Category Archives: DIY

Craigslist Desk Makeover

Wow, as much as I enjoy DIY projects, I hate writing about them. I’ve been wanting to tell you guys about my desk makeover for weeks now but have just been dragging my feet on writing everything down. This post has just been chilling out in my draft folder and I’ve probably been averaging five words a day writing it. Geesh!

I was hoping to do a super-detailed write-up à la Young House Love, but guys, I just didn’t have it in me. So if you have any questions about my basic breakdown of steps, just feel free to ask in the comments section or email me and I’ll be sure to answer them!

So let’s start from the beginning. In Seattle, I had a pretty sweet nook area in my bedroom that worked out very well as a small office area. I had the Crate and Barrel Sloan Desk on one side and the Sloan Bookcases on the opposite wall (it looks like Crate and Barrel no longer carries the Sloan series in the oak finish that I have). I did my best to try to find a decent picture of my old bedroom, but this poor-quality cell phone picture was the best that I could do.

When I moved to Connecticut, I lost my very practical office nook and had to make due with a regular rectangle bedroom. I stuck my leaning desk against a wall in my bedroom where it just started to accumulate stuff. I’m too embarrassed to post a picture of what it looked like in my new bedroom since there was just so much crap on top of it. It quickly became apparent that my new setup just wasn’t practical and I wasn’t using it at all.

During last Fall, I decided that I would keep my eyes open for a desk on Craigslist. I wasn’t looking for anything fancy, just a simple table would suffice. I wasn’t diligent with searching, and would maybe check Craigslist once a week to see if anything caught my eye.

Finally in March, a desk popped up that seemed to fit the bill. Simple, plain, and cheap. The seller was asking for $40 for the desk, but I offered $25, so we ended up settling on $30.

For $30, I think the desk was a steal! It was in perfect condition with no dings or scratches and was made out of solid wood. I considered it to be a bonus that the desk came complete with a working drawer as well. The desk was the perfect size to fit right in front of my window, but I knew from the beginning that there were going to have to be some changes. For starters, the old, antique-looking handles had to go. Secondly, I wasn’t so sure how crazy I was about leaving the desk a natural wood color.

Since the desk was so cheap, I decided that I would try to make it over since I wouldn’t be out that much if I totally botched the job up. It never hurts to try, right?

I first started the makeover by sanding the desk down. I set up shop in the hallway within my apartment and just closed the area off by shutting the doors to the bathroom and bedroom and hanging a sheet over the open doorway to the living room. I donned on my sexy protective gear which consisted of a pair of safety glasses, a scarf wrapped around the lower half of my face that acted like a mask, and an old Pink hoodie to protect my hair from too much dust.

I first started out by trying to use a small power sander, but felt like I wasn’t making great progress with it. It was also really LOUD and I was afraid of making too much ruckus and disturbing my neighbors. I switched over to regular sandpaper, and although it took me F-O-R-E-V-E-R, it got the job done.

Oh, I don’t know if you can tell in the picture above, but there’s some sort of thin veneer panel covering the top of the desk. I suppose this was put there for to provide a smooth writing surface, but I was annoyed that they would ruin a quality piece of wood furniture by adding a veneer layer. As I learned from Young House Love, paint typically adheres better to a rough surface since it has something to grab on to,  so I attempted to sand the veneer layer a bit, but I didn’t have much luck.

Speaking of paint, I had selected this Better Homes and Gardens Interior Eggshell / Satin paint in white to use for my project. This time I set up shop out in my living room by laying an old blanket down to protect from any paint drips or splatters. Using a small foam roller, I applied three very, very, very light and thin layers of paint, allowing each layer ample time to dry in between. I also had a small foam brush that I used to get into some of the corners and crevices that the roller couldn’t reach.

When it came to the drawer, I knew that I wanted to replace the handles with either knobs or pulls. Each handle had two screw holes, so after removing the handles, I filled the innermost hole with wood filler. After the wood filler dried, I just used the sandpaper again to smooth it down and make it even with the surface.

