How to make a (no sew) fabric covered recipe album or photo album - LOTS of photos

I can always tell when Autumn is 'right around the corner' because I get antsy to do crafts of some sort.  This morning I was 'antsy' again and thinking of what was something creative I could do.  The problem is that I hate knick-knacks, hate clutter, hate waste and useless things.  I'm practical to a fault so I need outlets for creativity that actually fill a need, accomplish something or I can use in some way and not just something that gathers dust.

One of the creative projects I do every so often is make a new recipe book.  Although I like to find recipes online, I find a read and comprehend things much better when they are physically in my hand.  I also hate the loss of information or the inability to access information if files are lost, computers break down, the power is out or any other thousands of reasons I like to have a print copy backup. 

This is one project I do often and last posted almost a year ago, so I thought 'what the heck' I'll post it again.  Lots of little short cuts and personalization you can do here as well as using some other products you might like better.  But the general idea is pretty easy, pretty affordable and turns out pretty nice!  With 3 'pretties' you can't go wrong.

How to make a (no sew) fabric covered recipe album or photo album - LOTS of photos

I didn't think I was going to blog this little project but as I got ready to start it I suddenly thought I should - just in case it helps someone else brainstorm a quick, easy and frugal 'gift' either for someone else or themselves.  I've been making these for years (seriously, I think I made my first around 16 years ago when I needed some affordable Christmas gifts for extended family members).  This makes a nice gift - especially if you include some much-loved recipes to pass along as well.  But to that end, you don't have to use it for recipes.  It's actually a photo album that holds regular 4X6" pictures so you can use it for that purpose as well!

All you need is:

1 (cheap) photo album that holds 4X6" photos
1 fat quarter cut of fabric of your choice
Adhesive spray (if you don't have this and can't buy it, just use white glue watered down, and a paint brush)
Optional:  piece of heavy, pretty paper or cardboard to line if you choose

The cost of photo albums has gone through the roof in the past 10 years so I like to pick up these at Walmart or even Dollar General if you can find them there.  The fabric is also available at Walmart - usually even if they don't have a fabric department, they sell these little squares of 'fat quarters' in the craft department (Fat quarters are approximately 18" x 22" or 46cm x 56cm).  This  is the perfect size for most photo albums of this style and you won't have to cut the pieces.  If you use your own random fabric or other style photo album, just lay your open photo album on the fabric and cut around it leaving about 3-4" fabric on the top and at least 8" on each side for folding over.

A photo album, fat quarter of fabric, scissors and some spray adhesive.

This isn't an 'exact' craft - which is why it goes so quickly.  You just want the fabric to be larger than your album so you have enough fabric around it to fold over the books cover.

Spray adhesive on the outside of the album - and I also like to spray more on the wrong side of the fabric - very lightly in the center, where the album will lay.  This is very sticky so it would be prudent to cover the area you are working in with cardboard to block excess spray, paper or an open flat box, an old sheet, etc. (something) so you don't get sticky spray anywhere you don't want it.

Carefully lay your album down and pull the fabric over the front, smoothing it as you go.  Now 'close' the album and carefully smooth the fabric over the back, getting out any folds or creases.  The spray allows you to pull off and re-position the fabric if you need to for a minute or so after applying it, before it dries.  Make sure you 'close' the album to make sure you have allowed enough fabric to cover and stretch lightly over the album in closed position.  Now, open it back up and lay it flat in front of you.

You can do the seams of the spine next OR the sides - it doesn't matter in what order you do.

For the seam lines of the spine:  On the top and bottom of the album there are two seams at the spine of the album.  Use scissors to cut two slices on the 'seam' lines up to the album.  You can trim the fabric off a little bit and then use adhesive on the fabric to secure and 'fold' it up right to the plastic 'pockets' inside the album.  This gives a nice finished look to this area of the recipe album.  Repeat on top and bottom of spine.

You can use any brand adhesive although this is the brand I typically have on hand at our house.  Use what you have.  If you don't have any and are on a super frugal budget for this, you can use white glue thinned with a bit of water and brush it on the photo album to secure the fabric.  You'll have to allow time to dry for this since there liquid involved.

