It’s That Time of Year!

Happy Halloween! It is officially the holiday season, which means lots of festive decorations and gift ideas to come from Martha: The College Years.

Paper Halloween Banner

Photo by Karina Bunches and Bits (

Decorating for all of the festivities in the next few months is a blast (especially for those of us with DIY addictions), but “decking the halls” for each holiday can get a bit pricey.

Banners and buntings are a great way to decorate your home on a budget. They’re easy to make and can easily be interchanged for different upcoming celebrations.

“A banner alone can make a whole room look festive.”

  – Katie Combs, Cal Poly Physics Student    

Banners can be made out of a variety of materials. The Halloween banner in the picture above is simply made out of basic construction paper in various colors and shapes.

Bunting can also be made of fabric. How adorable is this floral bunting? These colors would be great for Easter or spring.

Colorful Fabric Bunting

Photo by sweetjessie (

A recently popular material in the DIY world is burlap.

The rustic and utilitarian look of burlap adds texture to decorations. Many decorators use this to contrast soft elements in their decor.

“There has been a huge increase in the popularity of burlap lately. Once people realized what a universal and inexpensive material burlap is, they found ways to incorporate it into their design aesthetics.”

– Sara Arroyo, Cal Poly  RPTA Student

Burlap Heart

Burlap is a great fabric to use for banners because:

  • it’s fairly inexpensive
  • it compliments many different colors
  • it can be used for almost any holiday or event decor
  • it’s trendy
  • it’s easy to work with (you don’t have to hem the edges)

(click here for more DIY ideas that use burlap)

Banners are also a fun way to display messages. Kelsey Soderstrom is a floral and decor assistant designer at Adornments Flowers & Finery. She says,

“There is an endless amount of ways one could incorporate bunting/banners in an event or household decor. I think my favorite way is with sweet words or sayings. They can really add a sentimental feel to any decor.”

Because bunting can be made with diverse materials and customized in so many ways, they are a perfect holiday decoration. Just string a holiday banner across a bare wall and feel the room come to life with festivity!

(Click here to read an article about the bunting & banner trend on

What materials are you making your holiday banner out of?

Check back on Martha: The College Years to see my holiday banner along with a ton of upcoming DIY gift ideas.


It’s week seven of ten in the fall quarter at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. This is about the time when curriculum starts to speed up and days start to fly by. On the precipice of the chaos that is about to take over my life, I’ve decided to do some reflection.

Reflection of Trees on Lake

While Martha: The College Years is my own little corner of the internet where I store my ideas and crafty thoughts, it’s also a project for one of my Journalism classes. I think starting a blog as a class assignment is really helpful because it motivates me to post on a regular basis and get the hang of this whole WordPress thing before I’m on my own.

In class today, we did some peer assessments of each others’ blogs. I just have to say, I discovered some GREAT blogs that my classmates have started. I’ll link some at the bottom. You really should take a look.

While I got to browse other students’ blogs, they gave me some feedback on mine.

Drawing of Vintage MirrorsFor the most part, I think I’m doing pretty well as far as the look of my blog goes. The pastel colors and large pictures complement my DIY topics well. Being a Virgo, I’m all about organization! I try to use a lot of bullet points and lists so information is easy to read.

I also think I do a pretty good job of breaking up text with pictures and graphics. I separate paragraphs into smaller chunks, because who wants to read a big chunk of text while they’re surfing the net? I also try to make the pictures in my posts clear and big, and according to my peers, I’ve been pretty successful so far.

I have also been really trying to emphasize interactivity. If you haven’t already noticed, I’m hyperlink crazy. I want to give my readers the opportunity to discover as many new places on the web as possible. I’ve recently decided to incorporate more charts, polls, and graphics because I think they’re just plain fun. I love taking polls and interacting with blogs I follow, so I want to offer the same things to my readers.

I’ve also been trying to tweet more so that my Twitter feed remains up to date on my blog. Along with that, I’ve been filling my friends’ Facebook news feeds with links to my blogs and posts. When looking at my stats (I’m slightly obsessed with tracking my stats), I tend to see spikes when I post to Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

Olive Oil Eye Makeup Remover

My most popular post has been my Olive Oil Eye Makeup Remover, but overall my DIY tutorials have been most successful.

