Monday, January 30, 2012

The Kids' Area of the Craft Room

I have two boys and they have their own area in my newly reorganized craft room. 

Before the reorganization, they had a nice table and chair set (that we got free!) but it was always buried under piles of stuff.  I kept the table and chairs, but made better use of the vertical space with another tall shelf from Target. (It's the same as I used in the craft closet.)

I mostly re-used containers , but the turquoise bin on the bottom shelf and the 2 white bins on the top shelf are new.  Some of the containers are shoeboxes reinforced with blue duct tape.  The main difference is that now, everything has a home, and it's all labeled. (Labels printed from here.)  All of the markers, colored pencils, oil pastels, etc are corralled in one bin with several smaller containers inside it.  In theory, the boys should be able to get their own crafting items and put them away when they are done. (Ha!)

There used to be a bulletin board over their table where they could hang projects they wanted to keep.  It ended up looking very cluttered, so I removed it.  I would like to give them a display area, though.  I'm thinking of getting a towel rack and threading onto it curtain rings with clips on them.  They can hang their artwork from the clips. (Something like this?)  I think it might look neater than a bulletin board.

We'll be testing out their new craft space soon when we make Valentines for their classmates!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Reorganized Craft Area

My craft area is all put together finally!  The project took a couple weeks, but it was totally worth it.  Check out the shocking before and after:

I admit, I didn't make any attempt to clean up the area for the "before" picture, but it is a realistic depiction of what it looked like.  Yikes.  Way too much stuff on the walls, inadequate work table, and haphazard storage. It's no wonder I had a hard time getting inspired in there.

But now!

The table is from IKEA. It's called the Vika Amon Table Top.  You buy the legs separately so you can customize the table to your needs.  It comes in several finishes and sizes, too.  I wanted basic white for a clean surface on which to create.

The pink caddy holds the tools I use the most often.  I'm working on a winter scrapbook page and that's spread all over the table.  Under the table in the corner, I stuffed my rolling scrapbooking tote that I use to haul supplies to crops.  It fits perfectly in there.  The stool is perfect for me (rather than a chair) so I can spin around and face the table or the shelves. And because I often like to stand when I scrap.

My husband helped put together the shelves: two Besta Shelf Units from IKEA.  I liked that they had adjustable shelves because most shelves aren't made for large 12x12 scrapbooking items.  My things were large, so I ended up only using some of the shelves and have 4 left over.  (My husband says he can use them to make shelves on the wall if I'd like.  Hmmm, maybe!)  I also like that the shelf units are low so that they can double as additional work surface.

Right next to the table, I store my pages in progress, my paper and my stamps.  I found turquoise storage boxes at Target and also reused most of my organizing containers from before.  I printed customized labels from the Better Homes and Gardens website.  They are printed right on to sticky labels so I could just stick them on my containers.  (And they were turquoise!)  Cards that I've completed are on the top of the unit. 

The other end of the shelf unit holds more stamps, my kids' school-year albums-in-progress, and my cutting tools.  I wanted the Cricut and other cutting tools to be closer to my work table, but alas, the location of the power outlets didn't cooperate.  But now I think it works better this way anyway.

So now I have a functioning craft room.  I just need to inject some personality and color!  Because the shelf unit is low, there is a vast amount of wall space above it that currently looks very bare!  Since it is a craft room, I plan to make something to hang on the walls, I just don't know what that will be yet.  

I have to show this tray I found at IKEA, though:
Isn't it too cute?  I love birds.  Owls are my favorite, but the office area on the other end of this room was decorated with peacock accessories.  So any suggestions for what to hang on the walls are welcome!  Should I take up my husband's offer for more shelves (maybe above the table)?  Should I make some framed, bird-related art?  Maybe a Bible verse?  Family photos?   Something unexpected like a wreath?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Reorganized Office Area

I am so happy to finally have, not only a functioning office area, but a pretty one as well.

Top Three Transformations:
1. Cleared off the clutter and purged the contents of the filing cabinet.
2. Painted the filing cabinet. (I wrote about that in this post.)
3. Added some peacock accessories to make me smile.

Now I can easily fit my laptop and printer ON MY DESK.  I know, crazy, right?  It's almost a pleasure to pay bills now.  Almost.  It is my goal to keep this desk surface as uncluttered as possible so as to not return to that horrible "before" picture above.

I still have that ugly (but free!) office chair and I'm on the lookout for an inexpensive new one.

