Dollar Tree Tiered Tray

I love seeing the tiered trays that Dollar Tree crafters on YouTube make. I really want to have one in my kitchen, but as I mentioned last month, it’s really just too small in there for much of anything. So I did the next best thing: I made one and gave it away! Here’s what I did to make “my” tiered tray.

I started with a set of the burner covers from the Dollar Tree. I went this route instead of getting two cake pans, or a cake pan and pie pan, because I wanted to keep it cheap for my first time out. I painted both pieces black. It was technically chalkboard paint because that was the only black paint they had at Dollar Tree (and I didn’t have any at home). For the piece that connects the two tiers, the YouTubers usually use one of the standard Dollar Tree candlesticks. My store didn’t have any of those when I was there shopping, so I wandered the store for a while to try to find something that would work. I eventually chose a stemmed wine glass. When I got home, I painted that black as well. Then, following the tips from the people on YouTube, I used a combination of super glue and hot glue to connect everything together. The super glue gives you a permanent hold, while the hot glue gives you a semi-instant hold so you don’t have to worry about your piece falling apart while you wait the hours for the super glue to cure.

With the tray done, now I had to fill it up. I decided that I would give this to my mom for Mother’s Day, so I chose items that would fit her personality. I went with a “birds” theme because she loves birds. Some of the items I used almost as-is, and some I DIY’ed a lot.

First up was this candle holder. It was gray when I started, but I wanted it to be black so I painted it with my chalkboard paint. I distressed it a bit with some white dry-brushing, and then glued a Dollar Tree bird decoration on top of it and tied a red ribbon around the top. I filled the candle holder with an LED candle from DT because my mom doesn’t use real candles in her home for animal safety reasons. That went onto the tiered tray.

Next, I chose one of the birdhouses from Dollar Tree. I wanted a stained wood look for that, so I took some brown acrylic paint and watered it down. I brushed this all over the bird house, and it gave me exactly the look I wanted. I kept the bird house pretty plain.

I found a packet of wooden dragonflies at the Dollar Tree too, and I painted one of them with the chalkboard paint. I primed the new mini-chalkboard and wrote “Love U” on it, mostly to show that it was a working chalkboard.

The last piece I added to the tiered tray was the best one I made. I found a cheesy shelf frame at the Dollar Tree. It was sort of like a shadow box frame, but with no glass in the front. It had a wood circle, which I popped off and painted. (It turns out I didn’t need to have painted it because I ended up gluing a piece of paper to the circle later. But I didn’t know that at the time.) I also painted the bright blue frame with red. Next, I went to the computer and found two things. The first was a picture of a bird. The second was a quote about birds. I found a perfect one for my mom – it was about birds, and spoken (or written, I’m not sure) by Stephen King, her favorite author. In Photoshop, I drew a circle the same size as the cutout I’d removed from the frame. I then added a red textured background and then typed the quote over the top of that. I printed out both pieces – the bird and the quote. Then I used Mod Podge to glue the bird into the back of the frame and the quote onto the painted circle. With a bit of hot glue, I attached the circle on top of the bird – in a different place than it had been originally though. I absolutely loved how this piece turned out.

And that was it. Usually a tiered tray is jammed full of cute themed items, but I was having trouble getting inspired, and I left it at just the four items. I will likely make things for my mom to add to it here and there though.

Have you ever made a tiered tray? Or bought one and decorated it?


Cross Stitching

A couple of weeks ago, I got the urge to cross stitch something. I’m not entirely what prompted that, but I’m glad it did. I’ve been having quite a bit of fun creating my image.

The first thing I did was to go out and purchase a piece of Aida fabric. This is a precut piece of fabric that is punched with holes (imagine a very small, fabric instead of paper, version of a “boxes” game). The weave on the fabric is reasonably loose – you can easily see the threads. But at the same time, the fabric is stiff. To make your design, you create a series of little Xs, using the holes in the fabric as your guide.

If you don’t know how to read a cross stitch pattern, they seem like gibberish, so let me take a moment to explain it to you.

