MHL Project: Tip Basket with Foldable Legs!

The ubiquitous tip jar.

Imagine any street or coffeehouse musician and you’d see a tip jar in your mind’s eye.  I, for one, have always felt uncomfortable with it.  First off, Bronne and I have several instruments to set up, cables to plug, and sounds to check before a performance.  The tip jar is a detail we can do without.  Second, and more importantly, I’ve always felt uneasy putting it out which is strange because I’d never feel contempt for any musician who has one.  It isn’t the ‘playing-music-for-money’ part that I dislike.  I think a tip jar could be seen as another means of measuring how one’s gig went. . .

How did we do today?

Oh, we got $10.  Not bad considering there were only 3 people here.  

. . .  and, head count, applause, and compliments, aside, do I really need another means to make myself feel insecure?

But many times in the past when we didn’t bring a tip jar, people would come up to us asking for it.  Some, with their dollar bill on hand, would awkwardly stand in front of us and  place their tip on my keyboard or at my feet.  Some would actually advise us, “You guys should have a tip jar.”  So to prevent any more discomfort or awkwardness for these people who show us their appreciation, we started putting one out.

We’ve been using a small basket we bought from a thrift store for 50 cents.  One of my concerns during set-up is where to put this darn tip basket.  We can’t put it on the floor.  We can put it on a chair but, because we play an 88-key keyboard, bells, and 2 guitars and use 3 mics with mic stands and 2 music stands, we take up space more than the typical duo.  Putting the tip basket on a chair would just create more clutter.

A few months ago, we went to another thrift store and bought half-a-music stand for 79 cents.  We couldn’t find the lyre.  I had the feeling the legs alone would come in handy some day, so we bought it.  And a couple of weeks ago, I thought of putting one and one together to eliminate this tip jar concern from my mind.

All it took was a needle and sturdy twine, glue gun and sticks, a small square cardboard, clear tape, and a chopstick.

I sewed the basket to the legs by hooking the twine around the clip (where one adjusts the height of the stand).  I used the glue gun to keep the twine in place and to make the basket more stable. Finally, I wrote THANK YOU on a small cardboard and covered it with clear tape to keep it from getting dirty.  I cut a slit at the end of the chopstick and slipped the cardboard in.

I know it’s such an easy little project but it sure made a huge difference for our band mascot, Joyful, who’s in charge of the tips.  He seems to really appreciate the tip basket’s handiness and compactness.

Was it Plato who said, “Necessity is the mother of invention”? It’s true in this case.  Design doesn’t have to be complicated and practicality often brings about elegance.


MHL Upcycle: The Happy Pack Rat

Call me the happy pack rat.

Before a happy pack rat throws anything away, she asks herself: “What if I’ll need this in the future?”  So many things stay because they have potential for transformation.  There is that problem of storage and organization.  But there is also the delight in rediscovering odds and ends after years of incubation.  It’s like finding a lost friend, or looking at someone familiar with fresh eyes.

It’s a challenge for me to find some use for things that I keep.  Sometimes it takes a second.  Sometimes, years.  But most of them get to undergo their metamorphosis.  Hopefully, all of them will.  There are times when I look at my workstation (B calls it my ‘showroom’), and I think, what will happen to you guys if I suddenly die?  The thought of leaving things unfinished is always an effective form of motivation.  Time’s a wasting.  I’m not growing any younger.  To quote the brave Bohemians of Rent, there is no day but today.  So get on moving, girl.

I made this pendant about 20 years ago.  I was just starting out my freshman year as a music major.  We wore uniforms in high school so I didn’t have a lot of clothes.  In college, I made up for that by making some out of hand-me-downs from my family, including my dad and brother.  I made my own accessories from ordinary everyday things.  I even made my own sandals.  I was very brave in wearing the things I made.  It was conviction that fueled my courage.  Even then, I was an advocate for recycling.

She is made of . . .

. . . a couple of beads and a nylon string.

The earring was my aunt’s. She lost its partner then broke the hook.

