Custom ABC Book – DIY

This is my absolute favorite project to date!  It was easy, inexpensive, and the result was fantastic!  My niece is about to experience her first Christmas and turn 1!  I wanted to get her something great, so I decided to make her a custom ABC book.

I was inspired by some custom alphabet board books I saw online, but since I left this to the last minute, I didn’t have time to order one.  So I came up with a DIY solution and the end product cost less than $8.

Custom ABC Book - Craft Ambitions M

  1. Find your pictures and choose the caption.  I wrote down A-Z, and while I browsed through my photos (thank you iCloud and Facebook), I wrote down the caption and saved the picture as the caption name.  That way I could keep track of the letters I needed, and they got saved in order.  I also tried to use as many family pictures as possible, and it was easy to choose the cutest ones.
  2. Select a picture for the front cover and back cover.
  3. Crop to 4” x 6” proportional.  If the picture was taken on a phone it might be square or just a little out of proportion.  But my local photo lab would only print standard proportion.  I ended up doing this after I added captions and it ruined some of my pictures, so do this first.
  4. Add captions.  I choose to use because it’s free, I didn’t need to register, and the text is white with a black outline which can be read over any color.  You don’t get a choice of font, but I liked how it looks like a meme.  It’s so 2014.
  5. Print photos.
  6. Buy a 12-page photo album.  This is the key to the simplicity of the entire project. 12 pages plus inside front and inside back cover is exactly 26 slots.  I got mine from London Drugs for $1.99.

Custom ABC Book - Craft Ambitions Y

So easy!  And it was super fun to review her first year of pictures.  Custom ABC Book - Craft Ambitions

Refinishing an Outdoor Bar

When I pinned this awesome outdoor cooler, I thought that even though it was a big project, I could do it.  Do you know what’s better than building it?  Buying it for $20 at a garage sale!  It was in pretty good shape when we got it, completely usable – but with a little elbow grease I thought I could make it something amazing.


Step 1 – Wood Brightener

The first thing I did was clean the bar with a wood brightener.  I didn’t know such a product existed, but it’s like a magic elixer.  You apply it (diluted) to wet wood furniture, let it soak, then scrub it.  See how it went from dark and dirty to bright and clean?  Isn’t it great?  The wood feels fresh and raw, ready to be finished.


Step 2 – Unwarp Wood (or Bend it Like Villa)

One of the planks of the lid had gotten warped from sitting outside.  We thought of leaving it,  or replacing it, or adding braces to it.  Then we decided to try to bend it back.  Did you know you can bend wood?  My mom gave me this tip.  She remembers her dad, who was a carpenter, did it all the time.  First you need to soak the wood, to make it malleable, then you need to apply pressure to bend it.  I soaked the blank in the bathtub and covered it in weights overnight.  The next morning the plank was pretty flat.  I took the plank out of the water, but left the weights, so it wouldn’t warp when it dried.  Ta da!  It’s flat again.  How will I prevent from bending again? I’m going to seal it.  Once it’s sealed, and water can’t penetrate, it should remain warp free.

Step 3 – Stain It

All the of the craft sites recommend gel stains, so that’s what I went with.  Gel stains are thick, like pudding, so application is easier and less messy. One crafter said gel stains are so amazing that you don’t have to remove all the old stain.  She lied.  As you can see the lid now has a “unique patina”, but I can live with it.  I used an old pair of sweat pants cut into rags to wipe on the stain.  Don’t forget to wear rubber gloves (latex will melt).  I decided to only stain the top, because I didn’t want the project to start getting too labour expensive.  After three coats, I was pretty happy with the results.

Gel Stain

Step 4 – Seal It

We need to protect all our hard work!  Especially if it’s going to survive outside.  My friend is a furniture maker, and he recommended Varathane Diamond Wood Finish.  It looks cloudy, but it dries clear.  I sealed the entire bar, with several coats.

Step 5 – Finishing Touches

Last, but not least, I added new knobs and installed a cool bottle opener/cap catcher some friends gave us. Voila! Now we can enjoy cold beverages in the hot weather.  (Let’s pretend I’ve posted this in the summer!)

Refinished Outdoor Bar

Refinished Outdoor Bar

Halloween Decoration – Creepy Potions & Crawly Specimen

Do you want to take your Halloween decorations over the top this year?  Then check out these super easy potion and specimen jars.

All you need are a few jars, some random goodies (the dollar store is great) and some clever labels.

Craft tip #1 – Cover the lids with black gaffer tape.  I tried spray paint, and it didn’t work well.  Then when the Harry Potter the Exhibit came through town, I took a good look at their apothecary jars, and their lids were covered by black tape too!

