Friday, February 27, 2015

Packing Cubes... Which to Choose?





So my family and I are getting ready for our first BIG family vacation in... forever. Seriously. Our last big vacation was the summer before my daughter was born (that would be back in 2006!). And the biggest trips we've had since my daughter was born have been to Disneyland. Now don't get me wrong, I LOOOOOVE Disneyland, but we drive the near-7 hours down, and stay for 4 days. But this summer, we're going bigger: Walt Disney World! It'll be my daughter's first time flying, and we're staying (on property!) for 10 days! Yippee!!!



Obviously a trip of this magnitude requires quite a bit of planning. One of the first things I thought about purchasing for this trip were packing cubes. I had heard about them, and read a LOT of reviews; and by and large, people can't say enough positive things about them. However, when I hopped online to make the purchase, I was completely overwhelmed by how many companies are making packing cubes! 

Now, there's no way I could possibly review ALL of the cubes out there (well, not without taking out a second mortgage on my home), but neither am I one to just pick one at random and be happy with my choice; knowing that somewhere in that sea of cubes, there may be another one better suited to my needs (yes, I am that "Type A"). So what I did was order several sets of cubes, choosing only popular brands that had overwhelmingly positive reviews, to review up close and in person. Please check out my YouTube video review for all the details and for close-up images here:

For those of you who prefer reading about the subject, I'm more than happy to recap. :) I ordered six sets of cubes from the following brands: Go Cube It, Eagle Creek, Trek Ready, eBags, Pro Packing Cubes, and Shacke Pak. I've created this chart to quickly reference the differences, including how many pieces you get per set, the price, sizes of each cube, colors available, fabric and zipper type.



Go CUBE It
The only negative that could possibly be said about the Go CUBE It set is that it only comes in black. The fabric and zipper quality are fantastic (IMO the fabric is nicer than ever-popular eBags), and the price is hard to beat ($7 less than eBags!). And as a bonus, the Go Cube It has a 4-inch depth; whereas most of the packing cube sets that I reviewed have depths of about 3". This is important if you want to cram more items into your suitcase!

Eagle Creek

I really like the fabric of this cube set. It's nylon like all of the other cubes, but it feels like canvas. It's very thick and sturdy and keeps its shape really well. This is also the only set that I found whose mesh is the same color as the bag fabric. This obviously doesn't effect its performance, but it's a nice design touch (the bags are available in four colors). The big negative with this set is that the sizes are significantly smaller than all of the other sets that I reviewed. The large bag of this set is comparable in size to the medium bags in all other sets. Eagle Creek does offer a set of packing cubes (called the "Pack-It Starter Kit") which contains a packing "folder" which has similar dimension to the size "large" of some of the other packing sets; however this set is currently $43.99 at amazon.com! 


That's just too expensive! Plus, I'm not a huge fan of the whole "folder" concept. Because everything has to be folded to the dimensions of the folder, and then you fold in the sides, top and bottom and velcro the whole thing closed, you don't have the flexibility to stuff in a few smaller items that didn't fit elsewhere as you would with zippered packing cubes. But I digress. Despite the size/price issue, the Eagle Creek packing cubes do seem to be very well made.















Trek Ready Packing Cubes



The Trek Ready cubes were my least favorite. They come as a 3-piece set, are well-priced, and come in 4 color options; however the quality of the fabric was not as nice as the other cubes. They're made of a nylon fabric like all of the other cubes; however the weave of the fabric seemed a lot more loose, and it had a kind of "plasticy" quality. It also comes with an off-brand (not YKK) zipper.

eBags



These have GOT to be the most popular packing cubes on the web - and for good reason! They're well made with sturdy nylon fabric and high-quality YKK zippers, and they come in about a zillion colors! Well, ok, 10 colors in reality (see photo above), which is at least twice as many as most companies offer. Other than being slightly more expensive than some other cube sets, there's really nothing bad to say about these babies. Plus, the company also offers individual or sets of their "Slim Packing Cubes" - these are great and versatile cubes for rolling up smaller things like tube socks, boxers, tank tops, or even for packing random items like charging cables or snacks. So if you don't mind paying more for extra sizes, this is a wonderful brand.

Pro Packing Cubes
I really like the Pro Packing Cubes, but they fabric is very different than the others. While it's also nylon, it's a very thin rip-stop nylon. Nylon is a very strong material, but I would imagine that after repeated use, these cubes may wear out faster than other cubes with thicker fabric. For some people, the thin fabric will be a pro because it makes the cubes much lighter, and will theoretically take up less space in your suitcase. To others, it's going to be a con because they don't keep their shape as well when you're packing (or if you've stuffed them really full). So your take on fabric is really going to be a matter of personal preference. As far as construction, they are very well made and include high quality YKK zippers.

