlet to express myself and to relax.  I am a Type-A person, and sometimes find it hard to relax, but when I am creating something, all my cares and worries go on the back burner and I am able to completely engross myself with it.

WB: You started a blog and a small online shop to share and showcase your work. How and when did you decide to do this?

DK: I created my jewelry shop online, back in 2009.  I originally just began making jewelry for myself, but when I was out in public, I was constantly being asked, “Where did you buy your necklace?”  So I thought launching a site was the answer. I started the blog as a way to show my family and friends my creations and now I have regular readers and my blog gets thousands of hits each month.

WB: What is it about DIY projects that you love most?

DK: My favorite thing about DIY projects is the satisfaction I get from a job well done.  I love to know the items in my home are made by me and are one of a kind.

WB: What advice would you give someone interesting in taking on some DIY projects or pursuing a similar hobby?

DK: My advice to newbie DIY-er would be to try, try again.  Your first attempt may not be what you hoped for, but with each mistake, you learn how to perfect your craft.

WB: Do you think you’ll always be a “Do-It-Yourself-er?”

DK: Yes, I will always be a DIY-er.  For me, it’s not a hobby, it’s part of who I am.

To be inspired by more of her DIY creations, check out Dianne’s jewelry line at www.LolitaSophia.com, and her blog at www.BinkyDoodleDoo.blogspot.com.

Eleven Ways to Make Your Crummy College Apartment Slightly Less Miserable

-Sam Bouchat

As a college student, most of us are on a fixed budget. As such, we find ourselves settling for subpar living arrangements to make ends meet. It seems like college housing is a tug-of-war between comfort, location, and price.

Well, here are some not-so-difficult ways to make your home homier.

Foreign Lands

Are you learning a foreign language? Trying to self-teach one? Great! Why not label all the stuff in your house? Your toaster oven, your light switch, the vacuum—all of it. It’ll add an interesting characteristic to your place, as well as help you remember those pesky vocabulary words!

Be Tidy!

This is important! Nothing can bring you down quite like a pile of dirty clothes or a sink full of dirty dishes. A clean house is a clean mind. Plus, it leaves so much more room for activities!


I don’t care how small your apartment is—make room for games. I mean juggling balls, hula hoops, poi, jump rope. An empty room is a sad room. An empty room with a yoga ball in it? Paradise.

Food, Glorious Food

This is essential. Cooking not only makes your place smell great, it also gives you food to look forward to (seriously!) No place with snack in the pantry and drinks in the fridge is boring. Keep your stomach happy and your mind will follow.

Light Incense

Comfort is all about the five senses, and we should never forget about smell. Incense and scented candles can both warm and deliciously smell up a drab room.

Let’s Add Some Tunes

Crank up the volume! Set your iTunes to random and blast it. Adding music to any situation is instant good karma, and should be exercised as often as possible. And don’t forget to dance.

Pillows, Pillows, Pillows

I am of the unyielding opinion that no amount of pillows is too many. Why? Because pillows are awesome. They’re portable chairs, sofas, and beds. And a bit of floor is the perfect place to curl up if you’ve got a pillow! Not enough sofa space? Throw down a pillow and make that bit of carpet yours! Chair too hard on the old buttocks? Throw a pillow on that baby and enjoy the softness!

And it’s always good to jazz up your reading or homework spot. Don’t stay in the same place for too long! Grab a pillow and migrate a bit.

Get to Know Your Neighbors

Give them a knock! It’s always best to know your neighbors, and it’ll make any future confrontations much easier. Also, they might be awesome people! Imagine that.

Be Funky

Decorating isn’t difficult, and it helps if you’re a little unhinged. Buy (or make) some fake mustaches, and put them on random things. Dry erase markers come off windows easily—a view of a creepy back alley can quickly become a fantastic work of art! Don’t have enough money for a piece of fine art? Make a collage out of newspapers and magazines! Be creative!

Add Some Life

Get a plant or a pet! In my experience, spider plants are the most resilient, but, unlike a cat, you can’t cuddle up to it. The form your new friend will take relies primarily on your budget and your level of responsibility (my spider plant rarely needs watering.)

Where Your Homies At?

Invite your friends over. This one is a no-brainer, really. Any place can be made better with the addition of a few choice guests.

Follow Sam at @sambouchat