Category: How To’s & Quick Tips

5 Things to Do with… Wine Corks

Got corks? Now that the holidays have passed, we bet you have plenty. Don't throw them out! Save them up instead to make one of these simple wine cork projects. We'll raise a glass (or two) to that!

In the wake of holiday office functions, neighborhood tree lightings, and, of course, New Year’s Eve parties, wine corks are sure to be littering bar areas, kitchen countertops, and filled-to-the-rim trash bins. My advice? Collect as many of these cylindrical stoppers as possible. Why? Because they’re useful for so many creative undertakings, most of which have nothing to do with drinking. Scroll down to see some wine cork projects that you should add to your 2014 to-do list.



Wine Cork Projects - Keychain


You’ll need less than 10 minutes to complete this out-of-the-ordinary keychain, a wine cork project we found on Cleverly Inspired. The first step is to dip a small screw eye into glue. Next, poke the screw into the cork. Attach a key ring, and you’re done! You’ll never again mistake your keys for anyone else’s.



Wine Cork Projects - Coasters


Here’s a wine cork project that will help you safeguard your coffee table from unsightly stains. First, gather about a dozen corks. Proceed to slice them in half before hot-gluing them all into a circular grouping. As a last step, add a strip of felt or burlap around the perimeter. Visit Creativebug for a step-by-step guide.



Wine Cork Projects - Planter


From Upcycle That, this wine cork project came as a pleasant surprise: Whoever thought you could plant a succulent in a “pot” small enough to function also as a refrigerator magnet? Hollow out the cork, pack in a pinch of soil, then insert the plant clipping. Use glue to attach a small magnet, if you want, and don’t forget to add water!



Wine Cork Projects - Birdhouse


Cheap cabernet may be for the birdsbut then again, so is that wine cork! With little more than hot glue, a carving knife, and a couple of cases’ worth of wine corks, you can build a birdhouse to hang from a tree branch in your backyard. Watch your new feathered friends through your windows, and come spring, enjoy their songs.



Wine Cork Projects - Bathmat


Had one too many glasses of wine? Be careful not to slip! Of course, one way to avoid accidents is to drink less, but this wine cork project offers another, perhaps preferable means of avoiding slip-and-falls. Slice approximately 150 wine corks in half lengthwise, then hot-glue them all onto a rug pad that you have precut to your ideal bath mat size.

Top Tips for Taking Down the Christmas Tree

It's always fun to put up the holiday tree, but taking it down? Not so much. Make this yearly task less of a chore with our timely tips for taking down the Christmas tree.

Taking Down the Christmas Tree - Needles


Everyone loves the Christmas tree—so long as it’s standing proudly upright and is already fully decorated. Sure, some people enjoy artfully stringing lights on the evergreen boughs and relish the opportunity to rediscover cherished ornaments that have languished in storage for so many months. But nobody likes taking down the Christmas tree. Fortunately, with a few simple tips, you can complete this dreaded annual task more efficiently and without major hassles.

Prepping the area
Start the process of taking down the Christmas tree by laying an old sheet (or a workshop drop cloth) at the evergreen’s base. If you’ve done this before, you know that needles are likely to fall as you work, so this step will save you some cleanup later on. Do you have a lot of fragile ornaments? Consider putting down some towels to keep them safe in case they fall while you’re removing decorations.

Taking down the ornaments
• Remove the ornaments at the bottom of the tree first. That way, you limit the likelihood that you’ll unintentionally knock any down with your body.

• To protect ornaments while they’re in storage, take the time to wrap them in tissue paper or used gift wrap.

• Liquor boxes with dividers are the perfect no-cost repository for off-season storage of ornaments.

• For small ornaments and other diminutive holiday accents, recycled egg cartons work well as storage containers.

• Once you have removed them from the tree, wrap string lights around cardboard paper towel rolls to keep them organized and untangled until next year.

Taking Down the Christmas Tree - Curbside


Disposing of the tree
• Use a turkey baster to draw out any water that remains in the Christmas tree stand.

• Remove the tree skirt; if it’s covered with needles, shake them onto the sheet you’ve laid down.

• Spread the sheet to its full dimensions, laying the tree down horizontally over it. Take off the stand.

• Gather the sheet around the tree like a sling, then use it to carry the tree outside.

Next year, make disposal easier with a Christmas tree bag. Before putting up the tree, place the bag under the stand. After the holiday is over, just pull the bag up and over the tree and tie it off with twine. Then you carry the tree outside and remove it from the bag. Most stray needles will be caught in the bag.

