DIY: Map Wrapped Floor Lamp

Thrifty Travel Mama | Map Wrapped Floor LampHey y’all!  Today I’ve got a fun DIY project to spruce up your home with a little travel style.  I love decorating the house with little touches of trips we’ve taken (or even just imagined).  With an hour and a few materials, you can transform a boring lamp into a conversation piece!

This restyle uses the IKEA HOLMÖ floor lamp, a bargain at $9.99 (€7,99), but you could use any barrel-shaped lamp shade.

Want to make this yourself?  Hop on over to Renee Angela Photography to see the full DIY post.

For more project inspiration, follow me on Pinterest and check out my Travel Crafts & Projects board. 

More of my map projects!  Wall Art & Pencil Holders.Signature-Marigold

DIY: Map Flower Wall Art

Thrifty Travel Mama - DIY Map Flower Wall ArtEvery now and again, I just need something new in my home to make me smile… a cheerful little reminder that there’s more to life than diapers and dishes.

The easiest fix for me is to print out some recent family photos and update my gigantic cork board.  This time, though, I decided I wanted to make some wall art using a map from our Salt Lake City trip.

This cute flower canvas inspired the design for today’s DIY project.  However, I don’t own a hot glue gun, and I didn’t have a canvas lying around.  Being thrifty and all, I hunted for a canvas substitute.  The answer?  A shoe box lid!  Thrifty Travel Mama - DIY Map Flower Wall ArtTo make your own map flower wall art, you’ll need a large shoe box lid (mine was from a boot box), a roll of brown paper, an old map, scissors, tape, and a glue stick.  That’s it!Thrifty Travel Mama - DIY Map Flower Wall ArtStart by cutting a length of brown paper several inches larger than the lid.

Optional step: I wanted my lid to stay in place, so I covered all but a two inch strip around the edge with my glue stick.  Then, I smoothed the brown paper over the lid, glue side down.

Wrap up the lid like you would wrap a gift.  I used my glue stick as well as a little tape to secure the edges of the paper to the back of the lid.  Now your “canvas” is ready to go.Thrifty Travel Mama - DIY Map Flower Wall ArtFor the flower petals, cut 2″ strips from your map, and then cut each strip into 2″ squares.  Perfectionists will be glad to know it’s not imperative to measure or cut exactly.  Eyeballing is acceptable in this case.Thrifty Travel Mama - DIY Map Flower Wall ArtNow, cut leaves from the map squares by starting at one corner and cutting a wide curve that extends to the opposite corner.  Repeat the wide, corner-to-corner curve on the other side of the square.  Thrifty Travel Mama - DIY Map Flower Wall ArtYou could also fold the square in half diagonally if you only wanted to make one cut per square.  I didn’t want a fold down the center of my flower petals, so I made two cuts per square.

Once you have a pile of petals, it’s time to design your flower.  Choose a center point, and place petals in a circular pattern extending out from the center point.

Layouts will vary based on the size and shape of your shoe box lid.  Since my lid happened to be more of a long rectangle, I added a few detached petals in the empty space.

When you’re satisfied with your design, use a glue stick to adhere the petals to the lid, one by one.  Thrifty Travel Mama - DIY Map Flower Wall ArtSince this is a map flower, I thought a small compass would be perfect for the center.  I found a small compass printed on the map itself, but you could also draw one directly on the brown paper.

To up the adorable factor (and, ahem, cover up the AAA logo), cut out a small heart and place it in the center of the compass.  Glue the heart to the compass and the compass to the lid.  Thrifty Travel Mama - DIY Map Flower Wall ArtVoila!  An inexpensive, pretty little pick-me-up ready to hang on the wall in your home.

Want more map crafts?  Check out my DIY Map-Covered Pencil Holder. and discover lots of other ideas on my Travel Crafts and Projects board on Pinterest.Signature-Marigold

DIY: Map Covered Pencil Holder

Thrifty Travel Mama Map Pencil Holder

When I visit a new place, I always bring a map.  Whether it’s a custom one I’ve created in Google Maps or a traditional printed one I’ve purchased or picked up from a tourist office, I’m never without directions in my pocket.