Craft tip #2 – Age your labels by dipping them in tea.  Don’t you remember that Edison Twins did that when they were trying to fake a pirate map?

Craft tip # 3 – If you print your labels on regular paper with a laser printer, you can adhere them to the jars with milk.  Really.  Check it here.

Wizard’s Own Potion Ingredients

  • Roc Feathers (from a feather boa)
  • Distilled Tears of A Thousand Care Bears (in an old Kraft Peanut Butter jar shaped like a bear)
  • Succubus Horns (dollar store devil horns)
  • Fallen Angel Eyes (dollar store)
  • Candied Goblin Brains (dollar store)

Wizard's Own Potions


I wish this picture had turned out better.  Well, it’s a failed experiment anyway.  (Or is it?  Mwahahahahah!) As you can see (or not) from the label “Human Shrinking Experiment #13.  Subject: Male, aged 31.  Survived : 5 minutes, 42 seconds.”  It’s another great dollar store fine, a rubber skeleton, in a peanut butter jar.

Human Shrinking Experiment #13

Human Shrinking Experiment #13

Come Up with Your Own or Borrow These


Dip Dye Cutlery

Tired of cutlery that lacks flamboyance?  Always wanted to color coordinate your forks?  Then try – “dip dyed” flatware!  (It’s not actually dip dyed, it’s spray painted, but it achieves the same look.)

Dip Dye Cutlery

Dip Dye Cutlery

When I saw this idea on Pinterest, I immediately knew that I needed to do this.  My office kitchen never seems to have any forks.  I guess that they accidentally get abducted and never break free.  And due to a completely unrelated reason, I have a few unmatched forks.  So I thought I’d give them a a makeover.

This project took only about 5 minutes, including the 60 seconds to shake up the can of paint.  Once I covered the tine-side with some paper and tape, then I gave the handles a quick spray of primer.  I let it dry for an hour, as per the paint’s directions, and then sprayed it with a canary yellow.  One coat was enough; they already made it through the dishwasher.

Don’t they look great? Office lunches are going to be great, and I’ll never have to eat my salad with chopsticks again!

Growth Chart DIY

I’ve had this project in mind for a long time, and now that my nephew is 2, I finally get to make it.  You can buy them on etsy in all sorts of styles for $35 to over $100 PLUS shipping.  But you can make it yourself with a bit of wood and some imagination.

I had a nice piece of dark wood leftover from a construction project.   I like it because it’s just 6 inches wide and 1/4 inches thick, which makes it light and easy to hang on a wall.  I decided to cut the length to six feet, and mark the bottom at six inches (to clear the baseboards) and the top 6’6″.  I really wanted the chart to be in both imperial and metric, so I marked inches on one side and centimeters on the other.  My plan was to paint all the numbers, but it turns out I’m a terrible painter.  Instead, I used patterned duct tape to make the feet markers and Avery Window Decals from Walmart to make the centimeters.  Did you know that in Microsoft Word you can indicate that you want your table cells to be exactly 1 centimeter x 1 centimeter?  Now you do!

Next I drilled a whole at exactly the six foot marker, to make hanging easy.

And my latest discovery?  Gold Sharpie! To cleanly and permanently mark  the height on the dark wood.

Here’s K, looking rather unsure, next to the finished product.

Growth Chart DIY

Growth Chart DIY


Sew a Little Suitcase (Tutorial Tested)

I love bags.  No, I don’t mean purses, but bags.  I like totes, bags and carry-alls.  I like their different designs, functionality, and style.  They are also one of my favorite projects to sew because you can use them right away and they don’t need be a perfect fit.

Sidekick Suitcase from

Moto Guzzi Stelvio pannier

I found this great tutorial on how to sew a sidekick suitcase, meant for a child.  It’s a 12-day sew along, and is very detailed with plenty of pictures.  Then I found the perfect customer.  My dad!  He has a new motorcycle and the sidekick suitcase would be perfect for the pannier.  He could buy the coordinating bag, but it’s awfully expensive.  Plus, the one I make will be so much better, right?

This bag was a monster of a project!  It was way beyond my pay grade.  It took me a few tries and many hours.  The first time, I wasn’t precise enough and nothing matched up.  It looked awful.  The second try went much better, but not perfect.  I cut out a lot of the detail to simplify the project.  I bought the stiffest interfacing I could find, which cost me $20.  Although, I should have used the plastic mesh the writer suggested.  I bought the strap for a buck at the dollar store; it was sold as a luggage strap and included the buckle, which the fabric stores sell for $5.

