Thrifty Finds: Random Number box

You all know we LOVE a good thrift store find here at HSE.  There is something so exciting about the “hunt” and then the “what if” when you find an item that needs a good home and a little love.  Sometimes you find things that you have the perfect place for, sometimes you find things that just need a little cleaning and are good to go.  Other times you find things that you are unsure of their function…but they are just too cool to pass up.


Enter random number box…I was purusing  the aisles of my local Goodwill when I stumbled on a very cool looking, beat up wooden box with these random number dials.  I had NO clue what its original function was…but I just knew i needed to have it!!  What i loved about it is that it happened to have 4 number dials…just the right amount to display a special date perhaps?!?
number box combo

This was a SUPER simple update that gave this cool found object a new life!!  CLEAN IT / SAND IT / PAINT IT.  Seriously does not get easier than that!!  Once he was showing off his pretty new color, I turned the number dials to our wedding date (10.04.2008) as a little nod to a very special day!!  Right now he has the perfect home adding a little pop of color to my white framed collage wall (i promise i’ll get around to some pictures of that wall someday soon…promise!) and I must admit I smile a little extra when i catch a glimpse!!

081What kind of thrift store finds have you scored lately??  Any fun and easy DIY projects?? SHARE your projects here on HSE, we might just highlight them on the next episode of Thrifty Finds!!  Oh an P.s. Anyone know what this random find was originally used for?

Happy Crafting
~ Jillian

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Making the Basics: Vanilla Extract

Okay, I know it is easy enough to find vanilla extract.  By making your own real vanilla extract you will not only save money, but also have the comfort of knowing exactly what ingredients went into your extract.  Many extract manufacturers add sweeteners and coloring agents to extracts.  These are completely unnecessary ingredients!



After a little research, I split the cost of a large order of vanilla beans with a friend.  We bought one pound of the extract grade Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans from here.  Vanilla beans can also be really costly at the grocery store and usually only sold with a couple of beans in a jar.  Have I mentioned that we use vanilla almost daily, adding a bit to my coffee, baked oatmeal, smoothies and desserts?  Its crazy.  Sharing the expense of the vanilla beans helped make this DIY a real money saver.

After perusing several vanilla extract tutorials, I used the following combined method:

Needed supplies

  • a one pint mason jar
  • 70-90 proof inexpensive name brand vodka (I used Smirnoff)
  • approximately 1.6 oz. vanilla beans, sliced length-wise and chopped into 1/2″ pieces
  • cheesecloth or fine mesh sieve

{ Don’t let the alcohol scare you.  Check any bottle of vanilla extract and you will see alcohol as the main ingredient. The alcohol cooks off when you bake with vanilla extract, and only a few drops are used for flavoring coffee or smoothies.}

1. Sanitize the mason jar in boiling water and let the jar cool completely.

2. Slice the vanilla beans length-wise.  Do not scrape out the vanilla caviar!  Once split down the middle, chop the beans into 1/2″ pieces.  {In a couple of the tutorials, I read that, by law, commercial producers of vanilla extract are required to use at least 1.6 ounces of vanilla beans per pint of extract.  Additionally, the vanilla bean supplier site indicated that 10 beans equaled approximately 1.8 ounces.  So, I went with 10 beans.  It can’t hurt to have a little extra, right?}

3. Add the vanilla beans to the mason jar and fill the remainder of the jar with the vodka.

4.  Store jar in a dark and cool location.  Remove the jar from storage a couple of times per week to shake up the contents.


Six weeks later….you have made your own vanilla extract!  To remove the beans and vanilla caviar from the extract, simply pour the contents of the jar over a cheesecloth.  I didn’t have any cheesecloth, so I used a fine mesh sieve.  The result left behind some of the caviar, but it doesn’t hurt the flavor or shelf-life.

Store the extract in an air-tight container.  I found a cute pour spout bottle at HomeGoods, which came with a stopper.

Do you think  you will try to make your own extract?  I would like to try almond or hazelnut for the next batch!