But once I get home, I usually just shove the tattered streets in a file for “next time.”  Often I know there won’t be a next time, but I still can’t bring myself to get rid of the old things.  There’s just something about a well worn path with memories of the stops I’ve made.

Well, why not upcycle some of that map stack?  I decided to do just that with these map covered pencil holders.  They are super simple even for non crafty types, and they certainly spice up the bill corner.

Map Covered Pencil Holder Supplies:

  • An assortment of old maps
  • Empty drink cartons, washed and dried
  • Marker
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • A ruler (optional, except for perfectionists)

Thrifty Travel Mama Map Pencil Holder

Start by gathering your milk or juice cartons.  You could also use other types of boxes or even tin cans if you’re going for round pencil holders, but adjusting the height of the containers won’t be as easy if they’re metal.

Thrifty Travel Mama Map Pencil Holder

Make a small horizontal line with your marker where you will cut off the top of the cartons.  Use a ruler to make all the sides even if you’d like.  I made three pencil holders at the same time, and I made them of varying heights.  Be sure not to make them too shallow (pencils will fall out) or too tall (pens will be buried).

Thrifty Travel Mama Map Pencil Holder

Using scissors (or a box cutter), cut off the top of the cartons.  Don’t worry too much (perfectionists) about making the edges amazingly even.  Covering the containers with maps will disguise minor flaws.

Thrifty Travel Mama Map Pencil Holder

Lay your container down on one of the maps and wrap it up like a Christmas gift, tucking the excess map inside the carton.  Use tape to secure.

Thrifty Travel Mama Map Pencil Holder

Repeat for as many pencil holders as your little heart desires.  Stand back and admire how nicely your writing instruments look in Berlin.

For more travel-themed handmade items, check out my Travel Crafts and Projects Pinterest board.

Thrifty Travel Mama – 2012 – A Year in Review

Whew!  2012 has been a wild ride, full of experiences and surprises.  “Year in Review” posts are all the rage in the blogosphere, so despite my inclinations to do the opposite, I’m jumping on the bandwagon.

In January, I went fully frugal.  I shared my source for Free DIY Passport Photos.  I pointed you to the European Backpacker Index, a tool for researching expenses in European cities.  Oh, and I saved you from having to run to the store at the last minute by showing you how to make your own brown sugar.

February brought me a birthday, and Doc Sci took me to Milan (sans kids) to celebrate.  We ogled da Vinci’s Last Supper and the views from the roof of the Duomo.  We got caught in Carnival madness, and stuffed our faces with risotto, bread, pizza, and (of course) gelato.

I went crazy in March trying to make our awful concrete student housing apartment more homey on a very small budget.  I spiced up the kitchen, bathroom, and front entry.  I constructed a ginormous cork board wall in the living room and plastered it with photos.  I somehow also found the time to completely finish Rosetta Stone German and post a final review.

In April, our little family went home to the US for 3 weeks, stopping in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida.  We soaked up the sun, and made kid-friendly activities a priority.  Among the boys’ favorite was our trip to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.

Back in Germany, May was part work and part play.  Doc Sci and I both took week-long intensive German courses.  We also managed a date night to the movies, complete with popcorn and assigned seats.

Doc Sci let us tag along with him to Berlin in June.  He attended a brainiac conference while the boys and I played at Legoland.   And speaking of brains, I got mine to work long enough to pass my German driver’s license exam.

In July, I switched to extreme nesting mode.  I stocked the freezer with a gazillion meals, and organized our life into one happy turquoise notebook.

I took a six-week break starting in August to bring our third and final little traveler into the world.  His birth story is the kind nightmares are made of.

