Upcycled Milk Carton (Scarf) Organizer

Thrifty Travel Mama | Upcycled Scarf Organizer - made from milk cartons and maps!  I actually don’t mind that most things in Europe are small – tiny cars, itty bitty apartments, skinny streets.  But one thing that drives me bonkers is the fact that milk is only sold by the liter.

I know this is totally a first world problem, and I realize that there are more important things to complain about.  But, week after week of getting “the look” from the grocery cashier just wears me down.  No, I am not nursing an army of baby cows back to health.  I’m just trying to keep up with my milk-chugging boys, thankyouverymuch. 

After said boys have consumed the liters, we then have the litter to look after.  I obviously know by now to put it in the correct trash bin.  But, all those cartons really add up, and I find myself annoyed and inevitably putting off the dreaded trip to the dumpster.

What to do?  Well, in the spirit of Real Simple, find new uses for old things, of course!

I’ve collected a zillion and one scarves since moving to Germany, and the horde is getting a little to rambunctious for my OCD tastes.  As part of my biannual deep clean, I wanted to make the menagerie into a pretty, neat grid that would facilitate my appreciation and usage of all the options.

But, even if you’re not a neck wear nut, you could use this upcycled milk carton doodad to corral any number of other loose items like jewelry, makeup, hair accessories, toiletries, ties, office supplies, etc.

Since I can’t seem to make anything without giving it the topographical treatment, you know there will be maps involved in this project.  If you don’t have this same addiction, er I mean problem, you could use high quality wrapping paper or decorate simple brown paper.  A nice hand-stamped design would be totally fab.

My apologies in advance for the poor lighting and creepy fingers.  A hand model I am not, and my only time to get creative is well after the sun and sons have gone to bed.  How else can I swipe my kid’s Lightning McQueen ruler without him knowing and obviously objecting?

All right, let’s git ‘er done.Thrifty Travel Mama | Upcycled Scarf Organizer - made from milk cartons and maps!

Supplies:

  • Clean, dry milk cartons*
  • Box cutter or razor blade
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Clear packing tape
  • Serious craft glue like E6000 or Uhu Kontakt Kraftkleber (optional)
  • Clothespins (optional)
  • Electrical or washi tape
  • Old map, heavy duty wrapping paper, or decorated brown paper

*A note about the milk cartons… Rinse and dry them as soon as they’re empty.  However, you still might discover some brilliant fuzzy friends when you open them up.  No problem – just wash and dry again.

Also, the number of milk cartons is completely up to you.  I used 15 because I like odd numbers, but don’t be afraid to make the grid smaller (especially if you have access to half gallon cartons) or larger.  Something asymmetrical/abstract could be super cool, but only attempt this if you have less than 3 children and an excess of time and patience.

But, if you do try any funky shape variations, please do post a link to your project in the comments below.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Upcycled Scarf Organizer - made from milk cartons and maps!  Cut Your Cartons

Determine how deep you want your bins to be, and use your (pilfered-from-the-resident-six-year-old) ruler to mark each milk carton.  Lop the tops off with a box cutter.  Careful, now, those blades are wicked sharp!

Rinse and repeat.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Upcycled Scarf Organizer - made from milk cartons and maps!

Okay, no rinsing is required unless you discover the aforementioned fuzz inside the containers.  Just keep cutting until you have as many headless milk cartons as you please.

Add the Adhesive

Arrange the cartons in the formation that suits your fancy.  For me, this was 3×5.  Once they’re set up, you might notice that some of your razor cuts came out uneven (or was that just me?).  Use sharp scissors to trim the edges until it looks good (enough).

Cut off pieces of clear packing tape, roll them around your fingers, and wedge them between two cartons.  Thrifty Travel Mama | Upcycled Scarf Organizer - made from milk cartons and maps!

Optional: If you want the edges flush, you’ll need to use some strong craft glue (see Supplies, above, for recommendations) and clothespins to hold the seams in place.  Allow the glue to dry overnight.

In any case, go to town again with the packing tape, wrapping it around the whole organizer in a giant sticky hug.Thrifty Travel Mama | Upcycled Scarf Organizer - made from milk cartons and maps!

Details, Details

If you’re only stashing your organizer in a drawer and filling it with rubber bands and thumbtacks, feel free to stop here.  But, if you want to make it pretty, it’s time to dive into the details.