Okay, I’m finished “tooting my own horn.” Here are some areas I really want to improve upon and goals I have for the future of Martha:

  • Although I want my titles to be cute and clever, I also want people to be able to search them on Google. I need to write titles that clearly explain what my post is about so that people can actually find my blog.
  • I’m planning on starting to blog more regularly about my life in general. Along with a DIY resource, Martha: The College Years will be my personal journal with amusing excerpts from my college experiences.
  • I want to make a banner. I think a banner at the top of my blog would make it even more visual and fun.
  • I’m contemplating changing the “theme” of my blog. While I love the current design and look, I don’t think it’s as functional as it could be. I wish my widgets could be displayed on a sidebar, but my theme doesn’t allow that. Let me know what you think in a comment below.
  • This last one goes without saying, but I want to get more readers! Please share my little corner of the web-world with your friends.

It’s always therapeutic to reflect on your progress and set goals for yourself. Have you set any goals recently?

And because this song was stuck in my head the entire time I was writing this post:

Here are some of my peers’ blogs. Check them out:

Popular Craft Stores in San Luis Obispo

A variety of craft supply stores exist in the San Luis Obispo area. While not all of them specialize in craft supplies, many of them carry supplies that work well for DIY projects.

Pie Chart depicting Popularity of Craft Stores in San Luis Obispo

The pie chart above shows the results from the poll in my last post. Thank you to the 98 people who voted! Your input is greatly appreciated. If you click on the chart, you can view an interactive version of it (AKA a fancier version).

Below is a map of the most popular places to buy craft supplies in San Luis Obispo. Click on each pushpin to see the name, location, and a description of each store.

Explore the craft stores of San Luis Obispo through these links:

Target Bookshelf Makeover

“I used my bookshelf as a nightstand, a vanity, a place to hold all my school supplies in my tiny dorm room. It was a place for everything. But I think bookshelves are very bland and simple and they could easily be beautified.”

– Elise Kiland, Cal Poly Mechanical Engineering Junior

Bookshelves are wonderful means of organization, but unless you want to spend hundreds of dollars somewhere like Pottery Barn,  they’re not particularly pretty to look at. This tutorial will show you how to take an ordinary bookshelf and turn it into a piece of statement furniture.

Bookshelves are a staple of college dorm rooms – probably because they are generally inexpensive, they save loads of space, and they are great for storage. Because they are under $50, bookshelves like this one from Target and this one from Wal Mart are typical dorm room buys. Jennifer Dragan, a Barnes & Noble Bookseller, is constantly surrounded by bookshelves in her workplace. She owns the Target bookshelf and says:

“As someone who loves books and wanted to fill my college ‘home-away-from-home’ with them, the Target bookshelf was really cheap and the dark oak finish that I have makes me feel like I’m in my own private library. It looks really nice and it’s quite functional.”

This tutorial will use the bookshelf from Target mentioned above. Currently, it’s on sale for $26, making one of the least expensive 5-shelf bookcases available nationwide.

What You Need:

Here We Go!

Step 1: Take the shelves off of the bookshelf and set them aside.

Step 2: Cut a piece of the paintable wallpaper to the approximate height of the bookshelf (longer is better than shorter).

Step 3: Use spray adhesive to adhere the strip of paintable wallpaper to one side of the bookcase. Line up the edge of the wallpaper with the front of the bookcase. There will be leftover wallpaper hanging off of the back.

Step 4: Using scissors, carefully cut off the excess wallpaper from the back of the bookcase.

Step 5: Repeat this process with the other side of the bookcase and the top. Make sure the edges are glued down, touching up with the spray adhesive as you go.

Step 6: Tape off the front edges of the bookcase with painter’s tape so the paint doesn’t get onto the front of the cabinet.

Step 7: Paint the wallpaper in the color of your choice using the cabinet foam roller. Note: The paintable wallpaper has a spongy texture and soaks up the paint. Be liberal with your paint. You may need to do two or three coats to get maximum coverage.

Step 8: Let the paint dry and remove the painter’s tape.

Step 9: Cut strips of contact paper to the approximate width of the inside back of the bookcase. (Again, too long is better than too short.)