Peacock feather wreath - Michael's after-Christmas clearance ($7 marked down from $25!!)
Peacock candelabra - Christmas gift from Pier 1
Turquoise magnetic dry-erase board and lamp - Target
Turquoise vase - IKEA

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Reorganized Craft Closet

Well, I haven't been posting very often because I have been working to get my craft room organized!  As you can see from the photo above, the closet portion of my room needed some serious help.  I was using a lot of plastic tubs, which are great, but I just had them stacked on top of each other.  Inevitably, I'd need something from the bottom-most tub and it would take quite a while to unearth it.

So I bought two shelving units from Target.  One is tall for the portion of the closet that is full-ceiling height. It holds some seasonal decorations and my wrapping stuff.


The other is shorter for the under-the-stairs portion. This one holds pictures and frames, candles and candle holders.  The stuff in the corner is rarely used, but I can still get at it better than I could before.

Then I rearranged all the drawers I had in the closet already.  The dresser and filing cabinet hold fabric.  The other drawers hold various craft supplies.  But the good thing is that they are all cleaned out and labeled so I don't have a bunch of things I no longer use and I can find everything quickly!  And I can even walk in the closet now!

My sewing machine is on a rolling cart just inside the door to the closet.  I did that on purpose because I usually roll the machine out in front of the TV in the family room if I'm doing any serious sewing.  If it's just a quick sewing project, I can bring a stool into the closet and sew right there.

Works for me!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Paper Silhouette Valentine Decoration

Here's a fairly easy project for homemade Valentine's Day decor: paper silhouettes.  These are my two boys, but you could also make one of your spouse or even your dog.
My youngest boy
 The square frames are 7x7 and I purchased them at Michael's a few years back during the after-Christmas clearance. (Since I have red in my living room and kitchen, I buy a lot of things on clearance after Christmas and Valentine's Day!)  The frames came with the red and white mats with a 4x4 opening for a photo.  You could use whatever frame you have and just use cardstock to surround your silhouette.

My oldest boy
Silhouette steps:

  • Take a photo of your subject in profile.  Having a mostly blank background makes future steps easier, but it's not required.  Also, the quality of the photo doesn't really matter because you'll just be using the shape - not the actual photo.  
  • Print the photo. (Again, quality doesn't matter so you can just print it on regular paper if you want.)  
  • Temporarily tape the photo onto some black cardstock.  
  • Cut out your silhouette, through the photo paper and the black paper at the same time, using the photo as your guide.  
  • Carefully un-stick the photo, flip over the cardstock, and you are left with a lovely black silhouette.

Valentine Mantel
 I taped the silhouette onto white paper using scrapbook tape.  Then I used a paper punch to get the heart shape and I layered it on using foam tape so it sticks up a little.  Insert your project into your frame and you're done!

Side note: The little black frames were purchased in the dollar bin at Michael's.  The "love" letters were cut out using my Cricut, glued onto gray cardstock, and inserted into the frames.

Monday, January 16, 2012

I painted a metal filing cabinet and you can too!

 I acquired this standard-issue filing cabinet about 10 years ago from my former employer.  It had been used in a warehouse and was a bit beat up and a lot dirty.  I cleaned it up a little and it's been stuffed full of our household's paper ever since.  Time for a makeover!

Step 1:  Remove the drawers and everything in them.  (This would be a good time to evaluate all the stuff you have stored in your filing cabinet.  I found tax return papers from 1993 and instruction manuals from electronics we haven't owned for years.  I was able to throw out a LOT of paper and make room for different things.)  Remove the handles (mine screwed off) and label holders (pried off with a screwdriver).

Step 2:  Everyone says to go over your metal surface with steel wool.  So I did.  I didn't spend a huge effort on this step because it honestly didn't seem to make much of a difference.

Step 3: Get your paint.  Almost all of the tutorials I found online involved spray paint.  Well, spray painting requires being outside (or at least in an open garage) and it's currently snowing here so that wasn't going to happen.  Wandering the aisles of Home Depot, I discovered paint for metal surfaces in a can to be applied with a brush.  So I went for it.  I really wanted a turquoise filing cabinet, and they had turquoise spray paint, but the stuff in the can had a much more limited color selection.  I settled for "espresso" which I ended up loving.

Step 4: Apply the first coat of paint.  Here is the cabinet after the first coat.  Looks pretty bad.  Do be afraid!  It'll look better!  I found it was easiest to do multiple thin coats rather than trying to lay it on too thickly so you don't get drips.  It's very important to let it dry between coats.  (The can should tell you how long that'll take.)

