DIY String Art: State with Heart

I recently upped my game in home decor – I figure it’s time to fill my bare apartment walls with something cozy. String art came to mind immediately, as it is both easy to make, and looks very impressive.

String art can have many looks – it can be rustic, glamorous, colorful, or minimalist. The best part is that you can’t really go wrong while making it. There are many different materials that can work for this. Choose between thicker yarn or thinner strings, wooden or cork board background, small nails or large thumb tacks. It doesn’t really matter what exact materials you use, as long as you like the way they look.

Another great part about string art is that it can be anything – and it can be personal. I decided to make the outline of New York State with a heart in the city I have many fond memories of (Rochester).

string art new york state

String art works well with any geographic outlines, as long as they’re recognizable.

String art is also pleasantly cheap. The materials cost me less than $20 and now I have a unique piece of “art” that never fails to impress my guests.

Here is how I made my New York state string art.


  1. The board. I used a plain black  24in x 18in mounting board (it’s kind of like Styrofoam on the inside), but you can use whatever you like. Wood works really well (and gives it that nice rustic look), so do cork boards. Basically, any surface that would hold nails or tacks in place.
  2. The string. I used a medium thickness roll of yarn in an off-white color. It was about 300 yards, and I still had some left over. Any string/yarn would work, but I don’t recommend going too thin as that can easily tear.
  3. State outline. I simply Googled “new york state outline” and downloaded the first image I found.
  4. The nails/tacks. You will need to place these around the outline of your state. I actually used flat earring posts (3 packs)! I couldn’t find any nails or tacks in the right size/color, so the earrings worked well in that regard. But basically anything with a pointy end and a flat top would work. It needs to be long enough to pierce your board, stay in it, and hold the string wrapped around it.
  5. Super glue. Just in case. Depending on your materials, some nails might need a drop of glue to ensure they don’t fall out of the board once the string is wrapped around them.
  6. Hammer (optional). A hammer would be necessary if your board is made of wood. If you’re using cork board or any other softer board, you will be fine without the hammer.

State String Art Instructions

  1. Find your state outline online and download the image. Blow it up using Photoshop, Preview, or any image editing software. Make it a few inches smaller than your board: e.g. my board was 24×18, so I increased the size of the map image to about 20×16.
  2. Print it out in actual size, it will probably take up several pieces of printer paper. Tape the sheets together (don’t worry about precision, it’s not super important) and then cut out the state shape along the outline.
  3. Figure out the location of where you want your heart to go. Typically, this would be a meaningful city or region in your state. Use a heart stencil or draw a heart in that area. I printed out a heart I found on Google and outlined it because I’m terrible at drawing hearts!
  4. Carefully cut out the heart from your state stencil.
  5. Place the state stencil on your board and center it. Start placing your nails/tacks around the outline (use the hammer if you’re using a wooden board). Try to keep them at an even distance from each other. They should come out at least 1/4 inch from the board. Do the same for the inside of the heart.
  6. Carefully remove the paper stencil. You should be left with a perfect outline of your state with a heart outline made out of nails.
  7. Check to see if your nails are sturdy. If they’re easy to pull out, as was the case with my board, you might want to dab a drop of super glue at the base of each one. You wouldn’t want them falling out once you’ve wrapped the string around them! string art nail glue.jpg
  8. Begin wrapping the string. Tie it around one of the nails in the heart to secure it, and then wrap it around each of the “outside” nails, returning to the “heart” nails between each “outside” nail. I used this helpful Youtube video as a guide.string art state heart.jpg
  9. Once you’ve gone around the entire outline, secure the string by tying a discreet knot around one of the “heart” nails. Cut off any visible loose ends. You’re done!
  10. Hang it up and enjoy your new work of art!

Project Balcony Garden: Preparation

project balcony garden

A big part of budgeting for me is finding ways to cut down on food, since it’s one of the only variable costs I have.. everything else is out of my control, like monthly bills and rent. I always make sure to plan my grocery trips ahead and make sure I stay on budget.

Now that the weather is getting a little bit nicer and I have so much free time now (I just graduated college! :)) I decided to cut my costs even further by starting my very own balcony garden! Many people believe that apartment living makes it impossible to have a garden, especially one that produces organic delicious edibles. But I have been doing a lot of research and found that to be far from truth.

So, starting this week I will be working on my balcony garden, and will record my progress and any tips here. Let’s start with preparation, because without the necessary preliminary work, you will find yourself at Home Depot with absolutely no plan, and might end up spending money on the wrong thing.

Disclaimer: I am definitely a gardening newbie and still learning as I go. My advice will hopefully be helpful for other beginners looking for simple ways to pick up some gardening in their free time (and small space). If you are a gardening expert – your input is always welcome in the comments 🙂

Identify Your Environment

The first step is to figure out the environment you live in, such as the climate and the direction your balcony faces.