To replace the handles, I selected these cheerful aqua drawer pulls from Anthropologie. I thought that the aqua color would be a fun contrast to what I had planned for the inside of the drawers… yellow!

From the very start, I knew that I wanted their to be a fun pop of color in the drawer. I spent some time searching for a yellow pattern shelf liner, but was coming up empty handed. It was then that I remembered reading on Young House Love a similar project of lining shelves without using shelf liner. I decided to go the same route and modge podge regular paper into the drawer.

(Oh, and see how the threaded part of the door pull sticks out in the photo above? I put a dremel on my birthday wishlist, so if I get it, I should be able to cut the screw down to size.)

With a little bit more searching, I found the most gorgeous yellow ikat pattern paper from Paper Mojo. I’m telling you, it was love at first sight. I measured the drawer and order two sheets of the paper which I cut down to size. Using a wide foam brush, I applied a very thin layer of Modge Podge (the matte kind) directly onto the wood drawer. Working quickly, I lined up the paper and pressed down firmly to make sure I had a strong bond. While letting that all dry, I threw some heavy books on top of the paper just for good measure in making sure that no bubbles or wrinkles appeared. After letting that sit overnight, I went back and painted a thin layer of Modge Podge directly onto the paper. I won’t lie, this part was scary since I was so afraid of ruining the paper somehow. The paper did seem to bubble or warp a little bit while still wet, but thankfully flattened out once dry.

Ok, so onto the final reveal!

Ta-da!

Let’s take a closer look at that drawer, shall we?

I picked up a clear drawer organizer from Bed, Bath, & Beyond so as not to hide any of the fun yellow print that was going on underneath. I quickly found that there was a small problem with the drawer however. Without a doubt, the drawer was my absolute favorite part of the desk makeover. So much so, that I kept opening the drawer every five minutes just to stare at it lovingly. Creepy. Who stares at drawers lovingly?

To help remedy the problem, I decided that I would make some fun desk accessories with the remaining pieces of the yellow ikat paper.

First up was making a coaster for the desk since I am never without coffee or water while sitting down. I had seen on several pins on Pinterest that showed making your own coasters by modge podging paper or photos onto bathroom tiles and made everything sound really simple. So, for $1.60, I picked up for plain bathroom tiles from Lowes and modge podged the yellow ikat paper onto them. I painted a thin layer of modge podge directly onto the tile and then after covering the tile with the paper and allowing it to dry, I painted two more thin layers of modge podge on top of the paper. I found small adhesive rubber feet at Target that I stuck onto the bottom so that the tile wouldn’t be sitting directly on top of the desk. So easy and cute! There’s a good chance that all of my friends and family will be receiving colorful coasters now as a gifts for all birthdays and holiday. Who doesn’t dislike water ring stains?

I also made a matching planter by using the same technique of modge-podging paper onto a clear container that I picked up from Target. That’s parsley in there which seems to be doing really well. It’s been alive for three weeks now and isn’t showing any signs of dying, which is pretty much a record for my black thumb.

I wanted to make sure that the yellow was balanced out by some more aqua, so I picked up a light blue candle from Target to go on one side of my desk and made an aqua and gold polka dot paper to go into a white frame. To make the polka dot paper, I dipped the end of a pencil eraser into some gold nail polish and stamped it onto heavy duty aqua paper that I picked up from Michael’s. I’m hoping to add a small picture to the frame so that the blue polka dot paper looks more like a matting, but that’s still a work in progress.

So there you have it, my $30 Craigslist desk transformed. I estimated that I probably spent about $40 on supplies to make over the desk and another $25 on desk accessories. So total, this project comes in under a $100!! Not too shabby, huh?

The desk is my new favorite place in my apartment and I love sitting there and watching the birds outside the window. And sitting at a proper desk to work on my computer sure beats my old setup of hunching over the coffee table in the living room. I’m sure my spine will thank me for this change later.

Oh, and just a quick note, I still have my doubts on how well the paint is going to hold up on that top layer of veneer. So far, it seems ok, but I’m being very careful to try not to chip it. I later learned that there are special paints that you can use for veneer, so if I end up repainting the top of the desk at some point, I’ll let you guys know!