For the sides, you are going to treat the album as if it were a gift you were wrapping.  Spray the adhesive on the fabric and fold it over the back cover; folding to the inside as if you were covering a school book or wrapping a present.

I like to fold down the corners as well but you don't have to.

Here you can see I've folded the fabric in on the sides, then folded in the corner and proceeded to fold down the top and fold up the bottom.  Secure with more glue or adhesive.

IF you don't like the look of the fabric folded in, you can take a piece of cardboard or heavy (pretty) stock paper and spray it and pop it right over the inside of the back and front of the album - covering the edges of the fabric and giving it a finished look if that is what you prefer.

You can now include a few hand written recipes on 4X6" standard lined index cards (about a dollar a pack at Walmart!) or just fill the slots with empty index cards for them to be filled in later with favorites of whomever you are giving it to.  I like to include 5-10 recipes to 'get them started' and fill the rest with blank cards they can use themselves.

Simple - quick and pretty
You can tie a ribbon around it for gift giving!!

Related products available through Amazon if you can't find them locally;

RayLineDo® 5X Different Pattern Paisley Style 100% Cotton Poplin Fabric Fat Quarter Bundle 46 x 56cm ( Appox 18" x 22") Patchwork Quilting Fabric
Pioneer Ledger Le Memo Album 4x6 (Colors May Vary) - Two Pack
3M Super 77 Multi-Purpose Adhesive, 4.37-Ounce


Activated Charcoal for Mascara? Homemade Mascara. Is it Worth It? Yes or No?

For the last five years or so I've played around with making my own homemade mascara whenever I had an 'empty' store bought mascara.  You make it with food grade, trusted activated charcoal.  (NOT the stuff you use in a grill to cook your burgers and make s'mores) and a base of some sort.

I always have activated charcoal powder on hand since I use it in homemade soaps, etc. but if you need to purchase it make sure it's from a trusted source.  I bought a package of it at a local health store for cheap but I also always have capsules on hand because we use CharcoCaps in our home for upset stomachs, gas and bloating.  If you have these on hand, just pop open a capsule or two instead of buying new.

The base.  Here lies the problem, if you will.

Finding a good 'base' to a homemade mascara is tricky. I also think what works for one person won't work for another because we all have different needs, wants, preferences and priorities.

When I was younger (teen and 20's) I could use any mascara.  Any brand, any amount, any style. I could cake it on day after day and never even bother to take it off other than my daily shower.  But towards the end of my 20's I noticed my eyes would start to water a bit when I wore mascara.  And as I got older and wore it less (not applying it when I was home full time, wouldn't 'see' anyone, was going natural that day) I noticed when I put it on for work, or events my eyes started to water even more.  Apparently either my body was starting to reject the chemicals in store bought mascara or they were making it 'more' chemically... or something.  I don't know.  I don't care.  I just know my eyes would water, I am constantly rubbing them and therefore; rubbing off or smearing the makeup.

And that is why about five years ago, I started to play around with making my own homemade versions.  And, they were 'hit and miss' depending on the base used.

There is no real recipe for it; it's just simply a mixture of a bit of activated charcoal powder (maybe 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon), 1-2 teaspoons of some sort of base to mix it into and apply it to your lashes.  And of course a container to put it in; which is easy if you are re-using an empty mascara container. Put it in the container using a frosting bag or snip the tip off a plastic baggy or just 'scoop' it in using your mascara wand and then clean the container rim of the excess.

Some bases I've either used myself or heard that others have used are;
coconut oil
shea butter
cocoa butter
moisturizing cream
vegetable glycerine 
bentonite clay

This powder is FINE. Expect it to be a bit messy - it's drifts everywhere!