In order to figure out what type of herbs, flowers, and vegetables you can grow in your area, I suggest going to this website and searching by your zip code. You will be provided the “Plant Hardiness Zone” for your area. Knowing which zone you live in can help you figure out what plants can survive well in that climate.

Find out what hardiness zone you live in before you select your plants

Find out what hardiness zone you live in before you select your plants

Then, take note of what direction your balcony or patio is facing to determine the amount of sunlight your future garden will receive. If it’s facing south – you lucked out, since most herbs and veggies call for 8 or more hours of sunlight a day. However, if your balcony gets less sunlight than that – don’t fret, as there are plenty of plants that thrive in partial sun and even in mostly shady regions.

Pick Your Plants

Here is the fun part! Now that you know what type of plants you can accommodate, start making a list of those you absolutely need. For my purposes, I wanted a lot of edibles (to cut down supermarket costs), some medicinal herbs, and a couple different flowers to keep my balcony looking lush and pretty.

To give you an example, I live in the 6th Hardiness Zone, and my balcony gets partial sun (3-6 hrs a day). Here are the plants I want to start with:


  • Chives: I use them often for their oniony flavor. They are hardy in zones 3-10, and don’t require a lot of space.
  • Lavender: It’s gorgeous, and I use it for brewing relaxing and mood elevating teas. Lavender is hardy in zones 5-10.
  • Parsley: Russian cooking calls for a lot of parsley, so I’m going to need it. Hardy in zones 3-9.
  • Sage: Great for seasoning poultry and for air freshening. Hardy in zones 4-10 (although it can grow in all of them).
  • Garlic: Also grows just about anywhere, and there’s always demand for it.


  • Onions: I use them all the time, and growing them is super easy. Easily grow in most environments, but require deep planters.
  • Potatoes: easy to grow, delicious when not store bought. However, require a deep large pot. Grow in most areas.
  • Tomato: because they are delicious when freshly harvested, used for many foods, and can grow hanging upside down!
  • Carrots: why not? I will need a special variety that grows better in pots – this means shorter, wider and rounder types of carrots, such as Thumbelina, Parisienne, and Danvers Half Long.


  • Petunias: pretty flowers for a balcony rail planter. Grow well in zones 4-8.


  • Vinca: cute little flowers that easily grow in most regions, hardy zones 2-11, and come in a variety of colors such as pink, red, white, and blue.


  • Oxalis (shamrocks): bloom all summer in small clover-shaped flowers of shades ranging between silver and purple. Hardy in zones 6 -11, and can keep growing all winter if you take them inside.
Purple Leaf Oxalis

Purple Leaf Oxalis

Pick Your Pots

Now that you have your plants chosen, you need to plan for the platers and pots for them. This is where you can get creative. Remember, not all pots need to come from the store, in fact you may have some lying around the house! Anything can work: old baskets, buckets, tubs, plastic containers, I’ve even seen herb planters made out of an old tea set! This is a great opportunity to up-cycle and design a truly unique look for your balcony garden!

Up-cycle other containers to use for planters

Up-cycle other containers to use for planters

Remember to make sure there are sufficient holes in the bottom of your chosen container to make sure the water can drain, otherwise your plants won’t like it.

Most importantly, do your research and find out how much space each plant needs. Then you can think about how many planters you can make out of existing materials and what you still need to purchase. Also keep in mind how much space you have on your balcony/patio. For smaller spaces, there are many great ways to use vertical space either by hanging planters or putting up shelves.

Here are some general guidelines for some of the plants I’ve chosen:

  • Herbs typically require the least amount of space and can be planted in 5-8in. terra cotta pots, mason jars, baskets, and even up-cycled soup cans (don’t forget those drain holes!)
Herbs need the least amount of space

Herbs need the least amount of space

  • You can also buy a large pot (16 in. or more) and plant your herbs together. Just make sure all your herbs require similar soil and watering schedule if they will be sharing a pot.
Let your herbs share a pot!

Let your herbs share a pot!