Step 10: Adhere the contact paper to the back of the cabinet using spray adhesive. There will be excess on either side of the cabinet.

Step 11: Using scissors, carefully cut off the excess contact paper so that it is the exact width of the back of the bookcase. Go back and make sure all edges are glued down, touching up with spray adhesive as you go.

Step 12: Repeat until the inside back is covered with strips of contact paper.

Step 13: Replace the shelves and add your favorite books and decorations to them.

 Easy as 1, 2…13 !

“As a freshman living in the dorms, being organized is one of the key factors in being successful. Bookshelves are a great way to accomplish organization. They allow you to see everything, while also allowing you to make organizing fun by cutely arranging your books, notebooks, and binders!”

– Katy Hovious, Cal Poly Business Freshman

Tips, Tricks, and Advice:


  • If you can find contact paper that already has an adhesive backing, you will save yourself half of the work. The contact paper linked in the “What You Need” section above is already adhesive.
  • You do not need contact paper to add color to the back of your bookshelf. Think outside the box and get creative. You could use: gift wrap with a fun pattern, your favorite posters, wallpaper, scrapbooking paper, fabric. The possibilities are endless!
  • The paintable wallpaper on the outside of the bookcase adds great texture, but if you’re in a time or budget bind, opt to just add some color to the inside of the bookcase. This will draw people’s eye to what is displayed on the shelves.


Take a Blank Wall from “Blah” to Bright!

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Fabric-filled embroidery hoops are a great way to brighten up any plain wall. They’re cost effective and you can hang them without damaging walls. This makes them great decorations for renters and college students.

What You’ll Need:

How to Make Them:

Step 1: Place your fabric in the embroidery hoop and tighten the closure so that the fabric is taut.

Step 2: Flip the hoop over and cut the excess fabric, leaving a half-inch border of fabric.

Step 3: Hot glue the fabric to the inside of the wood embroidery hoop so that no excess fabric will show when you flip it back over.

The embroidery hoop is now completed. The next step is finding the perfect spot to hang it. I recommend using the small command strip hooks pictured above. They’re great because they hold the light-weight embroidery hoops while leaving no permanent damage when you remove them.

The best part about this DIY project is that it cost less than three dollars per hoop. Beverly’s in downtown San Luis Obispo sells discounted fabrics for less than 4 dollars per yard. Embroidery hoops usually cost about one or two dollars each.

That’s an easy way to take a blank wall from boring to bright and colorful.

Tweet, Tweet, Tweet!

Hey everyone! I just linked my Twitter to this new little blog of mine.

If you scroll down to the bottom of the screen, you can see my latest tweets. There’s also a little button there that says Follow @oliviabickel. You should press it. Here’s why:

  • You will be one of the FIRST people I know when I post a new blog. You’ll basically be a Martha: The College Years VIP.
  • I retweet other people’s crafty DIY ideas (AKA Martha, herself) and link to other DIY blogs.
  • I also retweet other people’s really funny comments and tidbits of useless but interesting knowledge.
  • I’m pretty skilled at #hashtagging.
  • I share my Instagrams (obickel) on Twitter. Some say I’m quite the artist.
  • I’ve been known to be funny at times.
  • You’ll follow me…I’ll follow you. So much Twitter love.
  • I would think you’re a nice person.

If that’s not reason enough, go check out my Twitter for yourself. Tweet me! I’ll tweet you! We can be Twitter friends!

Oh My, Olive Oil Eye Makeup Remover!

Aside from being a great cooking ingredient, Olive Oil has a variety of uses. Olive oil can:

  • moisturize dry nail cuticles
  • polish furniture and metal
  • act as a hair deep conditioner
  • free a stuck zipper
  • soothe your throat
  • remove paint from your skin or hair
  • fix a squeaky door
  • act as a shaving cream
  • remove stickers

To learn more uses for olive oil around the house, read the Huffington Post’s article, Olive Oil Uses: 20 Bizarre Household Tips.

