Rue Road Test: Personalized Photo Coasters

Gift friends a homemade trinket they'll use again and again

If you’re getting a present from me, you better believe it’s homemade. Don’t return the gift you got me quite yet, though – I’m not talking the ornaments-made-of-popsicle-sticks kind of homemade. This year, all the good girls and boys on my list will get DIY, personalized drink coasters, because ringing in the New Year shouldn’t include unsightly cup rings on your new coffee table.

What you’ll need:
• 4″ x 4″ tiles
• Self-adhesive felt or cork pads (those circular felt pads for chair legs work perfectly)
• Photos
• Mod Podge®
• Gloss sealer finish

How to do it:
Flip each tile over and position one self-adhesive felt or cork pad in each corner so the tiles won’t scratch the table.
2. Cut your pictures to size using a ruler. Make sure no extra paper hangs over the sides when you lay the photo on top of the tile.
3. Paint a thin layer of Mod Podge over the tile, position your picture carefully over it, and smooth down firmly. Ensure there are no wrinkles or bubbles in the picture.
4. Next, paint over the picture with a coat of Mod Podge. Make sure to coat the sides of the tiles and that all of your brush strokes go in the same direction.
5. Once the tiles dry, spray each liberally with a layer of gloss sealer. This will make them waterproof.
6. After the sealant has dried, stack the finished products in groups of 4 to 6, tie with a ribbon, and let the gifting begin.

By Grace Romanowsky of Valenki By ACE, Staff Writer

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December 13, 2012

Rue Road Test: Holiday Twig Mobile

It’s a fact: I don’t have room for a Christmas tree in my tiny studio. So, I thought I’d compensate by making a tree-oriented home decoration. Supplies are somewhat hard to come by in the city, so I was forced to go foraging through the park. Apparently, scouring the ground and carrying a bundle of twigs in your arms warrants strangers looking at you like you’re the pigeon lady from Home Alone 2, so after I found a few good ones, I called it quits and retreated to my apartment to see what I could make of my findings.

With the help of fishing line, some paint, and the Glee Christmas soundtrack, I created my holiday twig mobile. Here’s how:

What you’ll need:
• 3 – 6 twigs in varying sizes
• Acrylic paint (metallic or colored)
• Paintbrush
• Fishing line

Collect an array of twigs in varied sizes. I suggest choosing ones with several small branches for a more interesting visual effect.
2. Paint each twig the color of your choice and allow to dry. (I used an off-white base then finished the tips with gold spray paint.) Paint them all a different color, or go the enchanting metallic route.
3. Lay them out on the floor as you would like them positioned in the mobile, descending in size from top to bottom.
4. Cut a piece of fishing line and tie to both ends of the top stick. Make sure it’s long enough to have a little slack to use as a hanger.
5. For convenience and to achieve the right balance, hang this section up before you continue.
6. Decide whether you want your mobile to hang down straight or to spin (mine hangs straight). Then, start by tying one piece of line to each end of the first stick.
6A. Straight mobile: Connect the loose ends to the lower sticks like rungs of a ladder.
6B. Spinning mobile: Tie the loose ends around the mid-section of the stick below.
7. Continue to connect your sticks in this fashion, adding as many sticks as you like (as long as the mobile stays balanced).

By Grace Romanowsky of Valenki By ACE, Staff Writer

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December 6, 2012

Rue Road Test: Holiday Crackers


You know how, as a child, you never believed your parents when they told you that good things come in small packages? Well, here’s some evidence that could have been handy back when you were nine years old. Use these homemade holiday crackers to decorate each place setting at your next dinner party, and send each guest home with a little memento of the night.

What you’ll need:
- Decorative wrapping paper
- A cardboard paper towel roll
- A surprise to hide inside
- Tape
- Curling ribbon
- Scissors

1. Cut wrapping paper into 7″ x 14″ strips.
2. Split cardboard paper towel roll evenly in half (this will make two crackers).
3. Fill the tube with a small trinket like nail polish, a piece of costume jewelry, a lottery ticket, or a few chocolates.
4. Roll the wrapping paper around the tube and secure it with a piece of tape in the middle.
5. Gather the excess wrapping paper on both ends of the tube, pinch, and tie a double knot with curling ribbon.
6. Curl the ribbon ends using a pair of scissors.

To open, pull one end while a friend pulls the other until the tube bursts and reveals the surprise inside!

By Grace Romanowsky of Valenki By ACE, Staff Writer

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November 29, 2012

Rue Road Test: Metallic Leaf Carafe

Crashing someone else’s Thanksgiving dinner this year? Instead of cooking up a yawn-inducing side dish, show thanks to your hosts by bringing a homemade, metallic-leaf carafe and a bottle or two of their favorite vino. (Nobody will miss the yams or green bean casserole.)

What you’ll need:

- Several small, freshly fallen leaves (just make sure they’re not too crisp)
- Piece of cardboard
- Metallic spray paint
- Sponge paintbrush
- Mod Podge (or make your own using equal parts white glue and water – shake well)
- Clear glass wine carafe (and/or wine glasses)
Mod Podge clear acrylic sealer spray

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November 15, 2012

Rue Road Test: Gingerbread Lip Exfoliate


To those who know someone participating in “Movember“: this post’s for you. The ever-dropping temperatures and mustache-clad male population can take their toll on your face and lips, no matter how many layers of ChapStick® and moisturizer you apply. This lip exfoliate is the perfect way to combat Movember and achieve more kissable lips by the time mistletoe season rolls around.