First, you have to understand embroidery thread. Embroidery thread comes in tiny skeins, and you have to re-wind it onto bobbins before you use it. Each one is reasonably short, so it only takes a minute or two to wind one. The thread is made up of six thin strands. For most forms of cross stitch and embroidery, you use two of those strands at a time. This means that you have to cut a length of thread off of your bobbin (usually 12-18 inches), and then peel apart two of the strands from the rest. Alternately, you can peel off just one strand and fold it in half (this is normally what I do). This allows you to cut your thread a bit longer because you’re just going to halve it. You don’t want to cut your thread too long because you risk easy knotting otherwise. Also, embroidery thread doesn’t have color names; it has color numbers. This makes it easier to find the exact colors you need for a specific pattern. There are two main brands of the thread that I know of, but almost all patterns only offer the color numbers for one of them: DMC.

Now that you know about the thread itself, we can move back to the patterns. On your pattern, you’ll see a key that’s not unlike a map legend. It shows all the different symbols used in the pattern, and next to each one is a color number and sometimes description of the color. This allows you to easily shop for the threads you need for your project. (You don’t have to take these colors as canon; I’ve frequently adjusted the colors based on what I already have on hand or in the event that the store is out of a color that’s required in the pattern.)

When you’ve gathered all of your supplies – the different threads, the Aida fabric, a needle (cross stitch needles are blunt because the fabric has holes already; this makes it a good past time to teach children), and a pair of scissors – you’re ready to stitch! You always start a cross stitch in the center and work your way out. This keeps your design centered on your fabric, which makes it easier to frame later. The pattern will guide you toward that center point with arrows on the edge. You just follow the arrows inward and choose the best match you see. Again, this isn’t a precise science. I normally narrow it down to 4 possible stitches and pick the one I want to start with.

As you might have guessed from what I’ve said thus far, each symbol represents one color of thread. You simply create the little X on your fabric using the appropriate color. I find it easiest to work in “chunks” of a single color and then move on to another color. Some people like to work in rows, keeping their color attached until they need it again. Neither way is right or wrong; like all crafts, so long as it looks right in the end – and you’re happy with it – then you did it right. One last tip, though: always mark off the stitches you’ve already created in thread. I can’t imagine a universe in which avoiding doing that would be beneficial, even for an experienced stitcher. You can either print out your pattern and mark off the stitches with a pencil, or work digitally and mark them off using some sort of highlighting tool in your PDF reader of choice (I use iBooks on my phone).

Now that you’ve (hopefully) got a basic idea of how to cross stitch, here’s my current project.

I don’t like dogs as a general rule, but Scotties have always been an exception to that rule! (At least as decor. I’m not sure I’d ever want a real dog, no matter how cute.)

Do you cross stitch? Do you like dogs?



I had the honor of being in the audience when my boys danced in Paquita for the Sunday afternoon matinee closing performance a couple of weeks ago. I have tons of pictures to share, but first, I want to provide a brief synopsis of the story.

From Wikipedia:

The story takes place in Spain during the occupation of Napoleon’s army. The heroine is the young Gypsy girl, Paquita. Unbeknownst to Paquita, she is really of noble birth, having been abducted by Gypsies when she was an infant. She saves the life of a young French officer, Lucien d’Hervilly, who is the target of a Spanish governor who desires to have him killed by IƱigo, a gypsy chief. By way of a medallion she discovers that she is of noble birth, being in fact the cousin of Lucien. As such, she and the Officer are able to wed.

And now, here are the pictures from my kids’ dance studio’s version of the ballet.






Gypsy boys

Gypsy boys


The gypsy king trying to poison ___

The gypsy king trying to poison Lucien

Lucien playing dead.

Lucien playing dead.



This scene was during Lucien and Paquita's wedding, and I thought it was one of the most impressive of the whole ballet.

This scene was during Lucien and Paquita’s wedding, and I thought it was one of the most impressive of the whole ballet.



There are more pictures, but this selection provides a decent feel for the ballet. I hope you enjoyed the pictures!


ladybug-signature-3 copy

The Plague of the Plastic Grocery Bag

the plague of the plastic grocery bag | ladybug daydreams

If there’s something I really dislike, it’s a plastic grocery bag (any single use plastic, really, but especially grocery bags). I know they have their purpose, but they’re horrifying nonetheless. They can easily take over your house, and you always seem to get more of them than you can possibly reuse when you go to the store. And because they’re so inexpensive for the stores to purchase, they use them willy-nilly for every little thing. There’s very little impetus for the employees to worry about filling a bag because it doesn’t matter to them. I don’t know if the stores still train their employees in how to bag groceries, but I suspect not based on the bags they place in my cart. (When I was training as a grocery cashier back in 2001, filling a bag properly was part of what we were tested on before we were allowed to begin work.) Not only do they not fill the bags completely when you buy several things, but they often don’t even give you the option of refusing a bag for just one or two items like they did when I worked in the industry.