- Brittany

Think Outside the Curtain Section

I’ve had the hardest time finding pre-made curtains for my home.  By now, it should be fairly obvious that I love a good bargain.   I’m more than willing to pay for quality, but I think it is absurd to drop hundreds of dollars on curtains.   I have been looking at several ideas for DIY curtains over the last year, including stenciled drop cloth curtains, buying fabric online and sewing curtains (which I’ve done before) and even using sheets for curtains.  While browsing Target recently, I wandered through the bedding section, looking for some fun patterned sheets for potential curtains.  I happened to spot this duvet cover on clearance for $25.


Jackpot!  I loved the pattern and colors and the price was too good to pass up.  A perk to using a duvet is that the curtains will be lined with no additional sewing.  Luckily, the pattern of this duvet was only on one side and a light cream/beige on the other side.  I snagged the duvet and brought it home to turn into curtains.

Using a duvet eliminated the stressful parts of making my own curtain panels – multiple fabric measurements and cuts, seam allowances, pinning, cursing frustration, etc. A duvet is like a giant pillowcase, with buttons along one side.  Most of the sewing has already been done for you!  Turning the duvet into a pair of curtains took just a few simple steps and required very little sewing.  

Step 1: Iron all of the wrinkles out of your duvet cover.  I laid the cover on the floor and ran the iron directly over it.

Step 2: Measure the width of the duvet and find the center point.  Do NOT trust the measurements on the duvet packaging!  These things are mass-produced and the measurements are typically off by at least an inch and as much as 3-4 inches.  Once you find the center point of the duvet, draw a straight line with a washable fabric pencil or lightly mark with a ball point pen.


{Ignore the fact that my fabric is NOT ironed in this picture.  I was a little too excited and forgot to take one after I finished ironing.}

Step 3: Using scissors or a rotary cutter {over a mat}, cut the duvet cover in half along the line.  At this point, you will have two pieces of fabric that are sewn on all but the one side that you just cut.

Step 4: Turn the two halves inside out and smooth, aligning the two edges of the opening.  Sew along the cut edge of each half.


NOTE: One of the halves will have the duvet button-closure opening.  For this half, simply sew a straight line along the entire length of the cut edge.  Once sewn, open the buttons to turn the fabric right side out.  For the other half of the duvet, you will sew about 3/4 of the length of the cut edge and stop.  By leaving an opening, you will be able to turn the fabric right side out.  Once turned right side out, close the hole by hand sewing a slip stitch.  Or, you could skip the sewing altogether and use heat bonding tape (Stitch Witchery or Heat N Bond) to close the openings on both panels.  I used the heat bonding tape, since this method is faster and my iron was already out.

Step 5:  Smooth fabric and iron again, if necessary.

Voila!  A pair of curtain panels in less than 30 minutes!


Simple, right?!  Do you think you will try this easy curtain tutorial?  Have you made curtains for your home?

- Brittany

Turn Your Photos Into Art

Have you heard of Foto Flexer?  Hopefully, I am not the last person to find out about this great (FREE) online photo editing tool.  Foto Flexer allows users to edit photos in a number of ways, including basic cropping and red-eye reduction, or more advanced features including animations, layering and color adjustments.  I discovered and spent entirely too much time playing with the Color Sketch feature.  It is a simplified (and free) version of a similar feature in Photoshop.  Color Sketch, found under the Effects tab, allows users to turn photographs into ink and colored pencil “drawings.”  I didn’t care too much for the Color Sketch images of people, but ended up with great results with flowers, landscapes and architecture.

I have often wished I had a printed image of my gorgeous wedding bouquet, but felt silly framing a photo of flowers.  I think the Color Sketch version is more likely to be displayed.  Photo by Alea Moore Photography.

Wedding Bouquet

Another favorite floral photograph, taken on one of our vacations.  I love how this one turned out!


After success with flowers, I tried a canopy photograph from one of our Fall hikes.  While I will probably not frame this one, I think the end result is pretty cool.

Fall Canopy

I then ventured into architectural subjects, selecting this photo of a chapel doorway from another recent vacation.  I loved how the diagonal lines in the door and the bricks in the arch were emphasized in the Color Sketch version of the photo.White Door

Next, I searched Pinterest and found a photo of a cute craftsman bungalow.  How much fun would it be to frame a sketch of your first home?!  This could also make a great gift!   Photo source.