Easy Valentine’s Day Decorations

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On Friday, I decided that I wanted to decorate for Valentine’s Day. Late to the game, much? I had been on the fence all throughout January on whether or not I should put any decorations up or not. After taking down all of my Christmas decorations, my apartment felt so bare and I missed the cozy feeling of seeing my tree and Christmas lights. So, with just a few days to spare, I decided that a little pink would do my apartment good.

And if you’re like me and waiting for the last possible moment to put up decorations, I hope that you find inspiration in mine. If anything, they are cheap (everything was less than $30!) and easy (everything came together in under two hours).

The main area for my decorations was going to be my sideboard table by my front door. It’s fun to look back on the evolution of this table through the holidays.

From Halloween

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To Christmas

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And now Valentine’s Day…

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In the middle of the table is a four piece vase that I had picked up on clearance from Target last year filled with artificial flowers from Michael’s. I love how bright and cheerful the flowers look, and more than once, I’ve caught myself just staring lovingly at them. If you want a similar look, you can pick up retro style milk bottles that are becoming very popular and are available at most stores. Or you could go a little more vintage and use mason jars instead.

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On the right hand side of the table, I replaced my snowflake sign in the white frame with a love themed one that can be seen in detail at the top of this post. I lined three 4” red heart doilies on top of a large white round doily and used self-adhesive pink letters to spell out ‘Be Mine’. I found all the materials at Michael’s and was even able to score the doilies for 50% off.

Next to the picture frame, I set out a small candy dish filled with dark chocolate and cherry Dove candies. I don’t have high expectations for these lasting too long in my household, if you know what I mean.

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On the left hand side of the table was the easiest project of all my decorations. I took a glass hurricane vase and white pillar candle that I already had on hand and poured four bags of the candy conversation hearts (the candy was on sale at my local grocery store 4/$5) as a vase filler around the candle. I wanted to use the heart-shaped Red Hots instead to stay more consistent with the red and pink theme, but wasn’t able to find them in the store. This would make such an easy centerpiece and would work with virtually any type of candy… now that I’m thinking about it more, the Valentine’s Day themed M&Ms would also have worked out great.

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Going across the mirror is a heart doily garland which certainly takes the title of the second easiest project. I bought a thin gold ribbon that I was able to weave through the lacey sides of the doilies and then just secured it at each corner of the mirror.

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Using the same method as the heart garland, I strung together five heart doilies and tied them around a small, clear vase that held a large candle. Again, I already had the vase and candle on hand making this an incredibly easy project. This is sitting on my TV stand in my living room.

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Also in the living room is a beautiful bouquet of pink tulips that I picked up from my grocery store. At $8, they were a little bit of a splurge, but they really do bring a smile to my face, so I think it’s worth it.

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Did you know that you can put a penny into the water to help your flowers bloom faster? I recently heard of this trick and couldn’t wait to try it out. When I bought my bouquet, all the buds were tightly closed. Within 5 minutes of dropping a penny into the water, I could already see a huge difference with petals starting to open up, and after letting them sit over night, they had fully opened up into beautiful blossoms. All the better to smell them, of course.

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The next few details are permanent fixtures in my apartment and aren’t Valentine’s Day decorations at all… but they fit the bill nicely enough that I wanted to share.

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I’ll categorize these items as geography love. On the top shelf of my bookcase are three fames filled a heart-shaped map. For those Pinterest users out there, I’m sure you recognize this idea as I’ve seen several different variations of it popping up in my friends’ pins. For those not familiar with the idea, each map represents a special location. For me, this is the three places I’ve called home – the Seattle area, Orlando area, and Hartford area. (For anyone interested in recreating this look, I ordered maps for free from AAA since I’m a member. You can also pick these maps up at a bookstore for a small price.)