Step 5:  Apply additional coats.  I took this photo as I started the second coat on one of the drawer fronts.  You can see exactly what kind of paint and brush I used.  You can also see that the paint color looks very different when wet than when dry!  It looked almost a dark purple when it was wet, but it dried to a lovely dark brown.  I ended up doing three coats.

Step 6:  Put it all back together and fill it up!

Many online tutorials suggest spray paint because your brush strokes will supposedly be visible if you use paint in a can.  After the third coat, my brush strokes were barely noticeable.  You have to stand right next to the cabinet and actually be looking for brush strokes in order to see them.  Maybe that is due to the dark paint color?   I suppose if brush strokes are an issue you can sand between coats to help eliminate them?  I don't know.  All I can say is that it didn't end up being a problem for this project.

I am very happy with my finished project and I hope this inspires you to try it, too!  Let me know how yours turns out!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

My Craft Room - Before

I have a room in my basement that is (mostly) dedicated to my crafty pursuits.  It is also where the "home office" stuff is, and where my kids do their creating.  But unfortunately, it's also that room where everything that doesn't have a home gets dumped.  Most of the furniture in the craft room is hand-me-down furniture.  ("Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without!!)  But I spend a LOT of time in my craft room, so I decided that it was time for a serious makeover.

Check out these photos and I'm sure you'll agree.

The home office area consists of a beat up filing cabinet (received free from a former employer), a nice wood desk (free from a family friend), and an ugly office chair (free from I-don't-remember).  Both the filing cabinet and the desk are functional, so they stay. The filing cabinet will have a makeover, however. I'm not sure what do to about that chair.

Wow. This photo is embarrassing.  The table here is actually a kitchen table (free from a family friend).  The chair is free from my mother (who refinished it once upon a time).  The shelf thing on top the table came off an old desk we bought at Target 15 years ago.  The mess underneath the table is my kids' "Imagination Box".  The rest of the mess is mine.  The plan is to totally revamp this area with a trip to Ikea.

Like I said, this room is in the basement.  The room itself is about 9' x 15' but it also includes a walk-in closet which is under the stairs.  This is where everything gets dumped.  Just looking at the above photo of the closet makes me cringe.  Of course, I can keep using all these nice storage tubs and whatnot, I just need a better organization system.  The plan for the closet is to store some seasonal decor stuff, some craft stuff I don't use as often, gift wrapping supplies, and my sewing stuff.

And then there's the kids' area.  The table and chairs are still nice (free from husband's boss) but the rest of their stuff has never really been organized in a very functional way.  I'm planning to have some sort of shelf system where they can see the supplies they have and be inspired to create.  Hopefully, the system won't look cluttered AND it will be easy for them to put stuff away when they are done.  (Ha ha.)

Ok, so we are all agreed that this room needs some help?  I thought so.

Step one: remove everything from the room and paint the walls!

This photo was taken before I started painting.  I was just shocked by the contrast between all the cluttered pictures above, and this empty picture.

Of course, now the family room temporarily looks like this:

Friday while the kids were at school, I emptied the craft room and painted all the walls.  I was starting to think I had bitten off more than I could chew, but now I am SO glad that I didn't skip this step.  The walls were in awful shape and dirty.  I would not have been happy to put all the fresh new furniture in the room with the walls in that condition.  Plus, now that everything is out of the room, it's only coming back into the room if it's supposed to be there and it has a specific place to go.  I may be throwing some things out.

I expected to have to do a second coat of paint on Saturday but was thrilled to see that the walls looked great after one coat.  I was painting a new beige over a different color beige, so that probably helped.  The color I chose was called "Dapper Tan" - one of the Glidden colors from Home Depot.  When I first put it on the walls I didn't think it looked dapper OR tan and I was a little afraid.  It looked peachy.  Like skin that had actually never had a tan.  But when it dried, it darkened up and I'm really liking it.

In this photo below, the walls are completed and I'm working on painting a bookcase.  This bookcase is special because my grandfather made it for me when I was a kid.  It feels very wrong to be painting it because Grandpa was always very fond of exposed wood grain, but I really wanted to keep the bookcase in my craft room and all the furniture I'm going to get from Ikea will be white.  So white it is.

There is still MUCH to be done, but now that you've seen the awful "before" photos, the "after" photos are going to look spectacular!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Works for Me Wednesday - Menu Planning

Before having children, I worked a typical 40+ hour week in an office.  I'd come home exhausted from work, stare into the fridge and hope that some ingredients in there would jump out and magically begin preparing themselves into a healthy meal.  For some reason that never worked.