I learned that with big projects like this, you must take it slow.  Measure carefully, lay everything out, and take your time.  I also learned that the bag’s dimensions must be much smaller than the dimensions of the pannier, because when the bag is full it’ll stretch to beyond its intended size.

Dad only ended up getting on pannier, because this project was so much work.  But the result is pretty good.  The bag fits very nicely in the pannier.

Sew Sidekick Bag

Sidekick Bag

Sew a Bow Clutch

I stumbled upon this well written and detailed tutorial on how to sew a bow clutch.  This is a great tutorial, especially for new sewers.  The instructions are fairly straight forward and there are a lot of pictures to make each step very clear.

My first attempt was a huge success.  I made this purple gingham purse and it was the first time I sewed a zipper and first time I used interfacing.

Sew Bow Clutch

Sew Bow Clutch - Deconstructed

Bow Clutch – Deconstructed

I couldn’t wait to make some more, so when my friend announced she was getting married I jumped at the chance to sew some purses for her bridesmaids.  The wedding colors are apple green, silver and black.  The bridesmaids’ dresses are black and the bride thought apple green purses would be the perfect accent.  I picked up this fabulous green fabric for the exterior and a cute butterfly pattern for the lining.

I love the final product.  It’s cute, unique and custom!

Sew Green Bow Clutch

Bird House Tutorial

Old Bird House

This birdhouse was old when my parents bought their house 27 years ago.

Every year the sparrows come and make it their home and my mom watches their activities from her dining room.  But the fence that the birdhouse is attached to is set to be demolished.  So, I decided this would be a good chance for me to build a new birdhouse.  I salvaged a nice wide board from the demolition of another part of the fence, and I followed the gist of this video tutorial.

If your birdhouse is meant to be functional, then there are a few design elements I would include:

  • First, hinge one of the walls with nails and close with a screw.  This makes it easy to clean out every year.
  • Second, cut the corners off the base.  This allows for drainage.
  • Lastly, make the side walls a 1/2 inch shorter than the main walls so it leaves a little gap under the roof. This allows for airflow.Bird House Tutorial


  • measuring tape
  • square
  • mitre saw
  • sandpaper
  • hole saw bit with drill
  • hammer


  • board – I used a 6″x48″
  • twig or dowel for the perch
  • nails
  • wood glue
  • 1 – small screw
  • paint and/or clear coat (optional)Bird House Cut List

Cut List

  • Side Walls 2 – 6″x6.5″
  • Main Walls 2 – 6″x7″ + peak
  • Floor 1 – 6″x4.5″
  • Roof 1 – 6″x7 5/8″
  • Roof 1 – 7″x7″ 5/8″


  1. First, draw out your cut lines.  If you don’t have a square, you can use a little math to draw the peaks on your main walls.  Since the peak is an equilateral triangle, and the width is 6″, then a 12″ X (two times the width) on your board will give you two equilateral peaks that face each
  2. Cut all four corners off the floor.  This will allow drainage in the house.
  3. Cut some grooves on the inside of the main wall below where the entrance will be.  The birds will like this rough wood to grip with their claws.
  4. Use a hole saw bit and drill a hole for the entrance.  This was a little bit of work and I saw smoke.  Be patient.Bird House Sides
  5. Drill a hole for the perch.
  6. Assemble the walls around the floor.  Pick one Side Wall and only put a nail on each of the top corners.  Don’t put nails on the bottom corners.Bird House Assemble
  7. See how the one Side Wall swings up like a DeLorean door?  That’s so we can easily clean it out at the end of the season.  We’ll secure it soon.Bird House Delorean Door
  8. Nail in the floor.  Don’t forget to leave that DeLorean door swingable.
  9. Add the roof.  Now, if I were smart, I would have made one side of the roof longer than the other side by the thickness of the board.  I hope that made sense.  Except, I can’t cut a 6″ wide board to make a piece that’s 7″x7 5/8″.  So the roof is uneven.  I hope the birds don’t mind.
  10. Now, to secure that DeLorean door.  I drilled a hole into the door only, not the floor, and made it wider than my screw. Then I popped in the screw and hand screwed it into the floor.  So when I do need to clean out the house, I just need a screwdriver to pop in the screw.Bird House Door
  11. Glue in the perch.
  12. Paint, if desired.

Bird House Tutorial

Shoes, Glorious Shoes!

… or The Taming of the Shoes

Shoe Storage Tutorial

I’ve been dreaming about the ultimate shoe storage for a while.  And, who hasn’t?  I combined two different ideas into one glorious shoe closet.

I had the perfect little space for this in the basement.  A nice little unused and unfinished corner in a closet.