The stop came from my mom’s empty perfume bottle.  It was from one of those miniature versions that I’ve always found adorable.

The leather came from an old shoelace.

Everything was something most people would consider trash.  But you know what they say about that.  Someone’s trash is the happy pack rat’s treasure.

Apartment Nomads

This is a silly little post.  Just a warning.

Our little apartment has three rooms: the living room/dining area; our bedroom; and my room where my keyboard and workstation is.  Everyday, we choose where to “camp out” for working or eating.  It’s part of our daily routine to ask, “Where do we work/eat tonight?”  Meaning, which part of our abode.

B. and I are apartment nomads.

Because we like listening to music (him) or voices (me, as in stand-up or interviews) while we work, and enjoy watching videos on Hulu while we eat, another part of our routine is to carry the speakers where we park.  That’s my job and I don’t like it.  Everyday, I have to move the speakers at least twice.  The wires get all tangled up and I have to untangle them, and the speakers’ shape makes them hard to hold… oh, it’s just such a bother!  (What a princess! *snicker*)

We’ve discussed getting another pair so we can have one in our bedroom and another in the living room, but that’s just against our principles.  We advocate recycling and are against buying things we don’t need.  So why buy another pair when — ding,ding,ding! you can make your very own speaker carry-box?

With this vinegar box, a couple of red garters to hold the speakers in place, and a wide black and white striped band as a strap (these are all recycled materials, by the way), the speaker carry-box came to be. Tadaaa!!!

It looks funny, I know, but it’s made my life much easier. (As if carrying a pair of speakers to another room is such hardship!)

Thanks, speaker carry-box!  (*thumbs up!*…*snicker*)

I told you this was a silly post. :D

Do You Freecycle? Part 1

Lovelies, it’s raining again and too dark for me to take photos of my next installment for Would You Wear This.  So, sit back and let me tell you about this wondrous thing called Freecycle.

If you go to their website, you will find this:

Like it says, type in your city/town and state and you will find out if there’s a Freecycle group in your area.  When I did this and joined the group that came out from the search, it rejected me because I lived too far from their area.  Had I been accepted, it explained, I would have robbed the ones living in the vicinity of the chance to receive things.  Also, because the area was some 20-30 miles away from where I resided, it would be a waste of fuel to drive there and back.  So, if this happens to you, don’t be discouraged.  Try again and type in your ZIP CODE.  When I did, I found that there was actually a group in my area.

Since B. and I are just starting out and have nothing to give (our shelves are made of boxes, for pete’s sake!), I can only share my experiences on being a Freecycle recipient.  I have been lucky enough to receive a few items from Freecycle.

  • A clothes hamper and laminated tabletop from a lady named Katie.
  • Two sturdy wire shelves from a lady named Meg.
  • An antique cherry wood drawer chest and large gilded mirror from a lady named Ruth.
  • A medium-sized garbage bag of various fabric from a lady named Wendy.
  • Seven large garbage bags of clothes from a lady I can’t name.

Yes, I remember all the names of the Freecyclers I’ve met. Even the last lady but I’ll explain later why I withheld her name. What you need to bear in mind is this: they choose you.  How you are chosen is via different methods.   Some Freecyclers choose the first person who responds to their post.  Some like to get rid of their stuff ASAP so whoever gives the earliest pick up date gets the item.  Sometimes politeness will catch a giver’s eye.  Like Ruth, for example.  She was unloading several big items like the drawer chest, a dresser, a bed, etc.  She received almost a hundred emails but she found most of them too curt or demanding, even.  Like, “I want the dresser”.  Or “I’ll take that off your hands”.  Because the drawer chest had been her grandmother’s, she said she wanted “to give it to someone nice”.  She told me I was the only one who wrote her nicely and that’s why she chose me and gave me the lovely new mirror, too, when I picked it up.