Then I would spy some tortillas and think, "Oh, I can make tacos!"  I'd rummage around some more and discover that there was no taco seasoning, cheese or tomatoes.  So unless I wanted plain ground beef in a tortilla, tacos were not an option for that night.

I ended up eating a LOT of frozen pizza and various flavors of Rice-A-Roni.  My favorite was Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.  But one day, I noticed that I wasn't fitting into my pants anymore.  I read the nutrition information on those prepared foods and knew I needed to get more deliberate about meal planning.

Fast forward 15 years and I'm a stay-at-home mom with a husband and two growing boys to feed.  My youngest son has type 1 diabetes so it's even more important than ever that I make healthy meals.

The same system that began casually back in that apartment in 1997 is basically the same system I use now.  I write down a list of meals that I plan to prepare that week and then make a grocery list based on those meals.  The benefits are obvious:
I actually use everything I buy so it doesn't slowly spoil in the dark recesses of the fridge.
I plan to cook meals that actually involve vegetables.
I'm not spending tons of money on prepared foods with questionable nutritional benefits.
If we have evening activities, I can make sure the meal prep fits into our schedule.
I know what we're eating the next night, so I can thaw any frozen components ahead of time.

I've just gotten a little more fancy with my meal planning over the years.  Behold, the chalkboard.
Every time people come over they marvel at the chalkboard in my kitchen and ask, "Is that for real?" as if they can't imagine anyone being so organized.  But it's really not that difficult.  The half-hour it takes once a week to write down the meal plan and the corresponding grocery list helps me avoid all that time wasted staring blankly into the fridge while my kids whine about how hungry they are.

You'll notice that I only have meals planned for Monday - Friday.  I slack off on the weekends and make frozen pizzas and fish sticks and stuff like that.  Hey, I'm not superwoman.

The white dry-erase board is also a time saver.  We have a freezer in the basement and I write down what's in that freezer on the dry-erase board.  The dry-erase board is portable so I can take it downstairs with me to see what's in the freezer.  (And I can stash it somewhere out of sight if company is coming!)  When I'm planning my meals each week, I check out my freezer inventory and try to incorporate stuff I already have into my plan.  When I use something, I wipe it off the list.

The other thing (not pictured) that helps with the weekly meal planning is my recipe binder.  Over the years, I've been gathering my family's favorite recipes into one binder.  Recipes don't make the binder if I've never tried them before, or if nobody likes them, or if they are too complicated to be considered an "everyday" meal.  But I can flip through my trusty binder of tried-and-true recipes and make things that I know my family will actually eat.

Also in that binder I keep a list of standard pantry items.  These are the things that my family usually eats for breakfast, lunch and snacks (apples, bread) as well as items I like to always have on hand (olive oil.)  When I make my grocery list each week, I read over the pantry list and make sure I've got enough on hand to make it through the week.  It really helps avoid those "Mooom! There's no cereal left!" moments.

Although my meal planning system takes a bit of time to do each week, it's totally worth it.  My family has food and I have my sanity.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Pokemon Birthday Cake

My nephew decided he wanted a Pokemon-themed birthday after seeing my son's birthday.  They were travelling until the day before the birthday party, so I volunteered to make his cake.  He actually requested a red velvet cake. Sophisticated taste!

I happen to LOVE red velvet cake ever since I made this recipe from Better Homes & Gardens magazine.  I followed their cake recipe, but I used my own recipe for buttercream frosting.  So I'm not sure how their frosting is, but I thought mine was actually a bit too sweet.  (Or maybe I loaded it on too thick!) Maybe next time I'll use their frosting recipe.
Red Velvet Pokemon Ball Birthday Cake
The recipe makes a 3-layer cake.  I frosted the whole thing with white buttercream, then used the larger star tip (#21) to pipe the bottom border, the red area on the top and the white area on the top.  I drew the black lines and the name on with a #7 round tip.
The birthday boy with his cake.
The birthday boy took one bite of the cake and exclaimed "Best cake ever!"  That's some high praise coming from a 10-year-old boy!
Blowing out all 10 candles!
Judging by how much cake the 13 of us ate, I think it must have been  pretty good.
Triple Layer Red Velvet Cake with Buttercream Frosting

Monday, January 9, 2012

Pokemon Birthday Party

My oldest son just turned 9 and he is currently obsessed with collecting and trading Pokemon cards.  So I put a few Pokemon details into his birthday party.

First of all, here are the cookies he took to school for a class treat.

