Category: How To

How to: Photobook DVD Insert

So now that Christmas has finally passed I can finally blog about all the fun crafty gifts I made for the fam! First up, our wedding photobooks! They turned out simply fabulous. We used the book printing service offered by Apple through iPhoto. It’s a little more expensive than some of the other online photobook services, but we went through hundreds of photos to make these books and I can’t imagine dealing with that many photos through a web interface – having something on the desktop was just so much easier.


They turned out just lovely, printing quality was great. We also used iDVD to make a compilation DVD with the video from the ceremony, a slideshow version of the wedding photos and a fun compilation of the photos from our MacBook “photobooth”.

We needed a safe place to keep the DVD with the photobook so I inserted a DVD holder in the back of each book using the “backer boards” from our invitation, but any 5“ x 7” postcard or sturdy card stock could be used.


Card Stock or 5“ x 7” Postcards (1-2 for each book)
X-acto Knife and Straight Edge
Scratch Cleaning Pad or Sand Paper (optional)
Craft Glue (Sobo)
Stamp or Label

Cut the cards to 7“ x 5”

Score them at .5“ from the bottom and 1” from each side

Cut off the corners


If your cards are glossy use a clean scratch pad or sand paper to score surfaces that will be glued down to aid adherence.


Put a moderate amount of glue on the edges and place in the back of the book (or wherever you want the DVD insert to be.)


Close book, and stack under other heavy books. Leave overnight.


While books are drying, label your DVDs. I chose to use a stamp we had made for stamping our invitation
envelopes to add a flourish to the DVD.


After the glue has dried, insert DVD and you are done!


Wrap and then distribute for an amazing Christmas morning – your family will flip out. 🙂

DIY Sewable Electronics Round Up – Any Other Ideas?

I’m looking for some ideas for practical projects for wearable and interactive textiles. LilyPad is a company that, in combination with Sparkfun Electronics, has developed affordable round-edged circuit components meant to be used in clothing and textiles. They are even washable!!


(Photo from – one of the best sources for Lilypad projects I’ve found)

If you are interested in trying out this combo of high and low tech crafting, there is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get a jump start. Sparkfun Electronics is having a Free Day on Jan. 7, 2010! They are offering each household the opportunity to purchase $100 of free materials – just pay shipping! How amazing is that!

Using conductive thread and small, lightweight batteries, you can combine their different products to create amazing interactive pieces of clothing!

This is simple stuff that can be combined for awesome results! They have sensors that can detect changes in:

  • Light
  • Temperature
  • Movement and vibrations (accelerometer)

You can complete your circuit using:

  • Push button
  • Switch
  • Magnetic Snap

They interface with components that can give you:

  • Lights
  • Sounds
  • Vibrations

You can even program behavior into your circuit boards using a USB cable that links to your computer – WAY COOL!picture53.png
(Photo from

The best idea I’ve seen online so far is a jacket that lets bikers signal their turns with buttons on their sleeves:


You’ve got to check out this video – posted on and created by Lilypad founder Leah Buechley:

(Electronic Material components for this project on are $113 + $9 shipping to Chicago – but only $22 total if you get in on Free Day!)


Other cool projects I’ve found that use these types of electronics:

An adorable frog and firefly embroidery from Becky Stern:


Gloves that work with the iPhone with the use of conductive thread – (An tutorial for a DIY version here.)


A GORGEOUS Wind-sensitive electronic dress:


I’m not super interested in just making purses or jewelry with blinking lights – though this purse with a light inside is wicked cool:


I just know there are more awesome ways to utilize this technology in a way that will solve problems that I’m currently having (the conductive finger iPhone gloves are BRILLIANT).

I’ve got an idea for a purse that alerts you when your phone is vibrating inspired by a project in the book Fashioning Technology that you will hopefully see realized in a future blog post.

This stuff is only just becoming affordable so I know there are new uses that haven’t been thought of yet. Please let me know if you can think of any projects and I’ll attempt to prototype them!