On the second shelf, I have a map of the U.S. with three small hearts in the same three special locations. I originally got this idea off of Etsy. I printed a map of the U.S. out off of Google Maps and then traced it onto white construction paper. After cutting my map out (and small hearts out of red construction paper), I glued everything onto an aqua piece of paper. Also on the second shelf is a graphic image of “I Love You From Here To Seattle” that I ordered off of Etsy. Oh, and the red berry garland on top of the bookcase is a leftover decoration from Christmas that I purposely left out to help tie in the Valentine’s Day theme.

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Did you catch the white light garland sneaking into the corner of bookcase picture above? That would be the Valentine’s Day decoration that I was most excited to try making and the one that almost didn’t happen.

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I had been obsessed with the idea of turning Christmas lights into a pretty garland with the use of doilies after seeing this pin on Pinterest.

So on Friday night, I found myself on the mad hunt for white lights but kept turning up empty handed. After checking The Party Store, Big Lots, and The Dollar Store all I was able to find were white lights that were on a dark green strand. I had given up all hope of finding lights on a white strand when I made one last quick stop at Jo-Ann’s five minutes before they were supposed to close. After doing a quick swoop around the store and seeing nothing, I found a store associate and asked if they had any Christmas lights. She said that they didn’t and all they had were bridal lights which were all white lights on a white strand. I was so ecstatic that I nearly hugged the poor woman. I had never heard of bridal lights before and would have never had thought to look in the wedding department to find my lights.

I thought making the garland was going to be an incredibly tedious task, and although it did take some time, it wasn’t nearly as bad as what I thought. To start off with, I kept my doilies in the stacks of 12 that they were packaged in so I could cut all of them at once. I cut out a slit going to the middle with a small hole at the end that the wire would have to fit through. I then pushed the wire through the slit and into the hole and then stuck a small piece of scotch tape over the slit to hold the doily in place.

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Using clear push tacks, I hung the strand of lights in five places on the beam that divides my living room from my dining room. You can kind of see it in the picture below, but I ran a 9ft extension cord down the side of the wall and to the nearest outlet to power my lights.

I was somewhat apprehensive of the safety aspect of putting paper doilies next to the bulbs. I tried doing some research online about it, but didn’t turn up any clear guidance. I decided to risk it with turning on the lights and all I can say is from my own experience, I’ve left the lights on for a maximum of six hours straight so far and no fires. If you decide to make your own lighted heart garland, I would just recommend being careful that none of the doilies come in direct contact with one of the bulbs where it could potentially heat up.

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As much as I love the way the garland looks during the daytime, I’m even more in love with it at nighttime. It gives off such a pretty, soft glow that I’m already tempted to leave it up year round now.

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So there you have it, with thirty dollars and two hours (and the help of some items that I already had on hand), I was able to transform my apartment into a bright, cheerful space. It was just in time too since I threw a party Saturday night in honor of someone special’s birthday.

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But that’s a story (and a cake) for another time.

Holiday Brunch

The holiday season sure can be a hectic one! It seems like starting in October, the social calendar starts filling up with events and get-togethers between Thanksgiving and New Years faster than I can keep up with adding them to my calendar. With my weekend evenings filling up fast, I decided to take a little bit of an untraditional route for a party and hosted a holiday brunch yesterday for a small group of friends.

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It was a nice change of pace having guests over during the daytime and it made for a nice and relaxed setting.

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When everyone started trickling in around 10 a.m., I had a few small snacks waiting for them to nosh on while I finished preparing the rest of the food. On the appetizer list was sun-dried tomato olive tapenade

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…and chocolate peppermint pretzels (you’ve been warned: they are tasty and highly addictive).

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Later on, a few more additions found their way onto the table including Lydia’s delicious Harvest Loaf

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…and cookies from Caitlin!

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To accompany their little bites, everyone sipped on coffee (or tea) and mimosas that were prepared by my friend Lauren. This was my first time having a mimosa and they are so good!! I’m a little disappointed that I’ve been missing out on such a delicious drink for so many years. I would love to try and create a non-alcoholic version using some sort of fizzy drink instead of the champagne to drink on a daily basis.