At the top is a ledge for heals.  This was fairly easy.  I had a leftover piece of half inch trim and nailed it into the wall with a half inch spacer.  This left just enough gap for the heals to hang from.  It took a bit of guess-and-testing to make sure the heals wouldn’t fall off the ledge.  Just to pretty up the ugly plywood bulkhead, I covered it up with self-adhesive wall paper from the dollar store.

The shelf is my first Ikea Hack.  It was a Billy Bookcase I salvaged from a flood.  I cut off the water damaged part and I cut it to height to fit under my bulkhead.  I then re-assembled it and added extra shelves, which I installed at an angle.  The easiest way to do this is to get extra billy shelves and just install them with the back pegs two holes higher than the front pegs.  The other way to do this is to cut 1/4″ plywood to size and paint it white.  Then add a notch underneath like the Ikea shelves and drill in holes for the pegs.  Or install the shelf permanently with a pocket hole jig.

Now, the best part!  Arrange your shoes on the shelf.  I had to organize them by type and colour.  Hahaha.  No really.

The only problem left is this shelf is full, and I have a few more pieces of footwear to add.  I guess I have to add one more shelf.  Oh, how life is hard.

Spidy-Ball, Spidy-Ball!

Does whatever a bowling ball can! Bowling Ball Spidy-Ball

Check out my new garden friend.  A while back I made these Bowling Ball Ladybugs and it seems that one of the ladies got herself a beau.

Spidy was so easy to make.  All you need to do is spray paint a bowling ball red, then get your awesome friend to hand paint Spider-Man’s face on it.  My artistic Superman carefully painted every web onto this guy, and I think the results are amazing!  Don’t forget to give him a good spray of clear coat to protect him from the elements.

Lady and Spidy make a cute couple!

Ladybug & Spidy Bowling Balls

Aldo Leopold Bench

Aldo Leopold Bench

Aldo Leopold Bench –

When I saw this bench, the first thing I thought was “I could totally make that!”.  The second thing I thought was “This Aldo fellow must be some sort of  post-modern designer.”  It turns out that Aldo Leopold is considered to be the father of wildlife management and was a conservationist, forester, philosopher, educator, writer, and outdoor enthusiast.  The bench was the result of wanting a quick and easy place to sit among nature.  Haha – Made you learn!

The whole project took me less than an hour and cost about $20 in material.  As usual, my instructions are slightly different from what I actually made.  You need one 2x6x8 and one 2x8x10, but since my car can’t fit a 10 foot board, I used a left over piece of cedar for the back rest.  I bought pressure treated wood for this project.


Aldo Leopold Bench plans

  • Mitre Saw
  • Drill
  • Measuring Tape


  • one 2x6x8
  • one 2x6x10
  • ten x 2 1/2″ screws
  • wood glue

Cut List

  • A x 2 – 36″. Cut ends at a 22.5° angle PARALLEL.  You are making a parallelogram, not a Bench Cut Piecestrapezium.  Haha!  Made you learn remember math.
  • B x 2- 17 1/4″.  Cut ends at a 22.5° angle PARALLEL
  • C x 1 – 45″ square ends.
  • D x 2 – 42″ square ends.


1.  Cut pieces on your mitre saw.  Your mitre should display angles, so it should be easy to cut a 22.5° angle.

2.  Fasten legs (A and B) together with wood glue and screws.  Pre-drilling makes everything easier.  To make sure it will be level on the ground, use another board as a guide.  Repeat for the other side, assemble a mirror image.  Pieces B will be on the inside and will support the seat.

Bench Legs

3.  Attach seat (D) to the legs with wood glue and screws.

bench attach seat

4.  Attach backrest (C).

5. Sit and Enjoy!

Aldo Leopold Bench

Stripped Holes & Loose Screws

How to fix loose screws cause by stripped wood holes.

How to fix loose screws cause by stripped wood holes.

I’m sure there’s a dirty joke in there somewhere.  This morning I opened the closet door and the whole thing seem to fall apart.  The screws on two of the hinges just fell out.  Turns out that the wood holes were stripped and didn’t hold the screw anymore.  So this is “How to fix loose screws caused by stripped wood holes“.

This entire repair took a little more than 5 minutes, but you look like such a handy genius.


  • Wood Glue
  • Toothpicks
  • Screwdriver


  1. Put a little glue on the end of a toothpick and stick it into the hole.  Repeat until the hole is plugged.  Just jam as many toothpicks into the hole as you can.
  2. Snap the toothpicks off in the hole.  Mine didn’t come off perfectly clean, but I wasn’t worried because the hinge and screws would cover it.
  3. Wait a bit for the glue to set.
  4. Screw the screws back in.  You’ll be able to do this easily by hand.
  5. Pat yourself on the back.How to fix lose screws cause by stripped wood holes.