Tear off tiny pieces of electrical tape (I used white) or washi tape (didn’t have any on hand) to conceal the carton corners. Thrifty Travel Mama | Upcycled Scarf Organizer - made from milk cartons and maps!  Cut strips out of your map big enough to cover the milk carton seams and extend as far down as you want.  I knew each scarf would take up nearly an entire bin, so my map pieces are only about an inch wide.

Once you’ve arranged the strips how you like them, glue or tape the papers to cover the carton seams.Thrifty Travel Mama | Upcycled Scarf Organizer - made from milk cartons and maps!

Wrap It Up

Treat your newly smoodged-together organizer as a Christmas present, and wrap that puppy up.  A few tips..

  • Trim the excess off your map so you’re not battling a paper dragon that keeps folding back on itself.  Leave a margin of several inches all around.
  • Attach the sides before you do the ends.  This is because the ends are easy and the sides are a pain in the you-know-what.
  • Speaking of the sides, start in the center of your milk carton formation, and work out from there.
  • Cut small slits from the edge of the map to the top of the carton to line up with the seams between cartons (see second photo below).  Fold down the flaps, and attach with tape or glue.
  • The first side is the hardest, and things get easier from there.
  • Once the sides are done, finish the ends as you would when wrapping a birthday present in a box (third photo).

Thrifty Travel Mama | Upcycled Scarf Organizer - made from milk cartons and maps!  Thrifty Travel Mama | Upcycled Scarf Organizer - made from milk cartons and maps!  Thrifty Travel Mama | Upcycled Scarf Organizer - made from milk cartons and maps!  Fill ‘er Up

Now it’s time to use your darling creation to organize!  Stuff with scarves, and display with pride.Thrifty Travel Mama | Upcycled Scarf Organizer - made from milk cartons and maps!

What would you fill your organizer with?  Can you think of any other upcycle ideas for my myriad milk cartons?Signature-Marigold

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Make It Yourself: Family Activity Advent Calendar

Thrifty Travel Mama | Activity Advent Calendar IdeasHappy Thanksgiving week to all of my American friends!

Not to add one more thing to your (virtual) plate this week, but… psssst!  Did you know that this Sunday is December 1?  You do have your advent calendar done, don’t you?

So far, I’ve only put together three homemade advent calendars.  The first two years, I stayed up until well after midnight working on the dang thing.  You are more organized than I am, right?

I vowed to be more on top of things this year, and I set a reminder early in my calendar.  I put it off last week, but since I am not roasting a turkey this year for the big thankfulness feast, I made time to finish our family advent calendar before Thanksgiving.  Whew!

Thrifty Travel Mama | Activity Advent Calendar Ideas

Naughty little Big Foot, photo-bombing my project.

The Design

If you’re freaking out right now, can I do that annoying thing people do and say… don’t!  An advent calendar does not have to be Pinterest-worthy.

Remember that the whole point is to slow down and make memories with your family.

So, if brown paper bags are all you have?  Use them!  Kids construction paper lying around?  Grab the stack!  White business envelopes?  Pfft, you got this!

I upcycled last year’s calendar that my husband (mostly) made by replacing the paper numbers with some cute felt ornament stickers and glitter glue I had on hand.  Not really homemade, but my kids totally do.not.care.

For another easy idea, see my not-so-crafty matchbox calendar here.  It’s just big enough to slip in scraps of paper with your chosen activities scrawled on them.Thrifty Travel Mama | Activity Advent Calendar Ideas

What Goes Inside?

The first year I put together an advent calendar for our family, I went with 50% activities and 50% candy because that’s what I knew I could handle.  Last year, the activity percentage climbed to about 65%.

We’re hovering at around 75% make-your-own-fun this year, and I’ve replaced the candy with books.  I absolutely love the idea I saw on Simple As That of wrapping up Christmas books.  I know other bloggers have done this too, but it was news to me.

P.s. – I will be getting most of my books from the local English library (keep an eye on due dates!), but I may order some from Amazon as well.Thrifty Travel Mama | Activity Advent Calendar Ideas

A List of Family Activities

In no particular order, I present you with a list of suggestions for your own family’s activity advent calendar:

  • Bake a favorite Christmas cookie recipe (or find a new one)
  • Make gourmet popcorn to eat or give as gifts
  • Decorate a gingerbread house
  • Watch Elf and eat your gingerbread house
  • Brew your own Christmas punch by simmering a combination of orange, apple, cranberry, and black currant juices spiked with whole cloves and cinnamon sticks on the stove or in the slow cooker
  • Create your family’s signature hot chocolate using white chocolate, dark chocolate, peppermint extract, chai spices, peanut butter, homemade marshmallows, etc. (just not all together… please)
  • Donate toys and clothing to children in need
  • Set up an advent wreath
  • Cut out paper snowflakes and tape them on the windows
  • Visit a Christmas market (if your city offers one)
  • Compose a silly letter to Santa (adults too!)
  • Head to your nearest St. Nick for a chat on Santa’s lap
  • Celebrate the coming of the European St. Nikolaus on December 6 by setting out stockings and reading the real story of Nicholas of Myra
  • Go sledding (geography matters on these next few, sorry)
  • Pick teams for a snowball fight and have at it
  • Make a heavenly host of snow angels
  • Find out if any local attractions feature an indoor winter wonderland
  • Experience a live nativity scene
  • Go ice skating
  • Attend a Christmas concert in your area (or put on one in your living room)
  • Get out the glitter and make Christmas cards for your neighbors
  • Host a Christmas pizza and movie night
  • Use felt or paper to make stockings for the kids to hang in their room(s)
  • Sing everyone’s favorite Christmas carols by candlelight
  • Go on an Ikea Christmas Scavenger Hunt (modify this one to include holiday merchandise which you can browse on your preferred Ikea website)
  • Construct a holiday village out of milk cartons (okay, maybe just one house) and use LED tea lights inside (like this)
  • Make luminaries for your front porch, balcony, or backyard
  • Take a drive to see the Christmas lights
  • Attend midnight mass (even if you’re not Catholic)
  • Read the real Christmas story (Luke 2)

Obviously, that’s more than 24 (or 25, if you prefer).  And, really, who has time/energy/money to do one of these every single day?  Just pick the ones that work for you, and fill the rest with books or these advent calendar devotions.  Simple or snazzy, your whole family is sure to love your activity advent calendar!

If you’re Jewish and celebrate Hanukkah instead, Sweet Happy Life has Hanukkah calendar ideas and Made by Mamaleh has a printable countdown.

What’s in your advent calendar this year?  I’d love for you to add to my running list in the comments below.Signature-MarigoldDisclaimer: At this time, I do not use affiliate links. You’ll only find honest personal recommendations in the links above.

19 Cheap & Easy Last-Minute Halloween Ideas

Over the last four years we’ve lived here, I’ve noticed Halloween has become more and more popular in Germany.  While I don’t see trick-or-treating going viral yet, stores have at least started carrying costumes and snacks for the occasion (though sadly, not candy corn).

This year, we’re putting on a small party for some of the kids in our building, and I needed some fun yet simple ideas for food, decor, and activities. 

I really can’t justify going to great lengths to plan an amazing bash.  My kids aren’t even familiar with the word Halloween or what the holiday really entails.  They were too young to remember the holiday in America (and we usually ended up in tinfoil in honor of Chipotle’s free burrito day).  Plus, this year we’re busy getting ready to head over to Scotland (yay!).

So, if you’re strapped for time like I am, check out these inexpensive, cute, last-minute Halloween ideas from Pinterest.  Have more fun food, decor, and crafts?  Leave a link in the comments below!

Food:

Hard Boiled Monster Eggs from Chew Chew Mama

Banana Ghosts and Clementine Pumpkins from Creamty

Spooky Popcorn Hand from Little Nummies

Spider Web Snacks from Mom Endeavors

Pumpkin Pretzels from A Thrifty Mom

Mandarin Orange Pumpkins from Serving Pink Lemonade.

Decor:

Halloween Eyeball Topiaries from Crafts ‘n Coffee

Glowing Recycled Milk Jug Jack O’Lanterns from Sassy Girlz

Trash Bag Spider Webs from How About Orange

Halloween Pac Man Garland from Minieco

Plastic Cup + Sharpie Halloween Lanterns from The Australian Baby Blog

Activities:

Haunted House Halloween Cut Out from Sarah Jane

Q Tip Skeletons from Crafts for all Seasons

Footprint Ghosts from Hand Print and Foot Print Art

Paint Chip Monster and Candy Corn Cards from All Free Holiday Crafts

Leftover Candy:

Candy Bar Cookies from Pip & Ebby

Leftover Halloween Candy Bark from Brown Eyed Baker

Halloween Candy Gingerbread Houses from Cake Central

November Thanksgiving “Advent” Calendar, Harvest Tree, and Turkey Pinata from Alpha Mom

It’s time to break out the craft supplies, corral all the extra candy, and give some of these ideas a try!  Which is your favorite? Signature-Marigold

Make It Yourself: Travel Journal

Thrifty Travel Mama Make Your Own Travel JournalI’ve long ogled the amazing travel journals littering Pinterest, and I finally decided it was time to make one myself.