How To Install a French Drain

Fearless Husband and I have been getting water in the basement ever since we bought the house. The problem seems to be that the dirt around our house is too high and when the ground gets saturated, especially in a fast, heavy rain, water will leak in above the foundation between the bricks. To alleviate some of the water pressure around the foundation we decided to install a french drain. Here is an illustration of a french drain I found online:


We started by digging a gently sloping trench that ran along our back wall then turned down towards the garden area. We hope this will take the water away from the house and towards our thirsty vegetables.


We then laid a thin layer of gravel and laid down a 25’, perforated, flexible pipe covered in a landscape netting “sock.” We covered this with about 4“-8“ of gravel.


At the end of the trench, we dug a 3’ hole for a make-shift cistern. Basically, it’s just a hole that gets down below the clay layer to better-draining soil.


We put some gravel at the bottom of hole to aid drainage, and flipped a 5-gallon bucket with a hole cut it in to keep the dirt from collapsing back into the hole.


We then attached the tubing to the bucket – the kind we got just snapped right in.


Then it was just a matter of filling in the trench with gravel:



We ended up using gravel we pulled out of the yard when we first moved in. That gravel had a lot of dirt mixed in with it, which would not work well for the drain, so we had to come up with a creative way to quickly get the gravel separated from the rest of the dirt…


We used the grated top of my garden cart to sift it out which worked surprisingly well!

After we laid down the gravel, we filled the dirt back into the beds. After leveling those out we covered with a mulch made of fallen leaves. This should both keep weeds down and get some nutrients back into the soil as the leaves breakdown over the winter.


The whole project only cost about $25, plus about 12 hours of labor. We’re going to see how this does over the winter with handling the snow melt-offs If we see an improvement in the basement water issues, we will be installing similar systems along the north and south walls of the house come Spring.

Zero-Spend Garden (ZSG): 40 sq. ft. for $7

It’s been a while since I’ve shared any progress with you, mostly because I’ve been rehearsing with the hilarious and talented ladies of Size Eight for our raucous performance at last Friday’s Milwaukee Comedy Festival. It was a great performance, but Saturday I was ready to jump back into working on the back yard!

So our latest ZSG project, which we’ve been working slowly but surely on for the last few weeks has been to:
1) Remove the dilapidated chain link fence from the alley side of the wood fence,
2) Remove the scraggly bush from the corner of the lot,
3) Replant the corner post and rearranging the fencing to maximize our yard space.

The red circle in the photo below shows the section of fence we wanted to move.

But the first step was to clean up the alley side of the fence…

Here are some “before” shots of the alley side taken prior to starting:

The ugly chain link fence…

It’s hard to tell from this picture, but the tree has actually grown through the fence…
We used our Sawzall to cut each of the 3 metal posts down as close to the dirt as possible and bought a chain cutter to clip the fence off of the tree. Before we were even half done with the project, some of the local metal collectors had hauled all the poles and chain-link away.

We then cut down, clipped up and bagged the bus​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​h from the corner of the lot…


Once the back was clear, it only took a moment to cut through the nails holding the fence to the posts with the Sawzall.

We set aside the fence pieces and got down to the hardest part of our project – digging up the pole.

Let me just say – that was not fun.

We hadn’t realized when we started the project that the pole was actually planted in cement. We thought we had dug down far enough to confirm it was only stuck in the ground. But we were wrong… so very wrong…

After about an hour of digging, grunting and expelling more than a few strings of expletives, we finally unearthed The Beast…

After some careful measuring, Jake and I took turns chiseling down the excess cement and digging the (significantly smaller) new hole for the corner post.



After we got the pole back in the ground, it was relatively easy to rehang the original fence pieces – though we did have to trim one down a bit.

So…. if you’ll remember here’s what it looked like BEFORE:

And now for the AFTER!

With this change we have gained approximately 40 sq. feet of additional yard space!

The back also looks much nicer:



Total investment: $7 for a chain cutter.
Total gain: 40 Sq. Ft. of yard & a chain cutter.
Summary: Best deal since the Louisiana Purchase.

Next steps: Kill the existing weeds, then till and regrade the yard, then… plant new grass seed!

We’re getting so close to actually having a real backyard, I can almost taste it!