How to Make a Busy Board

I was babysitting soon-to-be-one-year-old K and noticed he really likes closing the baby gates and playing with door knobs and locks.  I then remembered seeing Busy Boards on Pinterest, and thought I’ll have to make one for his birthday.  Although my dad wants to take full credit for this idea because apparently he made one for me when I was one, but I don’t seem to remember.

I had the perfect base for this project, a leftover piece of cupboard from our kitchen renovation.  Then I went to the local used hardware store and bought as many moving gadget pieces I could. I got all of this for $11!

I filled in a few holes with new pieces.  The light switch was a little work, I had to cut a hole in the board for the box so the plate would sit flush.  But that meant I knew I was going to add a piece to the back, so it didn’t matter if some of the screws poked through the board.  Plus the knocker is installed from the wrong side.  If I make this again, I would skip the light switch and make sure none of the screws went all the way through the board. This would let me skip the extra step of adding a back.

To finish the piece, I added a 1×1 frame to the back and screwed on a cover so there were no more exposed screws. I used that piece of laminated board that makes up the back of your cupboard.  Does anyone know what that’s called?  Anyway, that was it!  Done.

And since it’s a baby gift, I gave it a good clean with a bleach wipe to remove any sawdust residue  and other grimies.

Busy Board -

Busy Board –

SPROING!!!!!  So far he loves the spring door stop.  Happy 1st Birthday K!

How to mak a Busy Board

Watch Roll Tutorial

Grandpa is turning 88!  He loves watches.  He probably has a few dozen of them.  So I thought I would make him a watch roll so he could take a few of them with him when he travels.

I got a piece of pipe insulation and cut two pieces long enough to hold three watches, about 9 inches.

Since the foam was too thin to hold the watches, I put two pieces together and taped it so it didn’t shift shape.  Then I covered it in material. I had some upholstery remnants on hand, so I used a dark blue pin stripe.

Next I followed this tutorial on making a cylindrical pencil case, of course adjusted for length and width.  I used some more upholstery remnants and a zipper I happened to have on hand.

I’m fairly pleased with the result.  Happy Birthday Grandpa!


Dead Battery Storage

Dead Battery Storage – craftambitions.wordpress.

I know this sounds like a dull topic, but I’m really happy with this clever solution.

You and I both know how terrible it is to throw batteries in the garbage.  They have corrosive metals that are awful for the environment.  In my town they suggest you take them to the Eco-Centre.  But what to do with the batteries before you get to the recycling depot?

Just put them in your Dead Battery can.  I have to admit I borrowed this idea from something I saw on the Container Store website.  I just took a hot chocolate container (perfect size, and it has a red lid) and then I made a simple paper label.  The can holds quite a few batteries and you’ll never get the dead ones mixed up with the new ones!

$2 Vinyl Decal

Haven’t you always wanted to decorate your washing machine?  Haha! Well, there’s been a pretty washer on Pinterest lately, decorate with beautiful purple flower decal.  I thought it was very nice, but those decals are expensive!

Then I found a bunch at the dollar store.  And aren’t cute giraffes more fun then classy flowers?  Here’s what I see as soon as a walk into my laundry room.  So cute!  And it brings me a smile every time.

I had enough decals for a second project.  The basement bathroom is pretty small.  And bland.  Did I mention small?  The toilet is about 8 inches from the bathroom door.  How could we improve this? Giraffes and cacti of course!  Here’s the new view in the second bathroom.  This is as far back as I could get the camera.  Small, right?  Well I’m pleased with the results.

Adhere Beer Labels with Milk

Did you know you can adhere paper labels with milk?  It’s TRUE!

Adhere Beer Labels with Milk –

Even my man has been getting into crafting.  He’s been brewing his own beer in the basement.  A dear friend of ours designed a custom label for his first batch.  But how to stick them on?  Well it turns out other home brewers have already figured it out.  Print your labels with a laser printer on regular paper (toner ink will run), then lightly dip the back in milk and stick on your bottle.  Wipe away any milk drips.  Ta da!  You are done!  I can vouch that skim milk works, the milk doesn’t sour, and the labels stay well affixed (even when the bottles sweat with tastiness).

Collapsible Bucket

Lately I’ve been into sewing bags and totes.  After pinning a bunch of inspirations and patterns, I settled on making this Collapsible Bucket tote.  It looked great and the instructions we’re quite detailed and well written.  Sewing a circle base was a little tricky (just use patience), but the rest was pretty straight forward.  I love keeping my fresh fruit in it.

Bucket Tote From Instructables