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For the main dish, I made two quiches – one veggie and one meat. The veggie one consisted of a layer of spinach pesto (made with walnuts, not pecans), steamed broccoli, sliced grape tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese. The meat quiche was made up of turkey sausage, sliced red potatoes, green peppers, onion, and cheddar cheese. I used store-bought pie crusts and added about seven eggs whisked together with a small splash of heavy whipping cream to each quiche.

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And on the side, we had croissants that Kyle had picked up from a local French bakery

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…delicious (and healthy!) blackberry-lemon and apple scones made by Jennifer

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…and a variety of bagels and yoga bread that I had set out.

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To go along with all of the bread and pastry items, I set out regular butter, my cinnamon apple butter, and a cranberry orange cream cheese spread that I made following this recipe. I fell in love with cranberry orange cream cheese last year and several of you suggested that I tried making it myself. Since I couldn’t find it in stores this year, now seemed like the perfect time to give it a go.

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Also on the side, I had a large bowl of mixed fruit served along with a yogurt dip made by combining 2% plain Greek yogurt, honey, and cinnamon.

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You might have noticed that all of the food had little descriptions next to them written on holiday cards. This was a super easy project. For the cards, I used gift tags that I already had on hand from all of my present wrapping and just wrote a short description of each dish up top. For the stand, I used corks that were leftover from another project and cut a small slit in each one with a knife. I loved how the use of gift tags added to the holiday theme.

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Oh, and here’s my plate loaded up with the broccoli and tomato quiche, fruit and yogurt dip, a chocolate croissant, half of a blackberry-lemon scone, and a small piece of bagel covered in apple butter.

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It was so much fun hanging out with friends and I’m so happy that we could all find the time to get together in our busy schedules. Even though there wasn’t a lot of cooking or baking involved to prepare for the brunch, I still felt like I was in my kitchen for FOREVER preparing for it! After everyone left, Prince and I crashed hard. I didn’t get out of my bed until a few hours later to sneak some of Caitlin’s cookies and have another cup of coffee.

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How cute is this mug that I got from Lydia for Christmas? My inner bookworm absolutely adores it.

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Did you guys have any holiday festivities going on this weekend? Do you prefer getting together with friends during the daytime or in the evenings?

Improving Your Photos: Indoor Lighting

Now that it’s getting dark out earlier, I figure it’s a good time to cover some basics in photographing food at night. I’m by no means an expert and in no way are my methods the right way. Some of you may even end up laughing at me when you find out what I do, but what I do works for me, so maybe it will work for someone else as well. I think some of you will be surprised to learn that you don’t have to put in much more effort to produce this kind of difference in photos:

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Setting our clocks back an hour can sure feel great when you get to sleep in an extra hour the following morning. However, to many people, this now means that it is pitch black by 5 o’clock in the evening. And for those that hold regular office jobs with very few windows, this can mean the absence of daylight in their lives from Monday morning to Friday evening.

Wait, did you hear that? I think that’s the sound of photographers around the world mourning the losing of their natural daylight.

We already covered that photographing your object in natural light is the number one thing that you can do to help produce better photos, but to illustrate that point, check out this example:

Here is a picture of turkey-lentil meatloaf that I took in January of this year in natural daylight (around 3 p.m.):

Here is a picture of the same turkey-lentil meatloaf recipe taken last month in October at night in artificial lighting:

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Hm… now which one looks more appetizing to you? I’ll tell you my opinion – it’s not the one that looks like dog food.

Now that we’ve covered what a challenge it can be to photograph an object at night  and indoors (let’s assume from this point forward that your subject is food), let’s cover some simple things that you can do to overcome it since you don’t want anyone thinking that you’re eating dog food, right?

The first step you need to take towards better indoor photography is to understand white balance. What is white balance? White balance is basically the way you calibrate your camera’s color settings for the environment that you’re shooting in. If you tell your camera what kind of environment or lighting that you’re photographing in, it will try to help you by compensating it’s color levels. To put it a different way, it’s like telling a friend the weather outside to make sure they don’t walk out in a bikini when there’s a blizzard. You want to make sure your friend is appropriately dressed in a warm parka.