Honestly, I haven’t used travel journals much, and I think that’s probably a big mistake.  I have to write down each and every little nit-picky thing that must be accomplished for the day in my planner.  If I don’t put pen to paper, I’m lost without a thought in my sleep deprived brain about what I need for the day.  So why not use the same strategy when I’m traveling?  Doh!

Before now, a travel journal was just one.more.thing that I had to remember, pack, keep track of, and protect from flying food and other luscious infant substances.  But since I seem to want to keep traveling and telling you about our adventures, maybe I oughta make a note or two.  Just sayin’.

And, just maybe making a pretty place to put my thoughts will help with that?  Fingers crossed!

Here’s how I made my journal – you should make one too.  Don’t have any trips coming up?  Make one anyway.  It doesn’t have to be just for traveling.  Your journal could be anything you want it to be – thoughts, notes, grocery lists, whatever.  Just make sure you like it, so you’ll be more inclined to write in it.Thrifty Travel Mama Make Your Own Travel JournalFirst, you’re going to need some materials: cardstock, paper, scissors, tape, glue, ruler, pencil, eraser, and, oh right, a notebook.  Actually, you probably could just staple a stack of plain white copy paper right smack in the middle and fold it over to create a little booklet.  But my stapler is teensy weensy, so I went with a ready-made notebook that cost me a whopping 49 cents.  Thrifty Travel Mama Make Your Own Travel JournalNext, you need to make a cover for your notebook.  Since I only had one sheet of desirable cardstock, I decided to make a template from IKEA packing paper.  Better to completely bomb out on something I’m going to recycle anyway than to irrevocably trash my one and only piece of pretty (thick) paper.

To make a template, trace the outside of the piece of cardstock you will be using.  Then, line up the notebook inside of the cardstock and trace the edge of one side, then the spine, and then the other.  Thrifty Travel Mama Make Your Own Travel JournalLop off each of the corners and a v shape at the spine so that the cardstock cover will wrap around the notebook’s existing cover.Thrifty Travel Mama Make Your Own Travel JournalWrap the template around your notebook, and make sure the cover will fit the way you’d like.  Thrifty Travel Mama Make Your Own Travel JournalEven if you’re satisfied, I’d recommend expanding the outline of the notebook’s cover by an additional 1/16″ or 1/8″ all the way around the outside.  Better to have a little extra than to have the card stock fit too tightly. Thrifty Travel Mama Make Your Own Travel JournalNow, lay your template on the card stock.  Trace the areas to remove in the corners and at the spine.  Grab the scissors and snip, snip.  Gently fold the cardstock around the notebook’s cover, and glue the edges.  Thrifty Travel Mama Make Your Own Travel JournalFind some complimentary (or contrasting!) cardstock and cut it to fit over the ugly old notebook cover.  We can’t have that ruining our travel journal vibe.

Thrifty Travel Mama Make Your Own Travel JournalNow it’s time to have some fun, and really make the design your own.  Think about how you will use your journal.  I am always collecting receipts, ticket stubs, product tags, etc., and I never know where to put them.  An envelope inside the cover is a great place to stash these items to write about later.

Create an envelope for these treasures by folding a piece of colored paper as shown.  Cut off the top with decorative scissors.  Use regular scissors to cut out the squares in the corners.  Thrifty Travel Mama Make Your Own Travel JournalFold over the two side edges and place a little glue near the bottom flap in the corners.  Next, swipe your glue stick around the folded edges, and then press it down inside the front cover.  Thrifty Travel Mama Make Your Own Travel JournalBut, we don’t want to stop there, now do we?  Let’s add a bigger envelope in the back.. and while we’re at it, let’s make this one with a flap.

Fold the paper the same way we did with the front envelope.  Then grab another piece of paper (either the same or mix it up with a different color or pattern) and fold to be the same width as the bottom piece.  Fold it in half to create the top flap portion.  Cut the corners in a triangular fashion, if desired, to cut down on bulk.  Thrifty Travel Mama Make Your Own Travel JournalBefore gluing the envelope to the back cover, poke one brad through the top piece, and one brad through the bottom piece.  If your envelope paper is thin, strengthen the brad with tape on the back side.

Attach the top flap with glue first and then the bottom piece.  Add a pop of color underneath the lid if you’d like.  Thrifty Travel Mama Make Your Own Travel JournalFinish with a thin ribbon or string to keep the envelope fastened.Thrifty Travel Mama Make Your Own Travel JournalMany of the travel journals I’ve seen have themed pages (what we ate on Tuesday, our top 10 on Saturday).  This stifles my creativity.  I find I have more to say if there’s just one question to start, and not a whole template to fill in.