Gingerbread Lip Exfoliate


1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon coconut oil

½ teaspoon honey

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon


1. Warm up the coconut oil by running the sealed container under warm water.

2. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and stir to mix well.

3. Transfer to a small resealable container (I used a makeup sample jar).

4. Apply by using your forefinger in a small circular motion. Fully cover lips, but be sure not to scrub too hard or lips become raw.

5. Dab off with a warm washcloth.

By Grace Romanowsky of Valenki By ACE, Staff Writer

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November 8, 2012

Rue Road Test: Juice Cleanse

If you’re anything like me, your case of the Mondays is usually accompanied by a hefty side of guilt from all the indulgences of the weekend (especially around the holiday season). Seeing as I prepared for Hurricane Sandy by polishing off all the chocolate lava cake I could in fear of having to forgo dessert for several days, I decided to kick-start a health-conscious week with a juice cleanse.

I had heard a lot about the master cleanse, a 5–6 day juice cleanse of cayenne pepper, maple syrup, and lemon juice, but after reading up on it I decided to go with something that seemed a little more beginner’s level.


Blue Print offers several different 3-day cleanse regimens which include a variety of bottled fruit and vegetable juices that actually look pretty tasty, so I decided to give it a shot. My findings? Some of the drinks filled me up more than others (the cashew-vanilla one tided me over for far longer than the lime-ginger, for example), but for the most part I felt pretty satiated throughout the day. The hardest part was forgoing my morning and mid-afternoon caffeine jolts, but I was surprised to find that I still had a good deal of energy (maybe even more so than usual).

Here are my juice cleanse survival tips:

  • Drink loads of water or decaffeinated tea to keep you extra hydrated and feeling satisfied between cleanse drinks.
  • Fiending for something to crunch into? Reach for some ice chips or even a fresh bamboo shoot to chew on (trust me, by day two you won’t mind if this makes you look like a panda).
  • Play around with different consistencies and flavors to avoid monotony. Throw one of the drinks into the blender with ice to make a smoothie, freeze freshly squeezed OJ into ice cubes, and try mint- or cucumber-infused water to keep things interesting.
  • Keep busy! Jam-pack your schedule to avoid boredom and temptation. You’ll feel twice as nice after a super productive day.


By Grace Romanowsky of Valenki By ACE, Staff Writer

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November 1, 2012

Rue Road Test: Tape Art Installations

I couldn’t get enough of these neon geometric tape art installations that Facebook commissioned Aakash Nihalani to create in their East Coast headquarters. And let’s be real: my apartment is basically The Book’s HQ given the amount of time I spend on it, so I decided to try my hand at my own.

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October 25, 2012

Rue Road Test: Nail Art Pens

I haven’t quite settled on a costume idea for Halloween yet, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t gotten into the holiday spirit. Like every other girl in her mid 20s, I’ve been scoping out the scary-good nail artwork on Pinterest on a daily basis. The only downside? It makes everything look so easy! Sure, a mural depicting the resurrection of Frankenstein would be awesome painted on my thumbnail, but seeing how I’m no artist extraordinaire, I decided to keep it simple with basic designs like skulls, spiders, and cobwebs.

Using a few base nail polish colors, two nail art pens, and some tiny crystal stones, I tried my hand at some of my own digit decorations, and I have to say – the art pens worked like a charm. I’ve dabbled in delicate nail work before, using regular nail polish and toothpicks, but I’ve never been able to do such fine details successfully. Here’s how I achieved this spooky look:

Cobweb Nails

1. Begin by painting your nails the base color of your choice. I went with a neon purple to stand out against the black web.

2. When your base is dry, use the art pen to draw lines radiating out from a single point on your cuticle toward the tip of your nail.

3. Next, connect these lines with two or so perpendicular lines to form the “web” between them.

4. When your webs have dried, paint a clear nail polish coat on top.

5. While the clear polish is still wet, carefully apply the black crystals to the “web” with tweezers to look like little spiders (don’t use too many or you’ll hide the web design).

That’s it – piece of cake! The real problem was keeping my hand out of the candy corn dish for long enough to let my nails dry.

By Grace Romanowsky, Staff Writer

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October 18, 2012

Rue Road Test: Homemade Shampoo

My hair has been crying out for attention after a long summer of sun damage, heat exposure, and (okay, I admit it) chemical highlights, so I decided it was time to give it a little DIY TLC with some homemade hair care.

After scoping a ton of different homemade shampoo and conditioning recipes, I discovered that most agreed on the use of Castile oil soap or baking soda and essential oils and as a base, and all emphasized that the end product would not resemble the thick, foaming shampoo most of us are used to. Using all of this as inspiration, I created my own recipe that included honey (to detangle), coconut oil (instead of olive oil), and some other ingredient substitutes I had on-hand.

My First Attempt
DISASTROUS. When they say to go easy on the oil, they seriously mean it (I’m notoriously heavy handed). Even after my hair had dried, it still looked like I had been dipped  in a vat of hot candle wax. When I hit the mixing bowl for a second time, I was careful to use the coconut and essential oils in moderation, and also mixed up an apple cider vinegar/hot water rinse, which I read would remove any excess residue after shampooing.

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October 4, 2012