I’ve always been kind of frustrated with the situation surrounding the bags, especially after a trip to “Junk Mountain” (aka the local landfill) we took a few years back, but it’s always been more an irritation rather than something overly outrageous. There was a situation this week that really pushed this issue over the top for me, though. We were at the grocery store buying just a couple of things for dinner (it was between big shopping trips, which we do at a less expensive store). We had three items – five if you count each zucchini separately. The cashier used four grocery bags for our three items. I wish I was kidding. Granted, some of the items were on the heavier side (a five-pound bag of rice), but not so heavy that they required their own bag. And definitely not heavy enough to require double bagging (which is how we ended up with four bags for three items). That kind of wastefulness just reeks of a pandemic.

I know there’s not much I can do about this problem (outside of using my own reusable bags, which I always remember for our bigger trips and rarely remember for the smaller ones, unfortunately). But maybe through my little corner of the internet, I can raise just a smidge of awareness. It’s not much, but it’s something. So before you move on from here today, I want to offer a few statistics. Maybe these will help you (and me) remember to bring those reusable bags for even the smallest of shopping trips.

  • Each year, the United States uses 30 billion plastic bags. That amount of consumption requires 12 million barrels of oil.
  • Worldwide, it’s estimated that over 500 billion plastic bags are used annually. This means there are almost 1 million bags used every minute.
  • Four out of five shopping bags used in the US is plastic.
  • Plastic bags cause over 100,000 marine life deaths each year when the animals mistake them for food.
  • The average family accumulates 60 bags in only four trips to the grocery store.
  • Each reusable bag you use has the potential to eliminate 1,000 (or more) plastic bags over its lifetime.
  • It is estimated that only 3% of plastic grocery bags is recycled.
  • A sturdy, reusable bag only needs to be used 11 times to have a lower environmental impact than 11 plastic bags.


For more information, you can also visit This is a good source for information on the destructiveness of plastic bags and water bottles, and also options for helping you to reduce your use of these items. They also have pages learning to create a zero-waste home (something we’ve strived for in the past, but seems impossible, at least in our current location) and they sell a lot of reusable products.

Another option for reusable things for around the house is something I’ve read a few times over on The Frugal Girl (here’s the direct link to the specific post). It’s called the Mighty Fix, offered by Mighty Nest, and for $10 a month, they send you one eco-friendly item that’s more than $10 in value with free shipping. I’ve yet to try it, but the idea really appeals to me. In addition to this subscription service, you can buy just the things you want from Mighty Nest as well.

Now that I’ve been up on my soapbox for a while, let me leave you with a laugh. While the following comics are about the same topic I’ve discussed today, it’s a much lighter take on the situation. Special thanks to my husband for allowing me to share his creative work today.

shopping bag strips(Casey and Kyle copyright 2016 Will Robertson)


ladybug-signature-3 copy

100 Years


We had the pleasure this weekend of attending the birthday party of one of the ladies in our church. But this wasn’t a normal birthday party. The birthday “girl” turned 100! There were a lot of people there that we knew (nearly everyone from our church, both current attendants and those who have left over the years for one reason or another) and even more that we didn’t. It was a really lovely celebration of such a long life.

One of the highlights was the time during the party where there was a talent show of sorts. Members of Mrs. Lowery’s family as well as some of her friends performed a variety of songs. Her great-great-grandchildren sang “Jesus Loves Me,” another family member played his guitar and sang an original song called “Sweet Eldora Lowery,” and several people sang some of her favorite hymns. Leading into this talent show, though, was a long speech given by Mrs. Lowery herself in which she recounted some of the many memories she has of her 100 years on this Earth. One of my favorites was when she spoke about stringing her own tennis racket at the age of 10. She was really interested in tennis, so someone gave her a racket frame; it was up to her (with her brother’s help) to string it. I don’t remember what she said they used, but what an experience. Quite different from today, when we can just pop down to Wal-Mart or Target and buy a racket ready to use!

Though she’ll probably never read this, I want to wish a very happy (belated) birthday to Mrs. Eldora Lowery!!


ladybug-signature-3 copy

Caring for Vinyl Records

The Proper Care of Vinyl Records

After reading my post on why we switched to vinyl records, Will thought it might be good to do a followup on the proper way to care for them. So here we are.