The Freecyclers I’ve met always thank me for helping them clear their homes of unwanted things.  Maybe this gives a lot of potential recipients the idea that they don’t need to thank people or be polite when asking for it.  But I see it as me receiving something I need because, by some cosmic mechanism, I was chosen by them out of hundreds or even thousands (my group has well over 7,000 members).  I don’t often do it but for every three emails I’ve sent asking for an item, I get one reply either telling me it’s already been promised to someone or that I can come and get it.  I should be very grateful.

In Part 2, I shall share some Freecycling tips and a horror story.  Watch out for it, lovelies!

MHL Tutorial: Make a Simple Bead-Woven Necklace

Some friends have emailed me saying that they liked the Audrey Collar and the tutorial, but found it really daunting.  I get ya, people, BUT we can baby-step our way to more complicated tasks, right?  So, for all of you, I’m posting a step-by-step how-to pictorial of a simplified version of the collar.  It is this:

This is a pic I took of the first tier of the Audrey Collar.  I think it’s lovely even without the rest of the other tiers, don’t you think?   You can add a favorite pendant or jewel at the center to make it more special.  The great thing about it is that it’s easier to do!  Let’s begin.

You Will Need:

Important Points to Remember:

  1. If your string is made of woven nylon or some other synthetic fiber, check for fraying.  If it frays, burn the ends using flame.
  2. Decide on the length of your necklace.  Measure your string according to that and then double it twice.  Example: you want 12 inches.  Double that = 24.  Then double it again = 48 inches.
  3. You will put each end of your string through a needle — that’s why you need 2.

For extra details, see “What You Need” of MHL Tutorial: The Audrey Collar.


Thread through 4 beads from any end of your string.


The 4th bead is shared by both ends of the string. Always. That means after threading bead 4 through one needle, the other needle goes through that bead from the opposite direction.  In other words, they crisscross through bead 4.


Bead through beads 1 and 3. Notice the red bead, 4, is now bead 2.

Again, bead 4 is shared by both ends of the string.


Continue weaving…

… And pretty soon, it will look like this:

Yipee!  Now just add a clasp at the end and you have your necklace. 🙂

Now, on a different note: there is no outfit-of-the-day.  Instead, I will rant for today.

I woke up and found the carpet going into my closet is soggy wet.  Apparently, a loose  bolt (or whatever you call that bolt-looking thingie) under the sink in my bathroom, which is next door to the closet, has been dripping all night, and the carpet from there to the closet got wet.  Luckily, my clothes and shoes were dry but it’s still irritating because I have to move my shelves to make space for the carpet guys who are coming to clean this thing up.  Arghhhhh!!! I can’t work on my Purple Cascade neck piece with them walking all over my workroom.  Grrrrrr and Ngrrrrr!!!

Ok, breathe… At least my clothes and shoes were dry.

Have a joyfully creative and creatively joyful day everyone!
Man Hands Lizzie

My Workstation

I will try to be as brief as possible since I need to go back to tidying up our place.  I’ve been doing it for a couple of days.  Isn’t it amazing how much stuff one accumulates despite seeming to need more?  One of the tasks I was able to finish is … tadada!!! — my workstation!

I like calling it workstation.  It sounds so sci-fi; like the moment you sit there, the workstation will transport you to another planet where beads and strings abound and you can make as much of anything as you like because time is slower in space.

That's Collete, the dress form. It was a belated birthday gift from B..

We took some time pondering about what to use for tables, but eventually B. and I decided to buy the heavy-duty 6- and 4-foot plastic ones we found at Sam’s.  Then, instead of buying shelves and containers for my materials, I decided to help the environment out by reusing some boxes and containers that could have easily found their way into landfills.  Brownie points for you, scout, if you recognize the products that once inhabited these upcycled workstation storage.

A mini-shelf made from boxes that once contained things we bought...

... or got from that happyland called Sam's.

A brick ruler or pen holder and a sungka, a toy from the Philippines that I had forgotten how to play. It's the perfect bead holder.

Who needs a head mannequin when this Everlast boxing stand is perfect for fitting hats? Just add lips!

Notice the dearth of pretty work gloves? Get a Sharpie and draw a pretty ribbon on the ones you got.

It’s back to work for me!