Coconut Oil: I started with one version I was pretty sure would not work. And I was right.  Coconut oil.  Now, I love coconut oil and use it in many things, but it melts to liquid at 76 degrees so basically your own body heat is going to melt it instantly.  This causes smearing something fierce!  I knew a base of just coconut oil would do this but I tried it just to say I did.  And it smeared within seconds. Literally, seconds. And wiping it gently just smeared it worse.  I laughed, and used a moist towelette to remove it all. 

Water: I also decided to do the obvious even though I was pretty sure it wouldn't work either;  I simply used water and activated charcoal.  Water does not like to mix with the charcoal powder so you have to 'whip' it in.  And it's messy.  And doesn't really adhere to the lashes well.  

Bentonite Clay and Glycerine: A mixture of bentonite clay powder with some water to hydrate it and vegetable glycerine mixed in seemed like it was working fairly well but it smeared easily. (I had glycerine in my cupboard from my baking and frosting making so it was worth a shot.) One swipe and you've got smudges down your face.  Nope. Not going to work for me.

Dry: Before another attempt I decided to just try to use the activated charcoal powder alone and brush it on thinking it might adhere to my lashes... no.  But I had caused a great fine powdered black snowstorm upon my face and trying to wipe the dusting of fine black powder off my cheeks and nose resulted in a big black mess over my face and hands.  Fail.  I thought it would be, but I had to try, right?

The last version I tried was the one that worked the best for me.

I have some coconut oil face moisturizing cream in a jar that I don't actually like as a facial moisturizer so it sits ignored most of the time but have been trying to use it up as a body moisturizer on my legs sometimes.  I saw it on the bathroom shelf and knew I also had a mascara that was empty that I had 'cleaned' with some rubbing alcohol but was saving for another attempt at DIY mascara.

Mixing about 1 teaspoon of the moisturizing cream with about 1/3 teaspoon powder I applied it and was fairly happy with not only the consistency, but also the results.  Yes it still smears if directly rubbed but stayed on better than any other attempted base.  In the end it would acceptable if I wanted or needed to use a homemade mascara.

Coconut oil mixes great but melts at 76 degrees so it's an instant smear mess on your face - stabilize with melted beeswax

However my final thoughts (and HONEST thoughts) are this: 
1) I'd prefer to use a natural and healthy coconut oil base but it needs to be stabilized with melted beeswax or it's just not acceptable in the least on its own. The moisturizing cream worked well but isn't purely natural.
2) Honestly, the best mascaras for great coverage and less smears that I've tried, are store bought.  Plain and simple. Easier. Less messy. Works the same every time.  And you CAN find some with more natural ingredients now than you could even 5 years ago so there are more options on the market than when I first started to try making my own 'just for fun' and 'just to try it'.

Close up BEFORE AND AFTER photos... with the coconut oil moisturizing cream base. (This worked the best.)


Honestly I'm going to keep buying a nice mascara at the store - but I also am keeping my last trial (the coconut oil moisturizing cream version) for my 'emergency' stash mascara. It smears a bit easy but then again so do many store bought mascaras.  It's a nice back up just in case.

Products related to this post available to purchase through Amazon if you can't find them locally;

Charcocaps Anti-gas Dietary Supplement Formula 36 Capsules
Activated Charcoal Powder - Food Grade (1.2 oz glass jar)
Nature's Way Activated Charcoal, 100 Capsules  
NOW Solutions Glycerine Vegetable, 16-Ounce
Naturewell Extra Virgin Coconut Oil Moisturizing Cream, 16 oz



Finding a Pack-N-Play portable play yard or crib for the best price I could. I ended up with the DREAM ON ME ZODIAK brand.

Just another quick fly-by post here as I found a really good (great) deal on a 'pack n play' style play yard or sleeping area for the little ones.

If you recall, I did a review of the  Folding Portable Crib I bought for use when we had house guests with an infant coming to visit.  I do a TON of research before I buy things and I still absolute love that crib.  As a matter of fact, they stayed with us almost 2 months while getting ready to sign paper on their new house after their old house had already sold - and are using it again this upcoming week for another visit. 