The Pro Packing Cubes come in five attractive colors, but the biggest pro for me is going to be that it's a 4-piece set. The three largest cubes are comparable in size to most of the other sets that I reviewed, but the 4th cube is a smaller organizer cube and I LOVE the size! It's the perfect size for rolling up panties, sock, swim suits, or for random things like keeping snacks in your back pack, or charging cables, batteries, etc. 

Shacke Pak


The Shacke Pak is one of my top picks. It comes as a 4-piece set, plus a dirty laundry bag, and is currently the SAME PRICE as the eBags 3-piece set! Yes folks, I'm a sucker for a good value. Plus, the fabric is outstanding. It's nylon as are all the other cube sets, but unlike most that are a medium-weight diamond nylon, the Shacke Pak uses a very thick, tightly woven, slick, sturdy fabric. It's probably the thickest fabric of all the cubes that I reviewed. The one and only negative to be said about the Shacke Pak is that it only comes in the one color! If they had more color options, it would blow the other cubes out of the water. And they wouldn't even have to change the main fabric - if only they offered sets with trims other than blue, that would be awesome. Hopefully they'll offer more color choices in the near future! <crossing fingers> Unlike the Pro Packing Cubes, whose 4th cube is smaller than the typical three sizes, the Shacke Pak's 4th cube is an in-between size. To clarify, Shacke Pak's XL bag is comparable to eBags Large bag; Shacke Pak's Medium is comparable to eBags Medium; and Shacke Pak's Small is comparale to eBags Small. So Shacke Pak's "Large" is a size in between the eBags Large and Medium (maybe they should call it a "Largium?" Or a "Mediarge?" Just a thought....). I'm not sure how I feel about the 4th cube being sized between a large and a medium. My first instinct is to wish that they offered a smaller cube like Pro Packing Cube's smallest cube, as I think that's a great little organizing tool and very versatile. But who knows. Maybe once I'm all packed up and ready for our trip, I'll have a different tune to sing. We'll see.

So what did I deduce from my research? Pretty much that it's hard to go wrong. As long as you select cubes that have been well received (LOVE amazon customer reviews), you'll likely have zero complaints. So which did I end up with...?


Pro Packing Cubes AND Shacke Pak!

Yes, I couldn't pass up the outstanding VALUE and QUALITY of the Shacke Pak, but I also really wanted to get a pink set for my daughter. That still means we need a third set, as we are a family of 3; but I haven't decided on that one yet! It'll likely end up being another Pro Packing cube set or a set of eBags (and possibly a set of eBags slim packing cubes).

Hopefully this helps with your own shopping experience! Happy Travels!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

★ Star-Spangled Hairstyle ★

Rock the ULTIMATE 4th of July Hairstyle this year!

Ok, ok so maybe it's not THE ultimate 4th of July hairstyle, but it's pretty and unique (if I do say so myself, lol). So as you guys probably know, there are some pretty cool 4th of July hairstyle tutorials out there already. One of the most popular ones is where you make a series of braids into a star shape (see picture below of my daughter last year. Sorry, that's the best picture I could find!).

In any case, I wanted to do something a little different this year, and I think I've accomplished just that. I wasn't sure that it would be obvious enough that these were stars, but after doing a test run, I called my husband in and asked, "What do you see?" Without hesitation, he immediately said "Stars." So if HE can see that they're stars, I figure anyone can, lol.
So this is a pretty simple hairstyle. To start off, pull the hair back into three little ponytails at the top of the head. Then for each ponytail, you're going to tie it off with elastics. After you tie each elastic, you're going to start pulling/tugging the hair on one side in order to form a "lump." Make sure you're just tugging out a little bit of hair at a time so that the lump is nice and even. Before you continue, comb the hair out once again (it usually gets a little messed up from having tugged out the hair). Repeat this process until you have five lumps - these will be the 'points' of your star.


You should end up with something that looks like this:


Repeat this process with the other two ponytails.
The next step is pretty intuitive. Simply wrap the hair into a star shape, and secure with bobby pins. I like to use the short bobby pins, as opposed to the regular ones (I found the little ones at Target). Repeat for the other two stars.


Make sure the rest of the hair is pleasantly coiffed, and you're good to go!
If you'd like a more detailed tutorial, please check out my YouTube tutorial at the end of this post. :)



Please let me know what you think of this one, and don't forget to add me to your Google Circles so you won't miss any more fun hairstyles or crafts.

For my video tutorial, click here: ★Star-Spangled Hairstyle★ or below:

 

Thanks for stopping by!