Here’s an example of what my white balance button and menu look like on my camera (a Canon Rebel XS):

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You can see that my camera gives me different setting options for whether I’m taking a photo in direct daylight, shade, under clouds, indoor lighting, or using a flash. The majority of times I leave this setting on Auto and let the camera figure things out for itself. However, when you’re taking a photo at nighttime and indoors, it usually helps to take the camera off auto and specify your lighting conditions.

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t have a DSLR camera! There’s a very good chance that your point-and-shoot camera has a white balance feature on it as well. Pull out the owner’s manual or do a quick Google search to find out. It may not have as many options to choose from, but you should still try to play around with it.

Ok, but back to white balance settings. Looking at my options above, you would think that if I’m shooting indoors under artificial light, I would want to use either the tungsten or white fluorescent light options. Let’s take a look and see where that gets us.

To start with, here is a photo taken on the Auto white balance setting (I’m letting the camera figure out what color settings it would like to use) under my nasty kitchen lighting:

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Ok, so that isn’t awful, but the photo isn’t really showing off the food the way I want it to.

Let’s try changing my white balance setting to the Fluorescent Light option:

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Well, that certainly made the picture less yellow, but now it has a strong red tint. Not good.

Let’s try again, this time using the Tungsten Light setting for white balance:

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Hey, now we’re getting somewhere! There’s still a slight yellow tint, but the food is starting to look a little bit more true-to-real-life in color. If I’m in a a restaurant setting or over at someone else’s house, I will usually adjust my white balance to the tungsten light setting for photographing food. It’s usually the quickest way to ensure my photos don’t turn out overly yellow or red.

But let’s take things one step further, shall we? In the white balance menu above, did you notice the setting called Custom? By choosing the custom white balance I can tell my camera what is white. Again, think of it like calibrating the camera’s colors. Or to go back to our analogy, the custom setting would be like calling up your friend and telling them they should wear a parka today without telling them what the weather is like outside.

For my Canon Rebel XS, I first have to take a picture of something white. I’ll use anything from a towel, a piece of white paper, a white wall, or a white plate. (Tip: The picture doesn’t need to be in focus, so if your camera has any difficulty taking an all white picture, put your camera into manual focus and snap the picture.) Once I have a completely white photo, I define it as the custom white balance by going in under my menu. Here’s a snapshot of what that looks like for my camera:

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Once my custom white balance is defined, I still have to change my white balance setting from automatic to custom. Now let’s try taking a picture using the Custom white balance:

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Woah! Huge difference from above, right? You’ll see that any yellow tint is completely gone and is instead replaced by a slight bluish one.

Let’s do a little recap:

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Starting from the top-left corner and going clockwise, the white balance is set to 1) automatic 2) white fluorescent 3) tungsten and 4) custom.

Now, the white balance setting that you choose to use really comes down to preference. In general, I like using the custom white balance to avoid overly yellow photos. However, there are times that I don’t have the time to properly set the custom white balance. Or sometimes I think that the food looks too washed out using custom and prefer the warmth that a tungsten white balance setting gives. Like I said, it really is personal preference and the overall look that you’re trying to achieve in the photo.

Ready to take things one step further?

This next part is really for only those of you that have time to dedicate to editing your pictures. This is also the part that I’m probably going to have people tell me that I’m an idiot who has the photo editing skills of a nine-year-old and should not be writing on the topic.

Those are the people that I would like to call photo snobs.

To be clear, there are tons of photo editing software out there that you can choose from at all different price levels and are geared to all different skill levels. There are also millions of methods for editing photos. What I’m about to show you just happens to be my method for editing that fits within my financial and time limits. If there’s anything that you take away from this, it’s that you should explore different editing features with whatever software or program you choose to do and to keep an open mind about it.

I use Microsoft Office Picture Manager 2010 as my photo editing software (stop cringing, you photo snobs!). This program came as a bonus when I installed Microsoft Word/Excel/Powerpoint on my computer and has proven to be very user-friendly and easy to use.

Alright, so here’s the basic steps that I follow when editing a photo that was taken in indoor lighting. As an example, I am using the photo from above that we took using the Custom white balance setting. In Picture Manager, I click on the Edit Pictures button in the middle of my toolbar which opens my Edit Menu on the right-hand side of my screen. I then click on the Color tab which is the second one on the Edit Menu list.