First, I drew the black line and little circle in the middle with outline icing.  Then I outlined the red and white half circles, then flooded everything.  I was planning to go back over the black lines again, but I forgot.  By the time I remembered, I had the icing tip all cleaned and the icing bag thrown out.  Oh well.  If I were to make these again, I'd probably do the red and white half circles first and add the black on top later after the red and white icing was dry.  My poor child has a December birthday, so he usually doesn't get my best work, and I didn't have the luxury of waiting for the icing to dry! In fact, I made these in such a hurry, you can see air bubbles in the frosting.  The kids probably didn't notice.

For the birthday party, I made cupcakes in the same basic design.
I used my little star tip (#16) to make the red and white portions of the cupcakes.  Then I used the same tip to make the black line and little circle on the top.

To fit the Pokemon theme even more, I made little cupcake picks to stick in each cupcake.  The Pokemon character images came from this site.  Scroll down to the Bingo card section.  I printed one of their customized Pokemon Bingo cards and used a paper puncher to cut the characters into little circles.  I used a slightly larger circle cutter to make the black circles out of cardstock.  I taped a toothpick to each black cardstock circle, then glued a Pokemon character to each side of the circle (covering up the toothpick tape).

Some family members couldn't make it to the party so I packaged up a couple of cupcakes for them.  I saw this genius idea on one of the blogs I read, but I can't remember which one.  If I could remember I'd give them credit!  Anyway, you simply put the cupcake into a small, clear, plastic cup then slide the cup into a clear cellophane bag.  The cupcake doesn't get messed up in transport!  (I might get messed up as you try to carefully drop it into the plastic cup, though!)

Another thing I made for the birthday boy was a birthday banner.  Times like these, I'm very thankful I have a Cricut.  You can churn out a snappy looking banner in no time.  The letters and number are from the Cuttin' Up cartridge.  The black circles are from the Art Philosophy cartridge available from Close To My Heart.

The Pokemon balls on the banner I made myself in Photoshop Elements.  Blogger wouldn't let me upload the .pdf file I had with four balls on one sheet all ready to print out.  So here's a .jpg of just the one ball.  You can copy and paste it into Word as many times as it'll fit, I suppose.
Click on the image above to open it full-size in a new window.  Right click on the image and select "copy image".  Open your word processing software and paste the image in a new document. Resize if you want, then copy and paste it as many more times as you need.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Quick Thank-You Cookies for School Secretaries

The secretaries at my boys' school are really exemplary.  They know all the kids by name and truly care about their well-being.  When I was in elementary school, I remember the secretaries being a little bit scary and a lot of stern.  But my boys are blessed to have 2 sweet ladies in the front office to hug on their way into school each morning.

Just before Christmas break I wanted to give them a little something to express my appreciation.

My go-to vanilla-almond sugar cookie recipe can be found on the Bake at 350 blog.  Discovering that blog is what led to my own cookie hobby. Bake at 350 has a printable version of her cookie recipe, as well as her royal icing recipe and some cookie decorating tips here.  People are always asking for my cookie recipe, so do yourself a favor and make these cookies!

I hadn't used my Christmas tree cookie cutter in a while, so I picked that one out of my stash of cutters.  When the cookies were baked, I outlined them with green icing.  I had a cookie epiphany at one point when I realized that I don't have to outline the cookies exactly along the edge.  You can draw the lines where ever you want to give your cookies personality!

After the outline icing was set, I had to decide how to decorate the trees.  I played around with it a bit.

But I settled on white "garland' lines and white "ornament" dots.  The trick for making the cookies nice and smooth is to add your white icing while the green is still wet.  Have two squeeze bottles filled with green and white flood icing ready.  You flood the trees with green and, while the green is still wet, you drop in the white icing.  Because the icing is so liquid, it settles together and dries flat.  My dots are never uniform size, and my garlands are crooked.  But I still think they turned out cute and, being less-than-perfect adds to their homemade charm.  So don't let photos of perfectly decorated cookies stop you from trying this!

Then comes the packaging.  (I used to work in marketing so I know it's all about the packaging!)  I found printable bag tags that had a green that precisely matched my icing.  Serendipity.  The tags say "Thanks, You're Sweet" so they can really be used for a lot of different occasions.  You can download the tags here. (There's also a pink version.)

The boys gave these cookie treats to the secretaries at school, as well as their Sunday school teachers at church.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Owl-themed Teacher Treats

On Wednesday nights, I volunteer at my church and work with the 3- and 4-year-olds.  There are 7 other teachers that work with me, and I wanted to make them a little thank you gift for all their help.