Lali
 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

★ Independence Day Parfait ★


Parfait! Yay!
The other day I was thinking about "Strawberry Delicious." It's this delicious dessert that my mom has been making for years and years (I think she originally got it from a friend; though after a certain number of decades, recipes become "family recipes" by default!). Anyhow, it's made in one of those big Pyrex casserole dishes that everyone and their grandmother owns; and it's basically one layer of custardy, angel-food-cakey goodness, covered by a layer of strawberries in Jello-O. Everyone loves it, and it's definitely a very summery dish! But this year, I thought it might be fun to see if I could tweak the recipe just enough to make it into a 4th of July dessert; and it turned out... AWESOME! Hopefully you guys enjoy it as much as my family and I do. :)

Ingredients:
  • 1 Large Box or 2 Small Boxes Berry Blue Jell-O
  • About 3/4 C. Frozen Blueberries (optional)
  • 1 Small Box White Chocolate Pudding Mix
  • 1 Quart Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
  • 1 Small Loaf Angel Food Cake
  • 1 C. Milk (2% or regular)
  • 1 Large Box or 2 Small Boxes Strawberry Jell-O
  • 2 C. Frozen Chopped Strawberries (may freeze fresh chopped strawberries, or buy frozen strawberries)
  • 4th of July Twizzlers Pull and Peel Candy (optional)
[Note: this recipe will make eight 12-oz. tumblers]



1. Dissolve Berry Blue Jell-O in 2 C. boiling water.
2. Add enough ice to 1/2 C. water to make 1 Cup. Stir into Jell-O until ice has melted.
3. Pour Jell-O mixture into tumblers. Add blueberries to suit taste. [Note: the blue layer will be a darker blue if you opt to add blueberries. The parfait shown in the photo above did not have blueberries. ...They're awesome either way!]
4. Chill for 1 hour.
5. While the blue layer is chilling, prepare the angel food. Slice off the outside layer (we want the middle layer as white as possible, so you want to remove the brown parts). Cut angel food cake into small cubes.
6. In a medium bowl, blend together Ice Cream, Milk, and Pudding Mix.
7. To add the second layer, alternately add pudding mix and angel food cake cubes to the tumblers. I like to make the custard layer a little larger than the Jell-O layers! Chill for 1 hour.
8. Dissolve Strawberry Jell-O in 2 C. boiling water.
9. Stir in frozen strawberries.
10. Add strawberry layer to tumblers, and chill for 1 hour.
11. (Optional) Cut Twizzlers in half, and curl the ends to make a "Firework" garnish. Stick into your parfait and enjoy!

To download FREE 4x6 recipe cards, click here: Independence Day Parfait.

For a video how-to, please click HERE or below to see my YouTube tutorial:



Have a FUN, FABULOUS, FANTASTIC
4th of July!

Lali


Saturday, May 24, 2014

Ladder French Braid {Tutorial}



I've got another cute girls' hairstyle tutorial for y'all today! And this one is actually pretty quick to do! I call it a Ladder French Braid... because it looks like a ladder... but you use a french braid technique... Ingenious naming technique, huh? (I know it's hard to tell, but that was me being sarcastic ).

Aaaaaanyway, on to the tutorial.

To start off, part the hair into two working sections (the third part is the hair that will just stay loose). Each of these two sections goes from the center part down to the ear. For each of these two sections, you will start a basic 3-strand braid. The only difference is that every time you cross your inside strand (and what I mean by "inside strand" is the strand that's closest to the middle of the head), you will first section off a very small section of hair and leave it out of your braid. In other words, when I'm doing the right braid, every time I cross my left strand over the middle strand, I will first separate a tiny amount of hair before continuing the braid. The same is true for when you do the braid on the left side of the head, only you will section off hair from the right strand. It looks like this:


When you've finished, secure these braids with temporary elastics. You should now have two braids with loose strands coming out of them like this:


The next step is to do a basic french braid utilizing these loose strands. Take two strands from one side of the head and one strand from the other, and start a basic 3-strand braid. Continue your braid, adding in sections alternately from either side of the head. 


Secure with an elastic, and you should be left with a super-cool looking ladder french braid!


For a much more detailed explanation, please check out my video tutorial on YouTube here: Ladder French Braid


Thanks for stopping by!
♥ Lali ♥
 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Fabric Bauble Necklaces / Fabric Knot Necklaces {Tutorial}


The other day while I was flipping through a few of the many children's clothing catalogs that I receive regularly, I noticed that these fabric bauble necklaces kept popping up all over the place! They were in the summer issues of Tea and Garnet Hill Kids, and I also remember buying one for my daughter maybe a year or two ago from Gymboree. I thought it was kind of funny, since this was one of the first tutorials I thought about doing when I first started toying around with the idea of creating a blog and YouTube channel. Well, their apparent popularity was just the impetus I needed to get off my derriere and actually do this tutorial! (And apologies for not posting more often. I've been very busy lately...!)