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Within the Color tab, I click on the Enhance Color button. This button acts in a similar way to White Balance in that I can dictate what part of the photo should by truly white. It is for this reason that I like to include some white in all of my photos either as a dish or placemat.

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So after you click on the Enhance Button, you will be asked to click on an area of the photo that should be white. For this particular photo, I clicked right in between the five and six o’clock position on the lip of the bowl. As you can see below, the area now appears to be more of a true white and the rest of the photo appears to be brighter and more vibrant.

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Sometimes I’ll stop at this point. However, for this particular photo, I felt as if there was a slight purplish tint over everything. To correct, I adjusted the hue settings using the slider bars on the right-hand side.

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Things were looking really good at this point, and I could have stopped, but I was still slightly annoyed at how dark some of the food was in the bowl from the shadow being casted on it by one side. To correct, I went back to my Edit Menu and clicked on the Brightness and Contrast tab. I very rarely adjust the brightness settings, but will usually use the Contrast and Midetone adjustments. After a little playing around, I finally found settings that I was happy with.

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Ok, just for giggles, let’s do one more recap.

Here’s the picture straight-out-of-the-camera (often referred to as SOOC) using the automatic white balance setting:

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And by putting forward the most minimal effort and changing the white balance setting to tungsten lighting, we get:

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And if you were to choose to take an extra 60 seconds and take a picture of a white object first and define it as your custom white balance setting, you would end up with the following picture:

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And if after all of that, you decided to take the extra three minutes to edit the custom white balance photo, it would then look like this:

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Wow, did you get all that? I know it seems like a lot to take in, but if you pull your camera and manual out and do a little reading and a little experimenting, you’ll be feeling comfortable with this in no time!

Also, you shouldn’t feel like this is the only way to take a photo indoors. I’m not saying the last photo is exactly magazine cover-worthy, but when compared to our starting point, there is a huge improvement. But you could always use a light box which is a common method used when photographing food. Or you could always splurge for some professional lights. And while it has many nay-sayers, sometimes the flash can be your best friend in a dark setting.

Whatever route you choose, I hope you survive the next few dark months and feel inspired to experiment a little bit with your photos!

Fall DIY Decorations

So here’s the long-overdue, promised post about the Fall decorations that I gave you a sneak peak to last time.

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For starters, here’s a better shot in the daylight of everything grouped together so that you can get a better look at things.

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I’ll also say upfront here that the majority of my inspiration came from Pinterest, mainly here, here, and here. I liked the idea of an elegant white, black, and gold theme and especially love how the colors are somewhat untraditional for Fall. I also think that the colors are pretty versatile and I plan on using this display for both Halloween and Thanksgiving.

Ok, and now onto the actual DIY-ing info.

Glitter Pumpkins

For the two glitter pumpkins that you see, I used fake pumpkins from Jo-Ann Fabrics and gold glitter spray paint. To protect the pumpkin stems from getting glitterified as well, I simply wrapped them in duct tape.

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It took two coats to get the pumpkins completely covered, and as you may tell if you look closely enough, I wasn’t too particular about even coverage.

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Flower Pumpkin

The idea of doing a flower pumpkin came to me from my mom during her visit. She had a magazine with her that featured the idea (which  I later found on Pinterest here). For this project, I picked out a lightweight foam pumpkin that I could tell was hollow inside. I found a beading reamer kit at Jo-Ann’s (in their beading department) and bought an assortment of white flowers at the Dollar Store.

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I first cut all the stems on the flowers down to about 1 – 1 1/2”. Using the reamer, I made a hole in the pumpkin that the flower stem could easily fit into. I found that it worked best when I made the hole using the long, thin reamer and then used the short, blunt one to widen the top of the hole. I didn’t use any sort of pattern for my hole placement and instead just eyeballed things as I went along.