Disclaimer: We’re pretty new to vinyl records ourselves, so this list probably isn’t comprehensive. It’s just things we’ve learned and observed in our weeks of record playing.

There aren’t that many rules in regards to vinyl records, but there are a couple. And the better care you take of your vinyl records, the longer they’ll last and therefore, the longer you’ll enjoy them.

Stack your records vertically, not in a pile.

If you pile your records up, they’re likely to warp from the weight of themselves. You should treat records like a hardback book. We keep ours on a small shelf with hardback books, in fact. Then we lean one of the books (not a record) to keep the vinyls upright.

Clean all albums regularly. When buying used, clean them before playing.

You’ll need to buy a specialty cleaning kit to do this. It costs about $20 and comes with a record cleaning brush, cleaning solution, and a small brush with which to clean your brush.

Records attract static electricity, which in turn attracts dust. This means that you’ll need to clean your records periodically. Information on how often varies from site to site; some say to clean them with each play, and others say to clean them only when they look dusty. And there are a myriad of other options in between. Since there’s no right or wrong answer here (apparently), use your best judgement.

Make sure your kids understand the cost of a record.

This might seem like an obvious one, but it’s as important as any of the others on this list. Records are tough, but they’re not indestructible. They can be broken, bent, warped, and otherwise destroyed. Teach your children the proper care of them and pass along the love of records! We’ve done this by allowing each of our children to purchase a record (we paid for it, up to $10, then they paid anything over if they wanted something more expensive) that was theirs. They’re taught how to play the record and how to put it away. They’re taught how to clean it. Basically, they are in charge of their own record. Having one that belongs to them personally gives them some sense of ownership, and therefore they care more about it.

Have good dust sleeves. Paper is better than plastic.

Moving the records in and out of plastic sleeves will attract even more static than the records do anyway, so paper sleeves are better. All new records will come with dust sleeves, and most used ones will as well. With used records, though, the sleeves may not be in very good condition, so you might have to buy new ones. Our record store sells them for $5.95 for a 24-pack.

They can get cold, but too hot and they melt.

Records are basically made from plastic, so this is a no-brainer. Don’t leave them in direct sunlight or put them in your oven ;). In all seriousness, though, over about 90 degrees F and you’ll have problems. So if your house gets really hot in the summertime, you’ll need to find a safe place to store your records during those months.

Avoid thrift stores.

This doesn’t mean don’t buy used records. It means buy them from official record stores when you do. And I heartily recommend buying used records. You’re likely to find some real gems in the used section of the record store that you’d never ever be able to get new. It’s definitely worth buying used, but you want to buy them from someone who knows about records rather than someplace where people just dump their excess, broken, warped records and employees don’t know the difference between a good one and one that no longer plays. Most of these types of stores (the good ones, not the bad ones) have a quality scale for their used records. Pay attention to that scale, and only buy records from the top two tiers of quality. Definitely never buy the “as is” records – even from a record store, that’s no better than a regular thrift store.

When handling records, treat them like a photograph.

When you look at a record up close, you’ll notice that there’s a rim along the outside edge that’s thicker – almost like a pizza crust. There are no grooves here, and therefore no music. This is where you want to hold your records when moving them from their cases to the player and back again.

Vinyl records are a lot of fun. By following these simple guidelines,  you’ll prolong the life of your records, assuring that you can enjoy to them for years to come.

Happy Listening!

ladybug-signature-3 copy

DIY Bookmarks (with photo tutorial for the tassel)

DIY Bookmark header

Will recently switched the paper out that he draws his comics on. Instead of buying a pad of 11×14 paper that he cuts in half to get the size he needs (5×14), he found a paper size that’s 5×17 and is quite a bit less expensive than the 11×14 stuff, even when you consider that he gets “two pads for the price of one.” But 17. That’s more than 14. So I’ve been cutting off the extra three inches for him (using my rotary cutter and mat – yes, I know it’s not good to use the same cutter for fabric and paper, but that’s okay; Will’s said he’d rather pay for replacement blades for me than get his paper cut professionally). This means that we have loads and loads of 3×5 strips for art projects. I typically give them to the kids to color on, or use in any other way they deem fit, but in the beginning, we made personalized bookmarks, so I thought I’d share my method here.