We ventured out to Frankfurt in September to get the little guy his passport when he was only two weeks old.  And good thing, too.  Later that month, Big Foot found himself coasting through five countries on four planes, five trains, and two buses, in the span of three days.  No sweat for a seven week-old.

In October, I posted reviews of flying Delta Airlines and easyJet with a baby.  I should’ve shown you these fashionable Oktoberfest pull-ups, but I was too busy scoring freebies for babies and mamas in Germany.

November was an exciting month for us.  We bought a car!  Doc Sci wrote a fabulous guest post detailing the adventure.

We took our car on a little road trip to France in December.  It was all the travel we could muster in between the zillions of Pinterest projects that filled my days and nights before Christmas.

Every year has its highs and lows, surprises both good and bad, and 2012 was no different.  It’s just how life goes, and I’m thankful to live it with my awesome-amazing-how-could-I-describe-you-in-just-one-word husband and three blessed boys who make me laugh every day.  Here’s to 2013!

Dashboard Confessional: I Bought a Dryer

So here’s the truth: I’m a spoiled, rotten, American.

And, I happen to live in what could arguably be called the richest country in Europe.

Many families all over the globe do not have a washing machine.  Or clean water.  Or electricity.  Nor could they read this post if it were printed out and placed in front of them.

And here I am, a hoity-toity snob who showers in what most of the world would deem drinking water, tosses expired food that the hungry would gladly eat, and uses a smartphone that was probably made by minimum wage workers in China.

I know all of this, and I often find it difficult to live with these facts.  I do what I can to share what I have (little by Western standards; enormous by the rest of the world’s).  Yet, it’s still hard.

Honestly, I always feel the most guilty when I get something that makes my life easier.  So know that when I tell you I got a dryer, I am not bragging.   And I know I don’t deserve it.

But, we should do our best to make the best of our circumstances whatever they may be, keeping mind they could change at any time.

Here’s where I currently find myself.. About to have baby #3.  And a massive increase in laundry.

It’s not that I mind drying my clothes on a rack.  I really don’t.  I have a schedule for which days to wash which sheets and which days to wash towels, fitting in loads of clothes between the large items.  But there is absolutely no way my neat little system can handle the explosion of newborn clothing.

After research and number crunching, we decided to purchase a condenser dryer (kondenstrockner). It requires no ventilation and can be set up anywhere in the house.  Good thing, since the only space we had was the utility closet.

I ordered the dryer on  I LOVE this website.  Not only does it have much better prices than the retail stores in my city, but it often includes FREE delivery which is a must for people like me without a car.

Here’s a look at our new workhorse.

Though we took careful note of the dimensions of each potential dryer we considered, we forgot to measure the doorway to the utility closet! Luckily, Doc Sci is not just a theoretical genius. He figured out how to shimmy it in anyway.

Next, he built some IKEA shelving around it for storage. We have the same setup around our washing machine which is located in the kitchen.

Then, I filled up the shelving with pantry goods.

Then it was time to test our new machine. Apparently, he is a basketball fan. (Beko is the dryer brand, and BBL is the German basketball league.)

Here we go!  First things first, load the dryer with wet laundry.

Turn it on. Then run to the internet to help figure out what all the German settings mean. Press start (at least that’s in English).

After the load finishes, remove the lint trap.

Clear the lint out and hand it to your two year-old who thinks dryer lint is the coolest thing. Ever.

And, don’t forget to empty the water reservoir! This type of dryer collects the steam from the clothing and puts the resulting liquid in here. This water can be reused in humidifiers and irons as well as to water plants or hand wash delicates.

After emptying the water, shove the tank (gently) back in underneath the condenser, and you’re ready for another load.

Home Improvement: Bathroom

When I set out to make some improvements to the bathroom, I was rather discouraged.

Furniture of any kind is expensive in Germany, even the cheap-o particle board stuff.  You really have to stumble across a rare find.  Or hope IKEA carries what you need.  I just so happened to luck out in both areas.

