Love, Crafts, and the Fine Art of Dumpster Diving

Two days ago, I noticed a big red Dumpster behind our apartment complex. It looked to be empty.

That’s interesting, I thought.

Yesterday evening, my husband and I were walking Jax when I noticed the Dumpster had been filled to the brim. Looks to me like the apartment management evicted someone, sending their furniture packing as well. A red sofa extended above pieces of wood, paper, and articles you’d have to examine closely to identify.

That made me sad. Once upon a time, a bank threatened to evict my mother, my sisters, and me. I don’t think that any of us will ever forget that bleak period in our lives.

Then it made me wonder. Was there any good that could come out of this ugly situation? While I was pondering this, thinking deep thoughts, David and Jax kept walking. “Honey?” called my husband. “Come on. Leave it alone.”

He knows me too well.

Because by then, I’d decided to investigate. I climbed up on the ledge surrounding the big red trash container. I’m short so I couldn’t look deep inside, but I did see a piece of board sticking out. A big piece of wood.

Big enough to serve as a base for my dollhouse and the potting shed.

Big enough and sturdy enough that I wouldn’t have to go to Home Depot and buy a piece of plywood and pay for them to cut it to size.

Big and free.

Even freer after I tugged it out.

David, I must confess, was mortified. He started walking in the other direction with body language that clearly stated, “I don’t know that woman!”

I tugged and tugged. I had to reach in and move a couple of other boards around. Luckily for me, I’ve kept up with my tetanus shots, because that big piece of wood had nails sticking out. But once I began to extricate it (classy word for trash-picking, eh?), I was determined that it would be MINE.

David didn’t offer to help. Instead, he said, “Oh, honey…” in that tone of voice that means, “I love you, but right now, I would cheerfully pretend we aren’t married.”

So I dragged it home. I do mean drag, because it’s heavy. I put it in the spare bedroom. I waited until today when David’s at work. I hauled it out. Knocked down the nails. Pried off a half dozen small squares of excess wood that served as braces. Put it up on our kitchen island. And started making plans. BIG plans for my dollhouse.

The way I see it, I saved something from the landfill, I saved money, and I’m moving ahead with my crafts. Next time I walk past that Dumpster, I might just vault over the side and poke around a little more.

Have you ever been Dumpster Diving?

How to Make Paper Beads, Part II

Now that you have a plethora of long, skinny triangles, it’s time to make your beads. For the next step, you’ll need:

1.  A lot of wooden toothpicks or skewers. They have to be ROUND, not squarish. These will be used as spindles. You’ll wrap your paper beads around the toothpicks to shape them.

2. A block of Styrofoam. As you finish your beads, you will stick the toothpicks into the Styrofoam so that they can rest and cure.

3. Glue. I like Aileen’s Tacky Glue. Whatever you choose should dry clear, dry fast, and grip quickly. I’ve tried glue sticks, but they are too mess. I like to use a coffee stirrer or a toothpick to dip into my glue and use as an applicator.

4. Sealer. Some people use clear nail polish. I prefer Diamond Glaze. I like to apply it with a brush.

Next, I’m going to show you my super-secret, super-duper, extra-special technique tip for making beads. You won’t read this anywhere else.

1. Put the large end of the triangle in your mouth and get it moist. Not wet! This will cause your paper to lightly grip the toothpick.
2. Wrap the triangle around the toothpick. Remember: The big end starts on the toothpick. Try to keep your triangle centered as you wrap it. If it gets off centered nudge it with your fingernail.
3. Dab a bit of glue to the tippy end of the triangle and smoosh it down to glue it to the bulk of the triangle that is now rolled onto your toothpick. You should have a slightly ovoid shape, bigger in the middle and tapered on each end.

4. Stab your toothpick into your Styrofoam block. Admire your garden of beads. Paint the beads with the Diamond Glaze and let them dry. You might want to do two thin coats.
Now we let them dry!

How to Create Inchies — and What to Do With Them When You're Done!

In my newest Kiki Lowenstein short story, she runs short of craft supplies and ideas. But Kiki never fails her customers, so she came up with a wonderful “make and take” project–inchies!