Anyhoo, I love these necklaces because they make such great, unique, personalized, and most importantly, inexpensive gifts! If you have a grade-school age child, you know that you get invited to a LOT of birthday parties, so this is a great birthday present idea for little girls. You can even make some matching hair clips or rings to go along with the necklace! But what I love about these necklaces is that you can make them to suit your own personality. You can do sweet pastels for a little girl, bright fun colors and prints for someone a little spunkier, or even more mature fabrics/ colors/ prints for someone a little older. For this tutorial I created two versions: a sewn version (pictured above), and a knotted version:



To make these necklaces, you will need:

  • Long strips of fabric. You can use a variety of fabrics, but I wouldn't use anything too thick! (especially with the knot necklaces). I recommend woven fabrics for the sewn version, and knits for the knotted version
  • Wooden spheres or beads. I wasn't able to find a great variety of sizes (which would've been handy to make a necklace where the spheres taper down from large to small), but I did find some packages of 3/4" and 1" spheres at Hobby Lobby.
  • Embroidery Thread
  • Jewelry Hardware (optional): 30 mm Lobster clasps and 12 mm Split Rings
Step 1:
Figure out how wide your fabric needs to be. This will be the circumference of your sphere (which you can figure out by remembering a little math you learned back in High School: C = 2πR), plus your seam allowance. The length of your necklace is up to you. Just keep in mind that making knots does take up a lot of your length. For example, I had a strip of woven cotton fabric left over from an old project that was the width of the bolt (44"), and after adding only six spheres (plus knots), the resulting necklace was just barely long enough to knot at the back of my neck. For this reason, I prefer using knits for the knotted version. Not only are the bolts usually wider (the knit necklaces pictured in this post were from bolts of fabric that were 60" wide, so I just bought 1/8 of a yard, and the width (60") served as the length of my necklace), but since the fabric is stretchy, you can also pull the knots nice and tight and get a lot more length out of your necklace than you would out of a woven fabric.

Step 2:
Fold your fabric strip lengthwise, right-sides together. Snip off a triangle at each end so that the ends of your necklace will be tapered, and then sew up your fabric, leaving two openings about two inches from each end (the openings need to be large enough to flip your fabric as well as insert your beads.

Step 3:
Trim seam allowance everywhere except where you left the two openings.

Step 4:
Flip fabric right-side out.

Step 5:
Start inserting spheres. Start with your center sphere. For the knotted version, you will then add knots to either side of the center sphere, and then continue adding spheres and making knots until you are happy with the length of your necklace. For the sewn version, simply do a running stitch around the perimeter of the fabric tube alongside the bead, and then pull to gather the fabric. Secure with a couple knots, and then continue this process.

Step 6 (Optional)
Adorn your necklaces with rosettes (click here to learn how to make them), or cute little bows. I used the thin little strips of fabric left over from when I trimmed my seam allowance to make the bows - talk about using every last remnant! :)

Step 7 (Optional):
Add jewelry hardware by simply threading one end of the necklace through the loop of the lobster clasp, and the other end through a split ring. Fold fabric over and sew together with a back-stitch. Jewelry hardware is handy for the shorter necklaces, but definitely unnecessary for the longer ones, as you can simply tie the fabric into a bow at the back of your neck. Additionally, it's actually handier not to add jewelry hardware to the longer necklaces, because then you can wear the necklace at different lengths when you want to!  

That's it! Below are a few more examples. The outer two necklaces are woven cottons, and the center necklace is a knit. 




For a more detailed instructions, please check out my video tutorial here: DIY Fabric Bauble Necklace


Thanks for stopping by!

Lali

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

✿ The "Daisy-Do" ✿ {Hairsyle Tutorial}


 Spring is in the Air
And there are Flowers Everywhere
...Even in your Hair!
<giggle giggle, snort>

Ok, not to toot my own horn or anything, but how gosh-diddly-darn cute is this hairstyle? Uh oh... I'd better make sure my six-year-old doesn't read this blog. She'd accuse me of bragging. Which, if you're in the first grade, is a HUGE no-no. We'll I'm just going to assume that she's not amongst my subscribers and say that this is a happy, joyous, Springy hairdo that would be perfect for Easter, Spring Formal/Prom, Flower Girls, Bridesmaids (Ooh! Now THAT would be a great photo op - all your bridesmaids lined up with a more formal up-do version, where the daisy is sitting more on the side of the head! Man... makes me want to get married again, lol). Or even if you don't have a special occasion, just rock it on a Tuesday. Oh, and BTW, doesn't this hairstyle look like something Katy Perry would rock??