After playing around with Foto Flexer, I searched and found other web applications that offer a similar colored pencil effect for photos.  Have you used any of these free photo editing services?  Any recommendations?

- Brittany

Holiday House Warming: Card Display

It is so hard to believe that the Holiday Season is already here!!  Where did the time go??  Not only is it sneaking up on me way too fast but i’m in this new fabulous house…with NO idea how to decorate.  (I know…such terrible problems to have)  Its amazing how the amount of decorations we had for the townhouse we lived in before this, just doesn’t go very far here!!!  But how much fun is it to explore new areas to decorate!!!  So in my explorations…I needed a way to display all of the beautiful Christmas cards my friends and loved ones send us (for the record…ya’ll are so good…I am NOT good at sending out Christmas cards…so to all my peeps…I love you and Merry Christmas!!)  To the Pinterest I go for some card display inspiration, there are so many fabulous ideas out there!!

Tie them to a branch or twig (You know this Twiggy Girl has done that before!)

twig holder(source)

Holiday Tree(source)

In a glass dome (or under another type of fabulous see thru decorative item)

in a dome(source)

under glass table(source)

Tucked into your Christmas Tree (or even a little table top version)

in a tiny tree(source)

All of these are adorable and very easy to do Holiday card holders!!  I also found a ton of different versions of wall hanging card holders…which definitely fit the bill this year (we are short on furniture but HEAVY on available wall space!)  Enter SUPER easy hanging Holiday Card Holder:

title page



  • Ribbon (any ribbon will do, but a more “sturdy” thick ribbon will hold up better)
  • Baby clothes pins, paper clips or even a stapler
  • 3m removable adhesive hook
  • Fancy bead or other object that can be used to “weigh” down the ribbon at the bottom


  • Determine location for card holder, and stick 3m removable hook to the surface (at the top of your desired location)
  • Tie ribbon around the hook and cut at desired length
  • Add decorative bow or other fancy HOliday decoration to cover the hook
  • Tie bead to the bottom of the ribbon to keep the ribbon straight
  • Clip on (or staple) your holiday cards!!


Could it GET any easier?!?!  I love this…we picked a spot that is visible from the living room & kitchen so every time i pass by it makes me smile!!  What kind of Holiday crafting have you gotten into?

Merry Merry!
~ Jillian

Posted in DIY

Thrifty Finds: Barrel-Back Chair

Hello and Happy Tuesday!  I hope everyone has recovered from Thanksgiving and the whirlwind extended weekend of holiday shopping, both in-store and online.  We hosted our fourth Thanksgiving and it was a smashing success, albeit exhausting.  We did manage to squeeze in a quick hike {and work off some of that turkey and stuffing} at Sawnee Mountain, on Sunday.  The long break was exactly what I needed to recharge and get cracking on some projects!    I’m here today to share a quick fix to a thrifty find, which resulted in a practically brand new chair for our home….

Lenox chair before

A friend found this barrel-back chair wrapped in plastic, while cleaning out a foreclosure.  The chair was in great condition, just not his style and missing the seat cushion.  When he mentioned that he would put it on Craigslist for $50, I jumped at the opportunity and bought it from him.  This style of barrel-back chair typically retails for $400 and up.

Given that I have no experience with complex sewing projects (piping, curved shape and thick dimensions), I decided to hire out the task of making a custom cushion for my chair.  I needed to provide measurements and a template of the chair shape to the upholsterer, rather than haul the piece of furniture to the shop.  To make the template, I taped a few paper grocery bags together and shoved the paper into the curved recess of the chair.  Next, I traced a rough outline of the shape of the chair with a pencil.  After trimming off the excess and fine-tuning the template, I wrote the widest dimensions on my template.

Chair Template

With the measurements, template and photos of the piece, the upholsterer was able to quote the price and tell me how much fabric was required for the job.  I bought the fabric from JoAnn during a 60% off fabric sale.  Because the fabric would be used for a seat cushion, I ended up using a more durable, tonal fabric with a similar sheen as the satin back of the chair.