  • Onions require a pot that’s at least 10 in. deep. The width will depend on the number of onions you plan on planting. Terra cotta, plastic, wood, metal, and barrel planters work best.
  • Potatoes will need the biggest pot of all. They will grow in any large container – a clean garbage can, a bucket, a giant pot. Make sure it is at least 2 ft. deep.
  • Tomatoes also usually need a large pot, however I am going to try growing those upside down to leave some room on my balcony. Hanging tomatoes requires either a 5 gallon bucket or a 2-liter plastic soda bottle, and I will soon post a tutorial here (if you don’t want to wait – check out YouTube for some amazing tutorials for upside-down tomato growing!).
Save space by hanging your tomato plant

Save space by hanging your tomato plant

  • Carrots, the types that grow best in pots, will need at least a foot deep container.
  • Flowers are the most versatile, but I plan on planting them in those rectangular boxes that I will hang along my balcony rail.

flower box

Pick Your Soil

Most of your container plants will thrive best in potting soil. Potting soil is different from garden soil. It contains more nutrients, and has a texture that prevents water from suffocating the plant. If you’re growing edibles, like me, I would suggest using organic soil, which can be found at your local home improvement store, nursery, or even Walmart’s garden center.

What about fertilizer? Well, some people suggest using it, others say “don’t”. Since I am a beginner, I can use all the help I can get, so I will opt for the slow-release organic fertilizer pellets. There is also liquid fertilizer that can be mixed in with the water you use to water your plants. In addition, you can use compost.

So There You Have It!

Stay tuned for my detailed step-by-step instructions on how to actually plant all these herbs, vegetables, and flowers! I hope this helps you get an idea of what will go into your balcony garden project. As you can see it’s not that much work, just read up on it and talk to the sales associates at your garden center.

And one final tip: hold on to the plant tags you get when you purchase your plats/seeds/seedlings (in my next post I will get into which method works best for which plants), because those tags have all the care information you will need throughout your plant’s life!

Charming Charlie scams you to buy unwanted magazines

not so charming charlie

As if being a broke college student isn’t enough – now you constantly have to be on the lookout for scams, unauthorized transactions, and small chunks of money gradually leaking out of your account. With the recent Heartbleed bug uncovering, we are all learning a valuable lesson: check your bank statement. Check it every day or as often as you need to, as long as you can tie every transaction to a living memory of you making the purchase.

Today, however, I am not going to talk about Heartbleed or online security problems. Today I want to talk about a bold-faced lie that a sales associate of Charming Charlie thought she could pull off. The girl offered me “two absolutely free copies of Lucky and Glamour magazine” at the register to which, of course, I said yes. If something is free, I’ll take it.
This isn’t the first time something free turned out to be a scam, so maybe there’s another lesson in here that I need to learn.
Anyways, I went on with my life, got my two free copies in the mail. The magazines were awful – no content whatsoever, just page after page of ads. Thanks, but no thanks, I will keep reading my Cosmo.
In light of the Heartbleed incident I went to check my bank statement to make sure none of my credit card information has been compromised and used without my knowledge. What do you think I discovered? Charges for Lucky and Glamour yearly subscriptions. I freaked out at first because I never gave them my credit card information. How could they have gotten it?
Then I did some research and found out that there are many people out there who were in the same boat – a Charming Charlie sales associate offered them free copies, said nothing about a paid subscription, and then passed their credit card information along to the magazine distributor. If you ask me, that’s absolutely outrageous and probably illegal. And the worst part – if I hadn’t looked in my bank statement, I probably wouldn’t have noticed the $30 charge.
Now, I got the issue resolved by calling the magazine customer service and requesting to cancel my order (and refunding my money). They weren’t surprised at all, it seems like they get these calls every day. The customer service rep confirmed that my credit card information came from Charming Charlie.
That’s when I called Charming Charlie to understand how something like this could happen and whose fault it was. The customer service rep at CC apologized profusely and explained that the sales associates were instructed to offer a discounted subscription to Lucky and Glamour, as well as two extra free issues to their customers. He said that the sales associate must’ve accidentally left out the part about a paid subscription in my case. Um, that’s kind of an important part to leave out. How can you charge me for something that I am not even made aware of?

So, Charming Charlie just lost a very important customer (I love sparkly things!) and I will do my best to warn my friends about the unethical tactics of CC’s sales associates. Not so charming anymore, are they?

What to do if you were scammed at Charming Charlie:

  1. Make sure you recently shopped at CC and that your bank statement shows a charge to CNP Lucky Mag and CNP Glamour Mag
  2. Call Lucky Magazine customer service and request to cancel your order for Lucky mag and Glamour. Explain that you never authorized this transaction. They’re used to it by now. Number to call: 1-800-777-4058
  3. Call Charming Charlie and file a complaint. Make sure to tell them you were never informed of the subscription or the cost associated with it. Number to call: 888-675-2275

52 Week Money Saving Challenge

one year saving

Definitely doing it.

This is a really cool savings plan I found on this wonderful blog and figured it’s perfect for someone like me – someone who could use that extra $ 1,378. By adding a dollar to your savings amount each week, the most you will need to put away in a week is $52! Pretty simple to do, if you ask me. If my man follows the same schedule we’ll have double that. I’ll update you on how that goes and on any other awesome budgeting tricks I can find!