In addition to leaving your tree curbside, most communities around the country have a Christmas tree recycling program in place where discarded Christmas trees are chipped into mulch for gardens (including yours) or shredded for use on paths and hiking trails.  In areas where soil erosion is an issue, discarded Christmas trees can be effective sand and soil barriers and help aid sedimentation management.  You can even put the tree in the backyard to become a bird feeder and sanctuary or, if you have a fish pond, submerge it where it can serve as an excellent refuge and feeding area for fish.

Where to begin?  The National Christmas Tree Association–together with, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based conservation group–offer a zip code locator to help you find a suitable treecycling solution near you. Check it out and start the New Year off right–and green!

Cleaning up
Pine needles are stubborn. They get stuck in carpeting, and some remain even after you vacuum. Here’s a trick: Sprinkle baking soda onto the area prior to vacuuming to help the needles slide out of the carpet fibers. Because pine needles are not good for a vacuum, use a broom and dustpan whenever possible.

Try to make taking down the Christmas tree a fun tradition. Put on a movie marathon while you work, or plan to celebrate completing the task with a special hot cocoa recipe or a delicious snack. You’ll have to wait another 11 months until next Christmas, so enjoy every last second of the season this year!



Bob Vila Radio: Late Night Party Cleanup

Don't wait until the next morning to clean up after a holiday party. Follow these simple tips on the-night-of to make post-party cleanup less painful.

Holiday parties are great fun, and being the host means you don’t have to travel home afterwards. But it also means you’re stuck with the cleanup. Here are a few ways to make that less painful.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Listen to BOB VILA ON LATE NIGHT PARTY CLEANUP or read the text below:

Late Night Party Cleanup


First, do a quick walk through every room your guests were in to look for spills that need immediate attention. It’s much better to blot them now before they set overnight. Any glasses that were left on wood furniture need to be picked up right away, to prevent water rings. If you do spot a ring, tackle it quickly with a paste of baking soda and water. You can also use toothpaste (not the gel kind) to get out rings.

As you’re walking through each room, pick up any cups, napkins, or other trash that needs to be thrown out, and collect any plates, glasses, or utensils that need to be washed or recycled. Clear out one room at a time, gathering everything that’s left to deal with in one place — the kitchen. You should be able to get most of your home looking decent again in no time, with the wreckage confined to the kitchen. If it’s getting late, put away any leftover food, then go to bed and deal with the mess in the morning!

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.

Bob Vila Radio: Christmas Tree Crafts

When the holiday season ends, make use of this year's Christmas tree as a craft supply with these DIY ideas.

Right now, there may be more than 25 million cut Christmas trees adorning rooms throughout the United States. Within the next week or so, they will all be stripped of their decorations and dragged unceremoniously to the street.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Listen to BOB VILA ON CHRISTMAS TREE CRAFTS or read the text below:

Christmas Tree Crafts


Sure, some of these trees will be chipped for mulch or stored for kindling. But if you already have all the mulch you need and don’t have a wood-burning fireplace, how else can you use your tree?

Fortunately, you have options: Pine needles make not only excellent mulch, but also wonderful sachets that let you enjoy the fragrance of the season well into the new year. They’re also handy for stuffing pincushions or dog beds, and they can be dried for potpourri.

Once the needles have been removed, the wood from a Christmas tree can keep a determined DIYer busy for days. Consider slicing rounds from the trunk that, set on edge, can serve as a garden border. Or make drinks coasters—or even trivets—by cutting thinner rounds, sanding and polyurethaning them, and gluing on a felt backing.

If this all sounds like too much work, just stand the bare trunk outside—come spring, it can become a rustic trellis for trailing plants like morning glories.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.

Weekend Projects: 5 DIY Ways to Make a Picture-Perfect Frame

Bored with standard-issue picture frames? With a little time and a few items that you may already have on hand, you can make your own frames that will be as personal and meaningful as the memories they hold.

It’s a fact of life: We all have more photographs, paper keepsakes, and artwork than frames in which to display them. If you’re eager to put up more wall hangings but don’t love the look (or expense) of store-bought frames, the simple solution is to make your own. Scroll down to see five favorite approaches to a DIY picture frame.



DIY Picture Frame - Twig


For those who favor rustic style, here’s a low-fuss strategy: Combine four straight (or straightish) sticks and a bit of twine, coaxing them into a rectangular shape with the help of a straight saw and small nails. The result? A twiggy DIY picture frame perfectly suited for a well-chosen print. Angela Osborn shows how it’s done.



