crafts, diy

DIY Candle & Matchbook Gifts

I had an epiphany while painting match boxes, pouring wax into antique tea cups, and waiting on bubbling caramel to cool: I’m a Monica.

I get these complex gift ideas I want to create and realize the supplies I need either aren’t readily available or don’t exist. And so, what was supposed to be a simple, enjoyable DIY project to surprise and delight loved ones becomes a weeks-long obsessive-compulsive rigmarole that bleeds into my work and personal life. It’s not an issue so much as an observation. I want my creations to look the way they do in my mind, I want them to be perfect, and I want them to be inexpensive. I always think “I’ll switch out money for time. My time is my currency and I have plenty!” –I don’t have plenty. At all. BUT IT’S SO WORTH IT! Every time I go through this, I end up with the best results, and they get better and better every time. While I may have some Monica qualities in the perfection-obsessed arena, I’m a total Rachel with the clean up.

So began the candle idea. These candles are simple to make and don’t take nearly as much time as I’d anticipated. Just search Pinterest for candle making and you’ll see image after image of multiple steps and lengthy instructions–it’s not rigorous in the slightest. I didn’t want to get one of those kits equipped with votives/jars, wax, scents, etc. because what’s DIY without a little struggle, scavenger hunt, and hustle? I went to the Salvation Army with low expectations and found THE MOST PERFECT tiny glass tea cups for 34 cents each, used regular wax, coated wicks, and two candle fragrances from Michaels, essential oils from Target, and chopsticks from Mali Thai next door (I get a lot of Tom Yum). I wanted to use Thrive Market for oils, but I’m a Monica, so I couldn’t *afford* to wait (and there was no online shopping during her prime and she did just fine). Here’s the candle recipe.

But what good are candles without something ~cute~ to ignite that deliciously-scented mini fire? Then came matchbooks. I tend to collect matchbooks from bars, restaurants, hotels, etc. and they are the perfect medium for creative muscle flexin’. How difficult could it be to procure some blank matchboxes? Oh, and not just blank, but oversized. Don’t know why, but they HAD to be oversized. I even considered buying bulk striking paper and crafting card stock into boxes. After depressingly coming up short during my days-long physical and digital search for these phantom, oversized, blank, ready-to-strike match boxes, I was sulk-walking through Target and came across giant Diamond matchboxes (next to the picnic supplies) for pennies. And I mean it, they were like 89 cents each. So I grabbed a bunch of those and STACKS of regular-sized matchboxes. I figured I’d try to paint over the loud red and blue Diamond branding with white acrylic paint. It worked. I was so excited to have newly painted, gleaming white matchboxes in two sizes scattered across my table begging to be adorned with brilliant and beautiful designs. But then I realized I had ZERO idea of what these designs would be.

So I busted out my watercolors–the same watercolors I have no clue how to actually use. But then this awesome thing happened: I messed up so much that when I dropped my hands, sat back, and stared at my failure, my eyes landed on the one unfortunate box that I’d taken my brush to with fervor and repeatedly wiped, painted, and re-wiped with a wet paper towel. The remnants looked almost like… wait for it… marble. And I’m basic, so I love marble. Then I looked to my left at my marble tray containing my newest White Barn candle which is gorgeously encased in a pink and grey marble votive. So, watercolor marble match boxes happened using my screw-ups and the omnipresent marble around the condo for inspiration. I’m very pleased with the result  I was STOKED with the outcome. I used a little gold acrylic paint to liven up the marble effect and called it.







DIY Winter Woods Candle Recipe


1 lb parafin wax 

Candle wicks with clips

1 vial Artful Minds vanilla candle fragrance

1 vial Artful Minds sandalwood amber candle fragrance

1 vial Chesapeake Bay orange, ginger, tangerine essential oil

2 C Glitter (optional – I used Ikea Kulort)

Glass measuring cup


Small votives, tins, or jars, of your choice

Place one wick, clip side down and centered in chosen votive. Secure by placing a chopstick (or whatever you have) centered across the top of the votive and wrapping the excess wick once around the chopstick.

Bring water to boil in a saucepan (enough to where the water won’t splash inside the glass measuring cup once boiling). Place as much wax in the measuring cup as it will allow and place in the boiling water. Melt completely then transfer evenly to chosen votives. After pouring, add a lot of shakes of chosen essential oils or candle fragrances (I made 6 small candles and used all three vials). If desired, pour a ton of glitter in each votive. It will mainly settle at the bottom but also create a little glittery film on top. Dope.


I don’t really have a “technique” for the marble effect but I’ll do my best.

Marble effect water color match books

Watercolor paints

Assorted brushes

Water color tray

LOTS of paper towels

White acrylic paint

Diamond matchbooks: assorted sizes

Prep your matchbooks by painting with two coats of white acrylic paint, allow to dry completely between coats. Once fully dry, create a little texture for the background by adding a small wash of water to a section of the matchbook and quickly follow up with a small amount of color with a smaller brush just along the very top of the water wash. Be sure to blot the brush between applications of color. You’ll notice the paint begin to swirl and drip a bit with the water. If you like it, leave it. If you don’t, blot it gently with a paper towel. This stuff dries very quickly and can be sort of wiped off with a wet paper towel if you hate what you’ve done. I repeated this process with smaller and more concentrated amounts of water + color until I had something that resembled marble. To finish it up, I added a little vein of gold using acrylic paint with the tiniest brush I had and with small quick taps. I think it turned out okay! To write over the finished designs, I attempted white acrylic paint and failed miserably, so I ended up using a white out pen. It worked.