Inchies are one inch by one inch pieces of original art. Typically they are collage art, but that’s not always the case. What’s so wonderful about inchies? Making them will…

  • Stretch your creative muscle,
  • Use up odd scraps of paper, 
  • Encourage you to try new color combinations
  • Supply you with an endless source of cool embellishments!


Lowenstein’s Inchies


is such a fun project because you literally cannot do it wrong! Best of all,
it’s a thrifty way to use up those small bits of paper that you hate to toss.
When you’re done, there are tons of cool products that can be used in a variety
of places on your cards or scrapbook pages. You can even trade inchies with
your friends. And yet another benefit…inchies force you out of your crafting
comfort zone. Think of them as an exercise to strengthen your creativity






Upcycle Styrofoam into a Great Coaster

The portions in most restaurants are far too large for me, so I always ask for a carry-out container. Sadly, most of these are made of Styrofoam, or polystyrene, a product that takes nearly forever to breakdown in our landfills.

So I’ve been searching for ways to reuse my Styrofoam containers, and this idea is so simple and easy that I can’t believe I didn’t think of it before!

Since I love potted plants and vases full of flowers, I often find ugly circles on my furniture where the damp pots and vases touch the wood. Even glazed pots somehow transfer moisture. I used to put plates under the pots. Then I bought those stupid thin plastic pot “bottoms.” But they got really ugly and often fell apart. One day I realized that all I really needed was a coaster of an impervious material. Enter Styrofoam!

Here’s how the finished project looks–

You can barely see the white Styrofoam coaster under this orchid, but it is there–and it’s protecting the surface of my wooden chest.

Takes at most ten minutes.

An empty Styrofoam “clamshell” container, a ballpoint pen, scissors, and a sanding block.


1. Divide your container into two parts. You’ll be using the flat portion without partitions.

I’ll be using the portion on the left. I simply took a knife and cut the container in half.

2. Carefully clean and dry your Styrofoam container. I’ve noticed that you practically have to pour dish detergent right on the Styrofoam because oils love to cling to it.

3. Set your vase or pot on top of the flat portion. Use a ballpoint pen and trace around the base of your vase/pot. The tip of the pen will lightly carve into the foam. Cut out the shape. (I like to use kitchen shears for this.)

The pen point actually makes a small groove as you follow the curve of your vessel.

4. Use a sanding block to file down the rough edges of the circle and make it more symmetrical.

5. Slide it under your pot or vase. If you did it right, it should barely show.

Look at you, you crafty thing!

You're Going to Love 'Beachcomber Art'

Being an author means, you constantly question yourself. “Is this the right idea? Or should I have chosen another topic?” There’s no way to tell if you are working on something really cool…or if you picked a lemon. And your confidence suffers accordingly.

I’d had a bad, sad couple of days where my doubts got the better of me, when the Universe decided to send me a sign. A detour on the highway took me right past Debbie Brookes’ charming shop
 “Beachcomber Art,”

I walked through the front door, took one look at the kitchsy mermaid with her shell bodice, and told Debbie, “I’m in love!”

Debbie’s art is EXACTLY the sort of work that I had envisioned for my new heroine.

“I use nature’s timeless elements to create art that reaffirms beauty and individuality,” she says. Here she is next to an old screen door that she re-purposed by adding a mirror and a cross-section of seashells.

She started with decorative boxes for her friends. See the two above? Note the amazing cluster of shells on top.

And moved to a variety of home decor items, such as this chest, mirror and the candlesticks.

Along the way, her sense of whimsy played into her pieces, as with her fish. (Be sure to click on the photos so you can see them as larger images.)

Her light fixtures are simply divine, especially this one with seaglass.

Now my heroine will also do work that’s much more simple. I plan for her to share projects that anyone can tackle at home. In addition, she’ll be an avid DIY (Do It Yourself) type that loves to hunt for flea market bargains and turn them into treasures. In fact, that’s the name of my new series: The Trash to Treasure Mystery Series. It’s about a woman whose life is trashed, but who turns “lemons into lemonade” and winds up creating treasures.

I’d love to hear your feedback!