DIY Picture Frame - Paper Reeds


Transform a stack of old magazines into a colorful DIY picture frame that tells a whole new story! Suzy’s Sitcom explains the process: Basically, it’s a matter of rolling magazine or newspaper pages into reeds, which are then affixed, decoupage-style, to the front of basic frames you can pick up for cheap at craft stores.



DIY Picture Frame - Window


Found a charming old window at your local flea market or salvage yard? Take a cue from photographer Wendy Sheaffer, who turned a six-pane sash into a DIY picture frame with each pane devoted to one of her six nieces and nephews. Either leave the window as you found it or sand and repaint it—the choice is yours!



DIY Picture Frame - Yarn


In this DIY picture frame project, you can use yarn to make something beautiful—no knitting required! Start with a wood frame or foam wreath, then simply wrap your chosen base with a single color of yarn or a mix of hues. It’s a relaxing yet productive way to spend an hour. Visit Centsational Girl for a step-by-step guide.



DIY Picture Frame - Books


Well-read books are hard to part with. But thanks to Paper & Stitch, you don’t have to bid adieu to any of your beloved old volumes. Instead, make them into a permanent part of your decor: In only about 15 minutes, your favorite hardcover can become an out-of-the-ordinary DIY picture frame to show off a favorite photo.

5 Things to Do with… Gift Wrap

Don't look at all the wrapping paper littering your living room as a wasteful annoyance—view it as an opportunity! Put those discarded sheets and remnants to good use in one of these smart DIY projects.

It’s always alarming to see how much gift wrap gets wasted during the holidays. Boldly patterned, brightly colored paper suddenly becomes garbage when only moments before it was festive and beautiful. The silver lining is that for those hardy souls who love to reuse wrapping paper, Boxing Day cleanup is like Christmas all over again. No, you don’t have to wait another 364 days to do something with your leftovers. Here are five DIY wrapping paper projects you can start on today!




Picture the plethora of empty cans that, even as you read this, sit idly in your recycling bin. Now imagine covering one (or a dozen) of those containers with gift wrap in your favorite design. This DIY wrapping paper project enables you to create the perfect package for cookies—or any item that fits, home-baked or otherwise!




For creative hosts, here’s a DIY gift wrapping project that can save you time and money, and even promote conversation among guests. If your go-to placemats are in the wash, or if you don’t have any in a design to suit your table setting, consider using gift wrap—it works on its own but, if you prefer, can be laminated at the office store.




An easy way to dress up your dresser is to line its drawers with leftover wrapping paper. Simply cut the paper to size, then use double-sided tape or a glue stick to secure the paper in place. If you like this DIY wrapping paper project, then apply the same method to the shelves in your home office or even to kitchen cabinets.




Make the most of that ugly gift wrap your uncle uses year in and year out! In the days after Christmas, run those leftovers through the paper shredder, and presto—you’ve got enough material to safely pack all your ornaments once they come off the tree. Best of all, unlike newspaper, wrapping paper doesn’t dirty your fingers.




As any experienced gift-giver knows, it’s easy to curl a ribbon for a decorative flourish on a wrapped package. A lot of folks, however, aren’t aware that you can do the same thing with wrapping paper. It doesn’t take a large piece, so hold onto all of those scraps and slivers, and you may never again have to spend money on a bow.

Weekend Projects: Holiday Crafts for Kids

Take a break from your hectic holiday schedule to do a few crafts with your kids. With a little time and a minimal number of supplies, you can create an inexpensive, one-of-a-kind decoration—and priceless memories.

Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s: It can be a real challenge to avoid stress this time of year! If you need a reprieve this weekend, sit down with your family to do some holiday crafts for kids. These ideas are easy and fun, and best of all, each one leaves you with a memento to cherish in 2014 and beyond.



Holiday Crafts for Kids - Paint Pine Cones


The best holiday crafts for kids involve just a few materials and a minimum of steps. Right? Right. This one meets both essential criteria, plus it gives you a reason to head outdoors. Having foraged (and found) a cache of pinecones, hand-dip each one in paint. Use one color or a dozen of your children’s favorites.



Holiday Crafts for Kids - Thumbprint Snowman


From Lines Across, these adorable snowmen are the product of polymer clay and little hands’  little thumbprints. Once the figures have been fully formed and accessorized to your satisfaction, bake them in the oven to harden. Use your snowmen as tree ornaments, decorative pieces for your holiday mantel, or surprise stocking stuffers for Dad.