But what this post is about is I was looking for a pack-n-play to have at the house for a couple reasons.  One is that little one is coming to visit this week and we had already planned to go camping (and had paid reservations) so we decided we are going to take the toddler and the baby with us.  That meant doing just a little more planning and organizing; one of which was a safe and secure area for the baby to sleep so we ALL can get some sleep.

When my 3 kids were tiny we had a Graco Pack N Play and I loved it.  It got so much use!  We used it everywhere for everything.  Not only traveling, sleeping at Grandmas etc. but I had it in the minivan and brought it out for the babies to sit and play in during Daddy's softball games, reunions, the beach, etc.

I already knew I loved them and it would come in handy - but they are also all made basically the same.  I needed to find one on my tight budget.

And I did.

This weekend I found the  Dream On Me Zodiak Portable Playyard which is the same brand as the folding portable crib I love so much (which is not as 'portable' as one of these.  The cribs are actually wooden cribs - just a smaller size than standard.  These are meant for travel, quick set up, folding down to a small size, etc.)

40 x 28 x 32 inches

The thing is - most of the time you are going to pay about $69.99 for one of these.  CHECK AMAZON.  You can use my links if you wish.  I found it on Amazon at the time of this posting for $39.99 and had 6 different patterns to choose from.  I also found 1 pattern available of the same play yard at Walmart for just $32.  DEALS ARE OUT THERE - you just have to look for them.

If you like any of the ideas on my page, please consider using my affiliate link to make any purchases you have planned through Amazon. (Even if it's something not related to this page). Thanks! Budget at Amazon


Sheets for the Dream On Me Folding Portable Crib - Mini Crib Sheets and Portable Crib Sheets are NOT STANDARD.

I have a quick "sheet" information ONLY post for my Dream on Me Folding Portable Crib post as I am amazed at the number of online reviews I read of people buying standard sized sheets for it and then complaining or leaving negative reviews that the sheets don't fit.

Why would a sheet made for a standard sized baby crib mattress fit a portable or mini sized crib mattress?  They are two different products.  So a quick fly-by "buy the correct sized sheets" post before I go on to use this particular post again for yet another 'new' post on a completely different topic.  :)

Here is what you need to remember and repeat to yourself - your crib is not 'standard' it's mini.  This means your mattress, pads, crib sheets and bedding all need to fit to the mini 38 X 24 size (or whatever the size of your particular brand and model of mini or portable crib is).

Many people replace the little thin 1" mattress pad that some cribs come with (some come with nothing) with a 3" mattress or a 5" mattress.  This is where it gets tricky to find the correct sheets because you cannot just buy any standard crib sheet.  They must be for a portable or mini crib which is 38 inches and not the standard 52 inches.

Searching for sheets:  Make sure you search for mini crib sheets or portable crib sheets

I personally bought the Luvable Friends brand (2) - here and one of these because I loved the argyle beige design.  These two links fit the 5" mini crib mattress I purchased.  

The bedding set I chose is this adorable little jungle animal set:  Dream On Safari Animals Portable Crib Set

The sheet that comes with the set fits the original thin pad the crib comes with but if you opt for a different mattress you have to buy accordingly.

*NOTE:  When I first bought this crib I substituted a thicker mattress at the time because the baby was an infant and not only did I want the support of a good mattress, but leaning over the rail to carefully and quietly place a sleeping infant is almost impossible when the mattress is even further down than the length of your arms. Leaning over the rail, I couldn't even reach the mattress easily so the baby would wake every time he was laid down.  We invested in a nice mattress at the time which raised the tiny baby up a couple more inches, which was high enough so I could easily get him in and out of the crib easily and not wake him by jolting or jostling as I tried to reach the mattress with a sleeping infant in my hands.

If you also are doing that - be sure that once the baby can start to sit up and stand, you need to only use the 1" mattress that comes with the crib.  You need the rail height for safety.  When the baby is pulling themselves to a standing position - OUT comes any other mattress and only use the standard!

If you like any of the ideas on my page, please consider using my affiliate link to make any purchases you have planned through Amazon. (Even if it's something not related to this page). Thanks! Budget at Amazon