Lenox Chair After

This is great example of how spending a little extra effort and money can produce a like-new piece for a lot less money.  In total, I spent $200 on the chair – $50 for the chair itself, $110 for upholstery and $40 for the fabric.  A savings of $200!  I LOVE the curvy shape of the chair and the custom look of the cushion/back fabric combination.

Have you found any great thrifty furniture pieces on Craigslist?  Or, inherited any pieces from friends/family that you customized for your own home?

- Brittany

Pin-spiration – Scarf Refashion

Scarf Before and After

This beautiful scarf was a gift from a great friend.  I LOVE the pattern and the colors, but have not worn it much because it was a little shorter than I prefer.  The issue is that the scarf was perfectly square and too short to loop around my neck.  It was more of a drape over the shoulders length.  I prefer longer scarves that can be tied in 40 different ways or infinity scarves.  It was decided that I needed to refashion the scarf, in order to get more use out of it.


Taking inspiration from this pin‘s suggested dimensions, I cut the scarf in half.  After cutting, each half was 26″ wide by 52″ long.  I measured a few of my favorite scarves and determined that I needed to sew the two halves together, in order to reach my desired length.  Note: This meant that I would have two seams in the length of the scarf.  Once the scarf is looped around my neck a couple of times, the seams will be hidden.  I just wanted to point it out, in case you try this refashion on your own piece.

Next, I sewed the two pieces together along one of the 26″ ends, lining up the pattern as closely as possible.  Now that I had enough fabric, I could start making the infinity scarf.

Infinity Scarf Tutorial

Following the graphic illustration on my pinned tutorial, I folded the fabric in half length-wise with right sides facing inward and making sure that my 26″ seam excess is facing out.  (My measurements were different than those in the tutorial!)

After pinning the two sides together, I sewed along the longest sides of the fabric.  Do not sew the two shorter ends!  In order to make an infinity scarf, the fabric must be sewn into a tube shape, turned right side out and then hand-stitched closed.  See steps 3 & 4.   I decided to tuck in the ends of the scarf and slip stitch the hole closed, rather than the suggested finish in step 4.    Both methods work well, but I wanted a more finished look.

I am so pleased with the finished product!  I know I’ll be wearing this scarf all the time, now that the length has been fixed.  The whole refashion process took maybe 30 minutes – so simple!

Scarf After

I hope this inspires you to make your own infinity scarf.  It couldn’t be easier!  (Well, as long as you have a sewing machine and can sew a straight line.)  This was my first attempt at making a scarf and found it incredibly easy.  In fact, I’m already planning to make a trip to the fabric store this weekend!

Have you refashioned any clothing items recently?  Any other sewing projects?

- Brittany

Sending Love

I have a penchant for hand-written correspondence.  Although the mail is no longer the most efficient means of communication, I still love to send and receive letters, cards and care packages.  Call me crazy, but I get excited when I see an envelope with a hand-written address among the stack of bills and junk mail.

My favorite pen pal is my adorable seven-year-old niece.   We started writing each other when she was learning how to write and needed practice on her penmanship.  In an effort to make it fun – and let’s be honest, keep her interested – I try to switch up my mode of delivery every so often.

I got the idea for my most recent “letter” from the popular bunting banners all over blog-land and Pinterest.  I thought it would be a cute way to deliver a short and sweet message.  A quick “hello,” if you will.

I gathered some scrapbook supplies from my craft stash.   Because I used to hoard scrapbooking materials, I was able to make this project for $2.  I used a few pieces of patterned paper, a large circle hole punch, pre-cut self-adhesive letters, a glue stick and glittery craft string.

I punched two circles (front and back) for each letter of my message.  Additionally, I used solid color circles as a break between each word of my message.


Once all of the circles were punched, it was time to assemble my banner.  I glued the two circles (front and back) together, sandwiching the glittery string between the two circles.  Then, I affixed the letters to both sides the circles.  If you do not have self-adhesive letters, you could always use a marker to write or stencil each letter.


In order to send the “banner,” I decided to use a mailing tube that I found at OfficeMax.   You could also use the tube from a roll of wrapping paper, if you have one lying around.  I added scrapbook paper to the exterior, to make the tube look a bit more fun.  After I finished assembling the banner, I attached the ends of the string to the tube caps using packaging tape.   That way, the banner will have draped effect when pulled out of the tube.