Holiday Crafts for Kids - Cereal Ornaments


The wise parent knows that holiday crafts for kids succeed most reliably when at least one of the project materials can be eaten. Fruit Loop Candy Canes are a creative twist on a holiday classic—the popcorn garland. To make your own, simply string pipe cleaners (from the craft store) with colorful cereal (from your pantry).



Holiday Crafts for Kids - Melted Crayon Ornaments


What’s not to like about a holiday craft for kids that not only provides entertainment but also clears clutter? Place crayon nubs—the ones that are too small to draw with, too beloved to trash—into clear glass tree ornaments. Then use a hair dryer to melt the crayons through the glass. The result? One-of-a-kind swirled designs.



Holiday Crafts for Kids - DIY Snow Globe


It’s not complicated to make a snow globe, but because the project requires a bit of patience, it’s best reserved for fourth and fifth graders. Start with a jar from your recycling bin. Adhere your snowscape to the lid, then fill the container with a mixture of glycerin, distilled water, and glitter. The effect is nothing short of magical!

5 Things to Do with… Pens

Don't just toss your dried-out pens! Save them up to use in one of these nifty projects that incorporate old ballpoints.

The pen is mightier than the sword, everyone knows that. But when a pen runs out of ink, its power diminishes—or does it? The rigid, cylindrical shape of these writing instruments, not to mention their ubiquity—it seems like there is a handful of ballpoints stashed in a drawer in every home—means they are perfect for a range of purposes around the house and yard. Scroll down to see five favorite DIY uses for pens that, even though they no longer write, should not be written off.




For pens with no ink, there’s a lamp at the end of the tunnel. To make one like this sample from the Spanish design firm En Pieza, find either a plastic or pliable metal band and size it to fit the lamp of your choice. Then use either glue or wire to attach a few packages’ worth of empty pens to your chosen frame.




Tangle-proof your adventures in sewing with a portable thread organizer. Start with a tiered block of wood (or three one-inch-thick pieces stacked like stairs). Next, drill holes to accommodate as many spools as you plan to store. Finish by staking pens into the holes you have drilled. Curbly provides the easy step-by-step guide.




Here’s a clever way to make the cheapest sprinkler you’ll ever own. After securing a connection between your garden hose and a plastic bottle cap, drill about a dozen holes into the container. Next, cut hollowed-out pens two inches from their tips. Slot the pens into the holes, then watch as water flows where ink once ran!




Turn a low-tech pen into a touchpad stylus! First, completely hollow out the pen, then wrap copper wire around a small piece of conductive foam. Thread the wire through the pen, forcing the foam to fit snugly through its point. Finish by coiling the remaining wire around the outside of the pen so that you can grip it during use.



Uses for Pens - Hand Print


When it’s time to head home after vacation, you can’t fit the beach in your carry-on, but you can try the next best thing: memorializing your handprints in the sand. Make a handprint, fill the indentation with plaster of Paris, then set a pen into the plaster, toward the base of the palm. Once dry, the pen hole makes it possible for you to hang the mold around a doorknob or on your holiday tree!

3 Simple Steps to a Backyard Ice Skating Rink

Whether you have ambitions of becoming an Olympic skater or just a capable one, you can refine your skills at home by building your own backyard ice skating rink.

Backyard Ice Rink


Over the snowy-white winter, adults and children make the most of the cold by taking part in a smorgasbord of seasonal activities—ice skating chief among them. If a member of your family loves to play hockey or pirouette, you can, with some effort and elbow grease, bring the enjoyment closer to home. That’s right, you can build a backyard ice rink! Don’t worry, advanced degrees in engineering are not a prerequisite; this is a simpler project than it seems, with just three steps from start to finish.

- Plastic tarp
- 2-inch-thick lumber
- Rebar stakes
- Garden hose (with spray nozzle)
- Staple gun



Backyard Ice Rink - Frame


Plan to make the frame for your backyard ice rink on the flattest part of your property. Why? Because each of the four corners of your frame ought to be on the same level. That’s easiest to achieve, of course, on an even surface, but it’s certainly possible to build a frame that corrects for the slopes and dips of changing terrain. In ideal circumstances, you would need to use only 2″ x 4″ boards. However, to correct for changes in ground elevation, you can buffet the construction with boards in other dimensions, say, 2″ x 6.” Once you’ve devised a plan, enlist a helper and set to work, bearing in mind that each piece of lumber should be secured with a rebar stake. (Most commonly employed to pitch tents on camping trips, rebar stakes brace the frame against the force exerted by expanding ice.)