crafts, diy

Big DIYs + Small Prices

After recently moving into a new condo, I was bitten by the demo/diy/renovation bug. The condo is in an absolutely enviable location and comes equipped with plenty of space, natural lighting, and counter space. The single issue I had was the 1980s honey oak cabinets. Not only were they dated (not in that charming, but-they’re-kind-of-in-right-now way), but they sat extremely low on the kitchen walls and created a claustrophobic feel in the already narrow galley kitchen. We decided to brighten it up by ripping out one set of cabinets, painting the remaining cabinets white, the walls grey, and adding grey backsplash. The result:



Luckily, we were gifted a cabinet refinishing kit for Christmas and it seemed to work very well for our project. We chose ‘pure white’ for the final color and had it mixed with the provided ‘base coat’ solution at the home improvement store. While we knew this was an undertaking, we weren’t quite expecting the project to take as long as it did. We used the provided deglosser to start off, but ended up sanding to ensure an even, raw base. Three coats of white base and one protective top coat later, we had a gleaming white kitchen. I will say this about the kit: the top coat dries a little dingy, and any dried drips will peel the entire white coat right off. I see a top coat touch up in our near future.

Tile Process

The tile process was simple: add plenty of mastic to one section, apply the individual tiles in the classic staggered pattern, cut tiles to fit around outlets, allow mastic to work overnight, apply grout, wipe tiles, wipe tiles, wipe tiles, seal grout, caulk.

Naturally, the day we chose to hit the improvement store for supplies was [insert big expensive brand here] shelf stock day, and they took advantage of our half open mouths and unknowing stares as we tried to pick mastic, grout, sealer, caulk, and tools. We were told not to use spacers as subway tile comes with space notches–but listen, I researched. I knew what I wanted and I definitely wanted an 1/8″ grout line. Soo bye dude I’m getting these. Then another guy tried to sell us premixed grout that “included sealer.” It was over $50 – nuh bruh. We got two quarts of non-sanded premixed grout in bright white, a tub of the cheaper mastic that covered well over 35 square feet, two sponges, and two bags of 1/8″ spacers.

A Lesson on Grout

While friends, relatives, bloggers, and home improvement stores all suggested applying grout with a joint knife and grout float, we opted out of the float and quickly realized the joint knife just didn’t work. So naturally, as children in grown bodies do, we used our hands. Worked like a charm. I ran out of gloves, which had to be thrown away each time I wiped the tiles down, so I ended up bare handed. It really cleaned out my nails and exfoliated my hands. I now realize that this was an unwise choice as grout dries out the skin and definitely doesn’t come off for a couple of days.


Bright Tender Gray Subway Tile, How to Grout

Bright Tender Gray Subway Tile,How to Grout  Bright Tender Gray Subway Tile,Bright White Grout

Bright Tender Gray Subway Tile, Bright White Grout

I think it came out pretty acceptable.

DIY Farmhouse Open Shelves

Next up was the giant open space where the old cabinets once were. We had an idea of open shelving to tie in the cabinets and utilize as much vertical space as possible. I wanted to place the shelves at cabinet level to keep the lines consistent throughout the kitchen, so I needed to find brackets that would allow that without drilling into our precious new tile. I have a long history with Ikea shelving and thought those would be just the ticket. However, I found that Ikea shelves are only produced in two sizes–too big for my wall and too small for my wall. I scoured the webs and came across Colleen’s idea for utilizing the exact Ikea brackets that I had my eye on. Taking cues from her experience, I went to the home improvement store and selected a single cedar pressure treated plank at 12′ x 6″ x 1″  in hopes that two pieces would fit into the depth of the 11″ bracket.

DIY Farmhouse Shelves

Turns out two 6″ deep pieces did fit into the depth of the bracket, yet the 1″ height left lots of room. So I, ever headstrong, forged ahead despite the issue and hoped for the best. After staining the boards with Minwax Wood Stain in Jacobean and painting the chrome brackets black, we put the the first bracket up and slid the two boards, side by side, into the other bracket to ensure fit. It fit!

DIY Farmhouse Shelves, Ikea Hack

I couldn’t contain my excitement and immediately gathered a few things I already had in the kitchen, including my latest $3 Salvation Army find–an extra tall bronze canister. I added some sauce bowls (they’re actually mixed nut bowls for us) from Target and called it a day. Success!

How to Style DIY Farmhouse Shelves

Next up is a couple pieces of art for the walls to fill that obnoxious height above our cabinets, and then it’s on to some other rooms we want to embellish and finish up.




Father’s Day Craft & Water Sickness

For Father’s Day last weekend, I decided to take the homemade route and craft up a gift for my dad.

I blended up some seasonings to make homemade Season-All, a Carolina-style barbecue rub, and a Kansas-style barbecue rub. I purchased some bacon popcorn and montreal steak seasoning chips from World Market – perfect “dad” snacks. Also found at World Market were little salt shakers and a restaurant style season shaker that I included as an accessory for serious backyard grilling sessions. My finished product came out like this:
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As for the water: I thought it’d be a nice change of pace to try and, I don’t know, hydrate. So I went big–and definitely went home by attempting to drink a gallon of water per day. I marked the gallon with the prospective finish times to track my progress. I dubbed it #gallonchallenge.





This is TOUGH. I failed on day one.  It causes hyper-frequent bathroom trips, which is slightly irritating. I feel that attempting to drink an entire gallon of water per day is excessive. I’m still attempting to keep it up, though I find that I’m actually just holding onto the same gallon and working through every three days. Epic Fail.







Moving on with life.