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Out of all the pumpkins I made, this one certainly least resembles an actual pumpkin, but I am so enamored with it, that I really don’t care if it actually looks like I giant pom-pom. I love it. I should also note that this was the most expensive pumpkin to make. I bought twelve flower bunches from the Dollar Store and in addition to the reaming tools and pumpkin – this little cutie rang in close to twenty dollars.

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Fabric Pumpkins

By far, I was most excited to try my hand at a black lace pumpkin. The rumor going around on Pinterest was that you could just cover a pumpkin using black lace pantyhose. However, unless you have an extremely small pumpkin and extra large pantyhose, that’s just not going to happen. You do in fact, have to go out and buy a black lace fabric. While picking out my lace fabric at Jo-Ann’s, I found a pretty gold mesh fabric that I decided to use as well.

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This project was very straightforward. I cut a small hole in the fabric for the stem to poke through and then attempted to gather the fabric at the base of the pumpkin as neatly as I could. I used a stapler to attach the fabric and then trimmed off any excess.

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Embellished Pumpkins

The three small, embellished pumpkins that are part of the display were more of an afterthought. After seeing this pin, I just knew that what my pumpkin display was missing was a little glitz.

For this project, I used real pumpkin gourds that I picked up from my grocery store. For two of the gourds, I spread an all-purpose glue on top near the stem and spread it halfway down the sides. I then covered the gourds in small clear and pearl beads.

For the third gourd, I had run out beads and had gotten tired, so I cut a few pieces of gold ribbon that I had on hand and glued them to the stem. Nothing too fancy, but pretty in its own way.

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Lace Candle

I loved my black lace pumpkin so much, but felt that it stuck out a bit from the rest of the display as being darker than all the other items. To help balance things out a bit, I took a tall, white pillar candle and covered it in leftover lace material that I glued around the top edge.

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Table Runner

The table runner is, hands-down, the biggest copout project in my display. After setting my pumpkins up on the table, I wasn’t too pleased with how bare things were still looking.

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I decided that a nice white or gold table runner would help tie things together and help provide a more put-together look. I had plenty of gold mesh fabric leftover from my fabric pumpkin, so I started to consider the idea of trying to make my own table runner by layering the gold mesh material onto a plain white fabric. Not really wanting to shell out anymore cash though, I came up with the crazy idea to use paper towels. Yup, you read that right. My table runner is made out of paper towel.

I tore off a long strip of paper towels and did my best to line up the edges of the paper towel and gold fabric. I folded the gold fabric all the way around the paper towel and then stapled it into place and trimmed the short edges to make them straight as possible.

The cool thing is, unless I told you that my table runner was paper towel, you would never guess. Even people seeing it in person are surprised to hear what it’s made of.

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Fall Sign

The last part of my Fall decor is the holiday sign. This was another easy project that came together pretty quickly. I picked up black letter stickers and  two sheets of craft paper from Jo-Ann’s – one in a pretty gold texture and the other one a light colored pattern. From the gold textured paper, I cut out leaves freestyle. I glued them onto the patterned paper and attempted to arrange them in a way to make it look like they were falling and collecting at the bottom of the paper.

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I’m thinking that I might make a new sign for Thanksgiving, but we shall see.

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And there you have it – my Fall display! I’m really proud that my DIY attempt came out so well since I have a record of typically failing in the past. As far as costs go, I didn’t keep track of my receipts very well, but I would estimate that everything totaled in around 60 dollars. While that isn’t cheap by any means, I plan on putting everything into storage (with the exception of the three small embellished pumpkins which are the only real pumpkins in the display) and reusing everything for years to come, so hopefully I’ll get my money’s worth as time goes on. For anyone considering doing a similar DIY project, I would definitely recommend shopping around for your pumpkins (craft stores like Michaels and Jo-Ann’s as well as places like Target or Wal-Mart) and looking for the cheapest option. Since everything is being covered, it really isn’t necessary to buy the best quality pumpkins that go for over $20 each.

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What are you guys doing to decorate for the holidays? Anyone trying projects that they discovered off of Pinterest?

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What do you guys think of the DIY post? I hope you don’t mind me branching out to talk about other things besides food!