Ok, to rock your own "Daisy-Do," you'll need:
  • Five Chenille Stems (aka: Pipe Cleaners) in a color that matches your hair
  • Bobby Pins
  • A center gem. To make your own, just pick up a gem (or a box of them) at your local craft store, cut out a circle of felt the size of the gem, snip a hole in it, stick a bobby pin through it, and hot glue the felt/bobby pin to the back of the gem. Please check out my video tutorial here if that wasn't clear enough.
 
 
Step 1:
Pull the hair back into a high pony tail.

Step 2:
Separate the hair into five equal strands. Use clips to hold four of the strands out of the way while you assemble your first petal.
 
Step 3: 
Insert a chenille stem into the hair elastic. Decide how large you want each petal to be, and wrap the ends of the chenille stem around each other to form a loop. If your hair is shorter, you may want to cut the chenille stem down beforehand to make smaller petals; ergo a smaller flower.
Step 4:
Separate your first section of hair into two equal strands, and start wrapping the two sections around the pipe cleaner (in the same direction). Continue until you have wrapped almost down to the other side of the loop, then join your two strands of hair and continue wrapping as far as you can. Secure the remainder of the hair with bobby pins down by the base of the ponytail.

 
Step 5:
Create four more petals with the remaining pipe cleaners and strands of hair.

Step 6:
Use bobby pins to secure any loose hair.
 
Step 7:
To position the petals, use a bobby pin to secure each petal to it's neighboring petal. To do this, you will put one end of a bobby pin into each petal. This not only holds the petals next to one another, it also helps hold the daisy up.
 
Step 8:
Add the gem to the center of the flower



Step 9:
Go out, and prepare to receive a plethora of "oohs" and "aaahs!"
 
Check out my video tutorial HERE
 
And please leave me some comments letting me know what occasion you've chosen for rocking your own "Daisy-Do."
 
Lali  
 

Friday, March 28, 2014

✿ Fabric Rosette Tutorial ✿

"Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy!"
So you know when you're doing a sewing project, and you end up with a spare strip of fabric? And you can't think of how this could be possibly useful, but you just can't bring yourself to part with it? Well wonder no more; grab your glue gun; and whip up some Fabric Rosettes!


These rosettes can be used for a plethora of sewing and/or crafting projects (I'm thinking wreaths, decorative storage boxes, jewelry, flip-flop accessories, etc., etc.). But for today, I'm just going to show you how you can spice up a bland outfit with some pins and hair clips.



Materials:
•Strips of fabric. You can pretty much make any size rosette, but the length should be pretty long compared to the width. The length will determine the diameter of the rosette, and the width will determine how chunky each round is.
•Hair clip backs and pin backs
•Felt (in a color to match fabric)
•Hot Glue Gun


Step 1
Depending on how wide your fabric is, fold it lengthwise either in half or into thirds. For these yellow rosettes, I really wanted to have the frayed edges showing (I love that shabby-chic look! Gives it more character, methinks). But if you want a cleaner looking rosette, just fold your ends into the middle, then fold in half, so that the frayed edges are neatly tucked away.

Step 2
Twist and wrap. Yep. That's pretty much it. You're going to hold the end of the strip with one hand, and start twisting it with the other, then start wrapping it up to form a rosette (please view my video tutorial here if you're having trouble picturing this!: Fabric Rosette Tutorial)


Step 3
Before you get to the end of the rosette, flip it upside down and apply a generous amount of hot glue to the bottom of the rosette. Then use the last little bit of fabric to glue it in place.


Step 4
Flip it right-side up and check to see if any of the rounds are loose. If so, just open up the rounds, and squirt a little hot glue inside (being careful not to get any on top of your rosette where it would show).

And you are d-o-n-e DONE!

To transform these rosettes into awesome accessories, simply add some felt and your pins/hair clips to the back. As you can see, I like to make it nice and tidy (even though no one is going to see the back!) So for example, on the hair clip, I first hot-glued the top portion of the hair clip to the rosette, then glued a circle of felt to cover it (making sure not to accidentally close the clip before I got the felt glued on!)


Enjoy, and please let me know what kinds of projects you're planning on doing with your rosettes! Happy Crafting!

Click here to view my [much more in-depth!] video tutorial on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQICmapHBVQ&list=UU_Lj3TOJzoYh4l5clvQT-Yg