First, I attached the end cap for the right side of the tube.  Note:  Be sure to give yourself a fair amount of excess string at the END of your message, so it will extend out of the tube, but still be connected to the end cap.  I ended up needing to add another segment of string to feed through the tube, because my message would not connect to the end cap.



After attaching the message to the other end cap, it was done!


I also added an “open this end” message and an address label on some patterned paper, to coordinate with the wrapped mailing tube.  It is en route to my niece…I can’t wait to hear what she thinks of it!


~ Brittany

Thrifty Finds – Dresser Makeover

Before-After Fish Stand

If Pinterest and DIY blogs have taught me anything, it would be the ability to look at an item and see its potential rather than its current state.  Because, really, some items at thrift stores can be dirty, dated or in a downright sad state.   Sure, it may take some work and maybe some additional money.  But, let’s say that you find a piece of furniture that has the right shape or dimensions for your space.  With a little work, you could transform it to the exact color, finish and style that fits your home.

A perfect example is this sweet find at my local Goodwill store….

Before Fish Stand

An impressive combination of colors, wouldn’t you say?  The dresser had paint flaking on all sides, a dent in the base and was pretty basic in appearance.  Still, the dresser was solid wood and fit all my requirements for height, width, storage space and durability.  So, much to the dismay of my husband, we shelled out $20 and loaded her up in the car.

First, I attacked the multi-colored, flaking exterior with a palm sander and 150 grit sandpaper.  After I took off most of the paint, I switched to a fine grit sandpaper.  This step helped to smooth the surface for primer and paint.  After wiping the whole thing down with a tack cloth, I was left with this….

Fish Stand After Paint 2

Believe it or not, this is the look of progress.

After removing the chunky piece on the front of the cabinet (in order to start with a flat surface), it was time to give this dresser a new look.  I added 3.5″ tall pieces of molding around the base of the dresser (with help from the hubby), to give it a more finished look and to cover up the dent on the bottom side.  Using a miter saw, we cut each corner at a 45 degree angle, nailed all four sides into place and used wood putty to fill the corners, nail holes and any other gaps.

Fish Stand Moulding

After a quick sanding and wipe down, it was time for primer and paint.  I used Zinsser primer and Benjamin Moore Advance Waterborne Interior Alkyd paint in a satin finish, color matched to Valspar’s Fired Earth.  Using a combination of foam roller for the flat surfaces and an angled brush for corners and detail work, I applied two coats of primer and three coats of paint.

After reading several bloggers’ suggestions, I let it “cure” for a couple of weeks.  With proper curing time, the Benjamin Moore Advanced paint dries to form an enamel like surface.  No poly or wax coating was needed to finish the dresser.  I’d highly recommend this paint brand for furniture, if you are not planning on distressing.

Fish Stand After Paint

The Benjamin Moore Advanced paint is self-leveling, which is a fancy way of saying that the brush strokes and roller marks disappear while the paint dries.  I didn’t believe it until I saw the third coat go on.  The finish was so smooth and there were no brush or roller marks to be seen.

Fish Stand Smooth Finish

Fish Stand Corners

Once properly cured, it was time to add some visual interest.  This piece was pretty boxy and bland on its own, even after a good sanding and fresh coat of paint.  Using this, this and this as inspiration from Pinterest, I decided to add some nail head trim to the drawer fronts.   I found a roll of nail head trim online, in an Antique Gold finish.  The 5 foot roll of faux nail heads comes with matching nails, which are hammered in at every 5th nail head.

Nailhead Trim

Attaching Nailhead Trim

Once I figured out the measurements, cut and bent to faux nail head trim to the right angles, I got busy hammering it to the drawer fronts.  It was a little tricky, at first.  Once I attached the first line of trim, it was easy peasy.  I’d definitely recommend using faux nailhead trim.  It would be perfect for upholstered headboard or detail on a fabric chair.

Once the trim was attached, I added new drawer pulls and called it done.

So, what do you think of the finished product?!

Fish Stand Finished

Remember…don’t shy away from the ugly hidden gems at thrift stores or garage sales.  They could easily be transformed into beautiful and functional pieces for your home.

Happy Shopping!