Lidl has closeout sales several times a year.  The warehouse where the sales are held is only a short bike ride away from my flat.  At one of these sales, I came across a tension rod shelf for 5 euros.  I snatched it up and upon arriving home discovered this shelf fit very nicely in the space above the toilet.  It’s now home to paper product storage: toilet paper, paper towels, wet wipes for little bums, tissues, and pull-ups.

When collecting packaging for my hallway Pinterest project, I had the idea to paint old milk and juice cartons for storage on the teeny tiny shelf above the potty.  Though I’m pleased with the outcome, I think these containers could use a little pizzazz.  I just haven’t yet figured out how to add some.  Any ideas for me?  Leave a comment or link below.

For under-the-sink storage, IKEA came to my rescue.  As I was browsing the catalog, I could barely believe my eyes.  IKEA Germany sells a cabinet for only 9 euro!  (Fyi, I looked this up on the IKEA USA website and it sells for $29.99.. I wonder why?)

IKEA also scored more business from me in the form of new hand and body towels.  I love the pop of color that inexpensive towels can provide.  I also purchased a bin to store said towels, so they’re not shoved in our small toiletry cabinet.

So there you have it, a tour of my bathroom.  Don’t say I never share anything personal on Thrifty Travel Mama!

Home Improvement: Huge Cork Board Wall

For some reason, I feel like the living room improvements will never be done.  I add things here and there, but it never seems complete.  I always wish I had more on my walls, more decorations above the TV, more color to contrast the black & white.

In reality, I’m not as discontented as I sound, well, not on a daily basis anyway.  Our living room is worlds better than when we first moved in, and I know it will evolve little by little until the day we move out.

But suffice it to say, I’m not in the mood to show you all of the living room.  Yet.

I would, however, like to show you a very fun Pinterest project that helps with my white wall despair: a gigantic, humongous, gargantuan cork board wall!

The wall’s design is the brainchild of Amber Interiors.  If you want to put one of these up the “right” way, head here for instructions and pictures.

Since I cannot drill into the wall, I did not do this cork board up all proper.  Instead, I used a mixture of sticky adhesive tape and glue.  Though cork board itself is extremely light, a piece of this size is rather heavy to hang without screws or nails.

I covered mine with family photos and small mementos of places we’ve visited (ticket stubs, postcards, stickers, coasters, business cards, etc.).

The boys LOVE this wall.  Not only do they get excited seeing photographs of themselves, but they also enjoy pointing out mama and daddy.  It serves as a great link to our friends and family back home, as it allows us to put faces they rarely see with names they often hear.

As for the cost, I bought an insanely huge roll of cork for 20 euros.  Since it was only 2mm thick, I also bought a roll of paper-backed Styrofoam to support the thin cork.  Amber Interiors uses panels, but my German hardware store only sold it by the roll or in typical bulletin board rectangles.  Since it was cheaper to buy the roll, I went with that.

Even after covering almost the entire living room wall, I had plenty of cork left over.  I’ve put up cork boards in the hallway and the kitchen, and I still probably have enough to cover another wall somewhere in the flat.

My favorite part about this cork board wall is that it can be anything I want it to be.  If I find a better way to display family photos, I can put something else up in their place.  I could change my decor weekly if I had that kind of energy.  Options are one of creativity’s best friends.

What about you?  Do you have a place in your home that could be home to a cork board wall?  If you’ve already got yourself one of these beauties, leave a link to your project.

Home Improvement: Kitchen

Of all the improvements we’ve made to our humble abode, I am most excited about the upgrades in the kitchen!  I guess that’s a bit obvious, though, since I naturally spend most of my day in there.

First up, counter space.  My stellar Barbie kitchen came with exactly 19 1/2″ of usable counter space.  I have another 13 1/2″, but it’s in the corner and therefore only good for making piles.

Doc Sci and I figured out that the height of the counter and the height of the washing machine were only 1/2″ different.  We bought a particle board shelf at the local hardware store for 6 euro and voila!  I now have a whopping extra 34″ of usable counter space.  Incredible.