Backyard Ice Rink - Tarp


Once you have succeeded in building a rink frame, proceed to line it with a white or clear tarp. (It’s essential to use a light-colored tarp, because dark colors naturally absorb heat, causing ice to become slush.) Push and smooth the tarp until it covers the bottom of the frame as well as its sides. Keep bunch-ups and wrinkles to a minimum. Extend the tarp over the edges of the frame and onto its exterior, leaving enough material so that you can staple the tarp into position. Secure it at the corners and at three-foot intervals along the sides. Trim away any excess, or simply roll the tarp against the frame, so nobody trips accidentally.



Backyard Ice Rink - Filling


You’re almost there. Resist the temptation to rush ahead, however, or you might end up skating on thin ice! When you’re ready to fill the rink with water, first check the weather forecast. Provided the next couple of days are expected to remain below freezing, go ahead and fill the tarp with about one inch of cold water. It should freeze within six to eight hours. Next, with the spray nozzle fixed to the end of your garden hose, apply one inch of hot water. Repeat the process until you have three to five inches of rock-solid ice. Test the ice for stability by tapping its surface all over with a broomstick—or a hockey stick, if you have one ready and waiting. Assuming that all has gone according to plan, the ice should now be ready to support you and the figure eights you’ve been itching to do since summer.

Tip: Don’t rush inside after you’re finished skating! Keep the ice surface smooth by shoveling up the shavings and spraying on an additional layer of hot water.

How To: Make a Fresh Holiday Garland

The beauty and aroma of a fresh garland gracefully draped over a fence, banister, or deck railing are true hallmarks of the season. In a few simple steps, you can create your own festive garland to enjoy all through the holidays.

How to Make Garland - Complete

Photo: JNoonan

This year, as you dress up your house for the holidays, consider decking the halls with twinkling lights, festive ribbons—and, of course, boughs of holly, pine, cedar, or fir. The beauty and fragrance of a fresh garland cannot be matched by the store-bought, artificial evergreen facsimiles. If you have access to the right types of trees, the project costs next to nothing, and it’s neither difficult nor overly time-consuming. To make your own garland today, simply follow the steps detailed below.

- Assortment of fresh greens
- 1/4″ hemp rope or similar
- Floral wire
- Pruning shears


1. Collect Greens

How to Make Garland - Collect Greens

Photo: JNoonan

Pine, cedar, holly, and fir branches all work equally well for the purpose of making a garland. Either stick with a single type of foliage or mix a few types of greens into a pattern. As an accent, use pinecones or holly leaves—their red berries provide a beautiful contrast to the green boughs. From whatever types of evergreens you have access to, snip branches that are anywhere between 8 and 18 inches in length. Avoid cutting too many pieces from the same small tree, and try to snip branches that are touching the ground, the sides of a building, or the branches of neighboring trees; if you were pruning just for the tree’s benefit, these would be the best candidates for snipping anyway.

2. Get Started

How to Make Fresh Garland - Getting Started

Photo: JNoonan

Counterintuitively, the best place to begin is with a step that seems like it should come last: Tie a loop at the end of your rope, so you can hang your completed garland. Next, use floral wire to attach your first piece of greenery to the rope. Wrap the wire two or three times around the branch until you are confident that it’s securely in place. Be sure to position that first bough in such a way that it hides from view, but does not completely obstruct, the loop that you tied into the rope.

3. Add Greenery

How to Make Fresh Garland - Add Greenery

Photo: JNoonan

Lay a second piece of greenery so that it slightly overlaps the first, hiding the floral wire that binds it to the rope. Then tightly wrap additional wire two or three times around the second piece, just as you did for the first piece in Step 2. Continue adding greenery in this way, piece by piece, until your garland reaches the desired length.

4. Finish Up

How to Make Fresh Garland - Finishing

Photo: JNoonan

Cut the rope so that it’s two or three feet longer than your garland. That extra rope may come in handy as you set about hanging the completed garland. Tie a loop at this end of the rope to match the one you made in Step 1. Once the garland is hung, spot-check it for any bare sections, adding more boughs where necessary. If the garland is too long for the space in which you’re going to display it, simply snip it to length with pruning shears and use the excess elsewhere in your home.

Go fresh with garland, and you’ll never again be tempted by the artificial variety. There’s no better to start to the season. Happy Holidays!