First, unless you have a pro-grade laminator, make sure you use stiff paper (even index cards are probably too floppy). As I mentioned before, we use Will’s comic paper scraps, which is 300 series Bristol board. You can find this in pretty much any art store worth its weight. The other things you’ll need are: coloring supplies (pencils, markers, paints, crayons… whatever you like), box tape or a laminator, a hole punch, and embroidery thread.


1. Cut the paper down to 2×5 (or whatever length you like – I just had the 5″ side predetermined for me).

2. Decorate however you’d like. As you can see from my photograph, I did – what else? – ladybugs. I used my fountain pen with black India ink for the outlines and colored pencils for the color. You can decorate both sides or just one. Really, anything goes here.

3. Laminate your bookmark. If you have a laminator, use that. If not, you can carefully (to avoid air bubbles or wrinkles) cover the bookmark on both sides using box tape. This is what I do. Technically, the lamination is optional, but it does make the bookmark a bit sturdier as well as protects your book from any color flaking off and onto the pages.

4. Trim the edges of the lamination. You don’t want it right up to the edge of the bookmark, but you don’t want loads of excess plastic around the edges either.

5. Punch a hole near the top center. You can measure it if you want, but you don’t have to. Eyeballing it is fine.

6. If you used a laminator, run the bookmark through it again (but without new plastic). This will reseal the places you cut to insure you get a nice, watertight seal, thus protecting your bookmark better.

7. Make the tassel:

bookmark tassel tutorial

     a. This is done by taking the embroidery thread (whatever color you like – it can be complimentary, contrasting, or anything in between) and wrapping it around your first two fingers several times. It really takes a lot to make a nice, full tassel, so err on the side of too many times around than not enough.

     b. Carefully remove the loops from your fingers and cut the thread free from the skein.

     c. Cut another piece of thread – same color – about 8-12 inches long. Tie it around the base of your loops as tightly as you can. I like to use a square knot for this step. The knotted piece should be about 3/4 of the way down on your looped piece.

     d. Trim any long threads.

     e. On the opposite side from where the tie is, cut the loops. This will give you a tassel top as opposed to a weird, looped thing.

     f. Cut a piece of embroidery thread about 6-8 inches and thread a needle with it. Carefully run this thread through the part of your tassel below the tie that is still looped. Tie it tightly.

     g. Tie the other end of the thread (it should be two pieces, similar to a shoelace) into a knot. Again, a square knot is useful here. You can make this any length you like; just cut off any long tails you’re left with.

     h. Run the string of your tassel through the hole you made in your bookmark. Pull it halfway (or more) through the hole, open the loop you made, and thread the tassel head through that loop. Pull it tightly, but gently.

That’s it! It’s a lot of instructions, but isn’t too hard. I hope you try it; if you do, share a link with me in the comments. I’d love to see  your creation!


ladybug-signature-3 copy

The Joy of a Slower Project

The Joy of a Slower Project | Ladybug Daydreams

I love to crochet. Really, really love it. I love the feel of the yarn between my fingers (assuming I’ve made a good choice in my yarn purchase), I love pulling the yarn into stitches using my crochet hook, and I love having a finished product within just a few hours. I’ve always been happiest with “instant gratification” projects. This is why I hated crochet when I first learned. I was terrible at it, and it took me an entire pregnancy – twice – to make a baby blanket. But something clicked in my brain during a 5-year break from the craft, and now I’m fairly quick at it. [Read more…]

Gone Girl: an {unsponsored} review of the book and movie

I mentioned last week that I was reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, and that I hoped to finish it over the weekend to be able to see the movie on “$5 Tuesday” at the local (and by “local” I mean “only one town over”) Regal Cinema.

I almost made it. I finished Monday evening.

So now I’m going to try to focus my thoughts on the story into a blog post – without giving too much away. Because I’d hate it if you read this post and then didn’t feel the need to read the book because of it.

Let me start by giving what’s become my general feedback about this story to anyone I know who’s considering or planning to read it. The book is written in three parts. Part one is a quick jog. From the final paragraph of Part 1 clear up until the last word of the last sentence of Part 3 is a full on sprint. There’s no break in the action. Just when you think there should be some falling action, and it feels like you might be entering some, you find out that you’re wrong. You can see on the cover of the book (in the image above), that it’s been called “Thriller of the Year.” I think that’s a pretty great description. This book was a wonderful read. Outside of sponsored book reviews and read-alouds with the boys, it’s the first book I’ve finished in a long time. I like reading, but I’ve been having trouble finding something “worth” reading recently, so I think my finishing this book is pretty high praise.

[Read more…]