Added countertop (right) and new shelf (left).

We purchased a utility shelf from IKEA that fits exactly around our washing machine.  This allowed us to take advantage of a lot of previously wasted space and get the microwave off the top of the washer.  The unit shakes like crazy when it spins a load, and I was always afraid I’d find the microwave on the floor one day smashed to bits!

Organized "pantry."

Also at IKEA, I bought storage boxes for my shelf that supposed to serve as a pantry.  Now, I can group like items and find things with ease.  I also no longer have to battle cascading piles of bagged pasta that do not stay put.  Unfortunately, I wish I would’ve stocked up on these boxes.  I ended up wanting a few more for the shelf above the washing machine, but IKEA discontinued the style only a few weeks later.

Since counter space is at such a premium, I couldn’t waste any room storing cooking utensils.  I only have three drawers in the entire kitchen, so I can’t exactly fill them up with bulky soup ladles.

Tension rods above the stove.

One day, I got the genius idea to use the walls for storage.  I searched the hardware store to see what kind of curtain rods could be found.  I was able to put up two tension rods above the stove, and one adhesive rod on the wall to the left of the sink.

Adhesive curtain rod and shelf in the corner.

Lidl offered an adhesive holder on special one week that was originally meant for the shower but works brilliantly affixed to the tile in the corner.  I also found some dish brushes at IKEA that suction cup to the wall.

Kitchen command central: weekly meal plans, grocery lists, recipes, etc.

I saw the idea to add cork boards to kitchen cabinets on Pinterest.  I knew this would help with clutter on that 19 1/2″ of counter space, but I wanted my cork boards on the outside of the cabinets.  I can’t remember my own name if it’s not written down and shoved constantly in front of my face.  So, I went for functional instead of pretty.

Though I still have washing machine hoses running across the floor and no place to store my glass recycling, I’m stoked and thankful for how the kitchen is shaping up.

Do you have any suggestions for improving my eensy weensy kitchen?  Leave a comment below.  I’d love to hear it!

Home Improvement: Hallway

I wouldn’t normally consider a hallway of much importance when improving my home.  But, in our flat, we only have one hallway and it’s become something of a multi-purpose area.  It connects all the rooms, doubles as a laundry room (our drying rack often resides there), hosts the only landline phone in the house, and offers the best indoor space for Bobby car racing.

As I mentioned before, I hate plain, white walls, but regulations prevent us from drilling any holes.  I about went bonkers standing there month after month folding load after load of laundry.  Something had to be done.

Lidl to the rescue!  I scored a world map (auf Deutsch) for 3 euro, and picked up some colored tabs to mark where we’ve visited.  (In case curiosity gets the best of you, we purposely didn’t post any tabs on the United States.)  I then printed some of our signature manhole cover shots to “frame” the map.

We invested in a cordless phone, so any calls during naps wouldn’t wake the boys.  Only then did I discover we had caller ID included on our phone line!  This is especially helpful since we do not have an answering machine.  Score!

I also put up a piece of cork board where I posted important phone numbers and the occasional coupon (2 for 1 Burger King kids meals anyone?).

On the other wall, I hung extremely light canvases I found at Depot for 2 and 3 euros (the other canvas was 2 euro at Lidl).

Sound is a major issue in our flat as we have NO carpet.  Often the simple act of closing the door before I take a shower in the morning is enough to wake up T-Rex and Screech.  Doc Sci thought it would help to have some carpet to absorb sound.  As it turns out, he was right.  Such a smarty pants!

Unfortunately, textiles in Germany are extremely expensive.  Our hallway is very long, and we could not afford a rug for the entire length.  Solution?  Duct tape together eight IKEA bathmats, and voila!  A hallway rug.

So, there you go.  Our longest and perhaps most often-ignored room in the house, redone.   Do you have any other ideas of improvements I could make to the hallway?  Leave a comment; I’d love to read it!