If you’re more of the template persuasion, have a gander at my Pinterest board featuring loads of travel journals and other Vacation Memory Makers.

I found these really, REALLY good prompts at GoNOMAD.com, and when I get ten kid-free moments, I’ll scribble them on the front page. Then, it’s just a matter of picking a prompt and doodling about our day.  (Full disclosure: the link above does have a few words in it not suitable for children, so use with caution.)http://pinterest.com/thriftytrvlmama/vacation-memory-makers/You’re almost done!  Just add embellishment to your little heart’s desire, remembering that the prettier your journal, the more likely you are to use it.  Later on, I plan to add tabs to separate the different trips using this tutorial.

I’m looking forward to filling this notebook up with memories, starting with a trip to the Netherlands next month.  Yay!

Have you made a travel journal?  Leave a link in the comments so we can see your creation!  Signature-Marigold

A Jar Full of Date Nights at Home

Thrifty Travel Mama - 35 Ideas for Date Nights at HomeSo, how was your Valentine’s Day?  Say, what Valentine’s Day?  Right, right, the one last week.  Did you strike out?  Buy overpriced red roses that died the next day?  Bought milk chocolate instead of dark chocolate?  Totally forgot the day all together?

Well, here’s a thrifty idea sure to patch things up and even win over the Valentine’s Day haters – a home date night jar!

We are blessed to have some great babysitters here, but using their services every week is more than our budget can handle.  It’s doable for us to splurge once a month, but what about the rest of the time?

Relaxing with a movie at home is our Friday night activity of choice.  But, it can get old.  And what if there are no new interesting and/or appropriate movies to watch?

I came across this Home Date Night Jar on Pinterest, and I thought it would be a fabulous Valentine’s Day gift for Doc Sci.  It’s ridiculously easy; the hardest part is coming up with ideas that you know you and your significant other will enjoy. To (hopefully) make things easier for you, I’ve listed 35 ideas below.

I scrawled each one on a small scrap of colored paper and then shoved them inside the jar.  I threw together a quick label, attached it with packing tape, and voila!  Done.

Like my label?  Download it here: Date Night Jar Label.  I’ve included the color and a B&W version.  Free for personal use only, please!Thrifty Travel Mama - 35 Ideas for Date Nights at Home

Date Nights at Home – Ideas

  1. Make Fondue (cheese, pizza, meat, chocolate, etc.)
  2. Play a board game
  3. Dig out the cards and play Gin, Rummy, or the like.
  4. Poker Night – get creative with what to bet with!
  5. Make Milkshakes and watch That Thing You Do!
  6. Start a bucket list and post it somewhere that you can both see it and add to it
  7. Whip up some hot chocolate and sit outside together
  8. Bake a batch of the most amazing chocolate chip cookies ever
  9. Do a puzzle together
  10. Dream about where you want to be in 5 years
  11. Scour You Tube for hilarious videos
  12. Mexican fiesta – tacos, chips & salsa, and Nacho Libre
  13. French theme night – French onion soup, French bread, and watch Amelie
  14. Italian evening – pizza or pasta, gelato, and The Italian Job
  15. Korean wave – grilled, marinated chicken or beef, karaoke, and My Sassy Girl
  16. Have a chocolate tasting and watch Chocolat
  17. Eat ice cream sundaes and watch old videos you have made
  18. Write the story of how you met
  19. Make an Amazing Race audition video
  20. Order take out and eat it by candle light
  21. Wii Games – husband’s choice
  22. Wii Games – wife’s choice
  23. Find a book you both want to read and take turns reading out loud to each other
  24. Watch a movie made before 2000
  25. Be a kid – stock up on junk food and watch your favorite TV series from childhood
  26. 80s dance party in your living room
  27. Wine, cheese, and fruit night – keep those pinkies held high!
  28. Sports Night – watch a game, eat nachos, drink soda, and root for the home team
  29. Chow down a picnic in your living room
  30. Cook breakfast for dinner and watch cartoons
  31. Write silly love notes to each other and hide them around the house
  32. Eat cake and watch your wedding video
  33. Bake a dessert from when you were dating and share your favorite memories
  34. Try your hand at making some gourmet popcorn
  35. Go to sleep early!

Want more?  Check out Six Sisters’ Stuff for hundreds of other ideas.

What would you add??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.