I love owls and they happen to be EVERYWHERE lately, so I went with an owl theme.  I'd seen this pattern on Pinterest and thought they'd be fun to make.  We had a long drive at Thanksgiving so I used that time to stitch together my owls.  (For some reason, reading in the car makes me sick, but I can sew.  Strange.)

I wanted to add a little treat with the felt owls, so I made puppy chow (aka Chex Muddy Buddies).

I packaged the puppy chow into clear cellophane bags, folded down the top, and stapled the bag label over it.  The bag labels were downloaded from the Celebration Shoppe blog and you can find them here.  (If you've never been to the Celebration Shoppe before, you are in for a treat!  It's loaded with fabulous inspiration.)

Look, all my owls are in a row!  Sorry for the mediocre photograph, but I was in a hurry.  But there's something about a finished project all packaged and ready to go that makes me happy.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Tutorial: How-To Make a Tote Bag (for beginners)

I recently sewed tote bags for my nieces for Christmas.  Since I have 2 sons, it was very refreshing to work with the bright pink fabric!  I used flannel for the bags and the linings because JoAnn was having a great sale.

Here is the first bag I made:

I tried to take photos of the steps I took as I made the second tote bag, and I'll try to explain the process here.  Remember that I am a newbie seamstress myself!

Cut out the fabric:  I cut 2 fabrics the same way.  The floral one will be the outside of the bag and the pink one will be the lining.  In my example the strips of fabric are 14 inches wide and 30 inches long.  In the photo, the length is folded in half to form two 14 x 15 inch rectangles.

Sew the sides: The fabric is folded in the picture with the wrong sides together.  Flip it around so that the right sides are together. Sew up the sides of the fabric.  (The "bottom" is where the fold is, the "top" is open, and you sew up the 2 sides of the bag.)

Make the bag depth: While the bag is still inside out, press open the seam you just made.  Then grab one of the bottom corners of the bag and flatten it in a triangle shape.  Sew a straight line at the bottom of that triangle. This will give your bag a bottom.  How big your triangle is will determine how fat your bag will be.  After you've done one corner, do the other one the same way.

Then you snip off the top part of your triangle, above the line you just sewed.  Repeat for other triangle.

Once you've finished the above steps and formed the basic bag with your outer fabric and your lining fabric, it's time to make the handles.

Make the handles:  I used leftover pink lining fabric for my handles.  I cut two rectangles about 14 inches long and 6 inches wide. (I like to make my handles somewhat fat because skinny handles are insanely difficult to turn right side out later.)  Fold the fabric, right sides together, in half the long way to form a 14 x 3 inch rectangle.
This is Carl.  He has to be RIGHT by me at all times.
 Sew up the long open edge of the handle and trim off the excess fabric.  Then turn the resulting fabric tube right side out.  Flatten it so that the seam you just made is in the center of what will be the underside of the handle.  Iron it flat and then topstitch along both edges to make a more finished-looking handle.

Attach the handles: Turn your outer bag fabric right side out.  Pin the handles to the top open edge of the bag.  Position the handles as shown in the photo - the middle seam on the underside of the handle should be facing up.

Sew straight across the handles and attach them to the bag.  I usually go over them a couple times to make sure it's a strong seam.  At this point, it is very important that you don't sew your bag closed!!  Once you do one handle, attach the other one to the other side of the fabric.  Try to line them up so they match on both sides of the bag.

Attach lining to bag:  Here's where I always get confused, so I'll try to explain this as well as I can.  Your outer bag (with handles attached) is right side out.  Your lining is inside out.  Stuff the outer bag INTO the lining so that the right side of the lining faces the right side of the outer bag.  (The handles are tucked inside between the lining and the outer bag.)

Line up the side seams on the outer bag and the lining.  Pin, and sew around the top of your bag, leaving about 4 inches open.  In mine, I left the spot between one of the handles and one of the side seams open.   Again, don't sew your bag closed at this point!

Now, reach in through the hole you left open and turn everything right side out.  This takes a bit of tugging. Your creation will look like this:

Stuff the lining part into the outer bag part and now it looks like a tote bag!  You just have to topstitch around the top edge again to close that hole you left for turning, and to make everything stay in place.  Fold in the raw edges of the hole, and start there, and continue with a straight stitch all around the top of the bag.  These stitches will actually show so I go a little slower and attempt to make somewhat of a straight line.

And then your bag is done!