One of the biggest secrets about olive oil is that it’s an amazing beauty product. “In addition to being a natural, hypoallergenic way to moisturize skin, extra virgin olive oil has the added advantage of providing strong antioxidants, like Vitamins A and E that help repair and renew skin that has been damaged from overexposure to sun, air pollution, and other modern-day environmental hazards – like cigarette smoke and fast food. These antioxidants have the natural ability to stimulate cells and return skin to a firmer, smoother, and healthier state;” according to

“Olive oil has no equal as far as oils go. It’s even proven to clean the platelets in your blood stream.”

-Ray Russell, We Olive Store Owner in San Luis Obispo

A great everyday use for olive oil is as an eye makeup remover. Because it’s both a great moisturizer and lubricant, it removes eye makeup while leaving the skin around the eyes soft and supple. When used daily, it can even smooth out wrinkles around the eyes.

Katie Koon, a high-end beauty store consultant, says:

“By the end of the day, your skin has accumulated the world on it. If you don’t want to break out and you want to keep your skin hydrated, you need to remove your makeup.”

While “olive oil eye makeup remover” isn’t found in most drug stores, you can make it yourself at home for a quarter of the cost of regular eye makeup remover. Danielle Hadley, a Graphic Design Sophomore at Cal Poly, says:

“I usually spend about 9-12 dollars on makeup remover. I never really know what’s in the ones I’m buying, and find myself spending more so that it really works.”

Well all it takes to make at-home eye makeup remover is Witch Hazel and Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Both are all-natural ingredients, so there’s no confusion about what’s going on your skin. The witch hazel is combined with the olive oil because of its astringent qualities. It tighten pores, removes excess oils, and reduces swelling and inflammation. You can also use witch hazel as an all-natural alternative to buying toner. For more information about uses for witch hazel, visit this website.

One of the best things about this at-home product is the price. You can get the ingredients for only a couple of dollars each in the grocery store and they will last you for at least a year. That means you’re spending less than ten dollars a year on eye makeup remover.

Just combine half olive oil with half witch hazel in a clear bottle. And that’s it! Shake the mixture to combine the ingredients before applying it to a cotton ball to remove your eye makeup.

Olive oil eye makeup remover is a great way to save your skin and your wallet.

Here’s a video by Kandee Johnson that shows how to make the mixture in more detail:

Get Fit Using…Pinterest?

Pinterest QuoteFor those of you who haven’t heard of a little corner of the Internet called Pinterest (have you been living under a rock?), it is a place to share ideas, learn fun tips, and get sucked into spending endless hours scrolling downwards. In fact, it’s the fastest growing site on the Internet. Here’s a few fun Pinterest facts according to an article on

  • Pinterest has grown from 1 million users in July 2011 to more than 20 million today (that’s just over a year in time).
  • About 70% of Pinterest users are women.
  • Forbes predicts that Pinterest could become the next social media giant…so long Facebook!

Pinterest is a great resource for Do-It-Yourself-ers. It’s a virtual pin board where you can find links to crafting blogs, tasty cooking recipes, easy DIY tips, and inspirational quotes and pictures. But when scrolling down Pinterest, you’re more likely to come across baked goods recipes and decadent dessert pictures than dieting and exercising tips. And spending endless amounts of time “pinning” usually means forfeiting time to go make healthy choices…like working out.

Melinda Johnson from US News jokes, “A popular quote that’s frequently pinned on the website sums it up: ‘Honey, can you pick up pizza? I spent all day pinning healthy recipes on Pinterest.'” However, she says that you can turn Pinterest into a helpful health tool. In her article,  Make Pinterest Your Personal Health Coachshe gives a few tips on how to make browsing a little less tempting and a little more motivating.

Here’s some of her advice:

  • Follow dietitians that post healthy recipes and motivational quotes. Fill your home page with healthy tips rather than high-calorie recipes. Johnson recommends following the pin board “Healthy Aperture”, which is a shared pin board where people post healthy tips to motivate each other.
  • Schedule your “Pinning” – allot yourself a certain amount of time to browse Pinterest. Sitting in front of the computer is a sedentary activity that doesn’t use much mind power or body power. Losing yourself in “pins” can be relaxing for 15 to 20 minutes a day. After looking up motivational workout tips or healthy eating recipes, log off and put them into action.

By giving your Pinterest a healthy makeover and practicing a little bit of self control, you can make it a healthy living tool.

You can find me on Pinterest, although I’m not sure how motivating my links will be. Happy Pinning!