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Why I Suck at Sewing (and that’s OK)


Masterpiece...ugh.

I recently had a dog move in with me (don’t worry, she pays rent) and I thought I could make her a cute little hobo bed. So I took scraps of cloth and decided to basically fabric glue this piece of monstrosity together with a bit of stitching toward the end for structure.

Well, let me be the first to say “Bahahahaha” and “Bahahahaha.”

Honestly, I’ve never put on airs about my sewing. I can do the minimal hand stitching for reupholstering, but aside from that, me and a lobster have equal sewing capacities. I even have a sweet sewing machine but the bobbin and tension totally harsh my mellow.

Soooooo what’s the point of this post? As much as I love good, old fashion, self-depricating humor, there really is a purpose. You see, this post is coming hot on the heels of a conversation I had with a friend. She was feeling down about nothing specific. Not just the “winter icks,” but the “I-look-around-me-and-see-that-everyone-seems-to-be-making-it-work-with-ease-and-here-I-am-just-waiting-for-improvement-itis.” It’s something we all feel occasionally. You’re genuinely happy for someone else’s luck/success/what have you, but at the same time you wonder, “how do they do it?” or “what are they doing differently than me?”

The answer I have found is pretty simple- nothing. I devote my spare time to woodworking, running, home improvement, my band, furniture nonsense and messing up my life with power tools. It isn’t fair for me to turn around and expect to be great at sewing when it isn’t even remotely on my to-do list. Nor are cooking, bowling, dancing, golfing (I could go on forever.) Do I sacrifice for my hobbies? Again, my to-do list is not extensive. I rarely bowl, go dancing, buy gourmet food etc. It’s just a matter of picking my battles, even though they are always with myself.

No matter what we have/don’t have or where we excel/fail, at the end of the day everyone is tired, everyone tried, everyone is waiting for the next day to be a little better and we’ve all sacrificed something in order to be what we are (good or bad.)

When it comes down to it, it’s always good to see the potential in yourself but keep in mind the value of all that you are. Where would we be if Eric Clapton decided to try his Slowhand (get it?) at body-building? Or dry cleaning? Or macrame? All that he has done is not overshadowed by all that he chose not to do.

So, it’s OK, go ahead and suck at something.

Fortune Valentines


When it comes to Valentine’s Day it can be hard to come up with gifts that aren’t completely juvenile, but still bear some nostalgic weight. You don’t want to seem trite; you don’t want to knock off a jewelry commercial; you don’t want to spend the entire contents of your bank account. Nothing says “I love you like I did when we were young” more than a homemade gift with a grown-up twist.

Necessary Supplies

Paper of any kind. String or clothesline. Pen/pencil. Scissors.

Optional supplies

Stickers. Glitter. Markers. Anything you’d like to decorate your hearts.

Step 1: Take a square piece of paper. I chose to use tissue paper, but that is just what I had handy. Scrapbook paper, computer paper or even paper towels would all work just fine. Then, (if you so desire) you can drawn a design or make kiss marks all over it with your sexy, red hot lipstick. Personally I had my daughter scribble on a couple of the pages, just so she could be represented in the gift.

Step 2: Follow the how-to video to create paper hearts. (I would set aside a decent amount of time to do this. It’s no coincidence that I posted this project 10 days before V-day.) But once you get the hang of it, it’s easy peasey. Then decorate the hearts with the bonus materials of your choosing like glitter or stickers. My style permitted paper and Olivia’s doodlings to suffice for me, but if you need to glam it up then by all means do it!

Just a couple examples of my "fortunes."

Step 3: Once all of your hearts are completed, it’s time to make the fortunes! I just cut out pieces of printer paper in roughly the same size as fortune cookie fortunes. I wrote on mine (but you could just as easily type these out in M.S. Word, print and cut) all of the reasons I love my guy. Obviously, that’s not the only option. You could write your hopes for your future, all the dirty things you want to do together (oh yeah, I went there), your favorite memories together, whatever you’d like. If you have kids, you could assign each of them a heart to decorate and write something regarding their Dad/Step Mom/Grandpa–whoever the banner is intended.

Step 4: Slide your heart onto the string by running it under the main flap.

Step 5: Tuck your fortunes into the back pocket of the hearts.

Step 6: String those puppies up and watch your loved one feel, well…loved!

And just to clarify…

This what the back should look like.

This is what the front looks like.

Your sweetheart will love the banner, and will love to read all of your wonderful fortunes even more!

Rockin’ Stockin’s


As I previously mentioned, my boss nominated me to make holiday stockings for our section of 13. I drafted another co-worker to bang out these hastily-made, ill-planned, yet surprisingly well-executed burdens. I can’t say that all of them are worthy of public viewing. In all reality, some of them aren’t even fit for private viewing, but once it was 11:30 p.m. and I had glitter covering 400 square feet of my house, I was to the point of just scribbling names in black Sharpie on the front of them and calling it a day.

But some are decent enough for this “semi-public” viewing.

Michigan State vs. U of M stocking.

Alice in Wonderland stocking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

U of M stocking detail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Philadelphia Eagles stocking detail.

 

 

 

 

World of Warcraft stocking.

 

 

 

Springtime stocking. (I don't do winter.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hanging around the staircase like the Brady Bunch.

 

We tried to incorporate people’s personality (hopefully that’s obvious) into these stockings. Honestly, they were thrown together in a total of about 5 hours, so they are a bit scattered. But if you only have a family of 4 or 5, these are an easy weekend project that can really knock your stockings off!

WTF Were They Thinking?


I know I’ve been super serious lately about trying to assemble a laundry space that doesn’t require a Prozac upon entry, so I’ve decided to lighten it up with some WTF rooms. I obviously love color, texture, art and slightly obscure objects (as evident by my use of 100% of the junk left behind by the sellers). But sometimes, quite honestly, people lose their damn minds and seem to forget that after they decorate with impractical baubles and plastic furniture they also have to live there.

I’m just going to jump right in with a big “Are you kidding me?” The color and layout are’t the issue, but what’s going on with the teetering twig table? I could be wrong, it could be totally stable and only look like a rickety pile of kindling… but who wants something that even LOOKS this questionable in their house? I wouldn’t want to walk past this situation, much less set anything on it (except an open flame).

If you want a statement table, you’re much better off playing with color over structure. A table has a flat top and 3+ legs to plant it firmly on the ground. Most tables have this in common because those are the bare necessities for an item to be considered a table. A cart (to the right) is a viable variation on the standard table, if painting it bright, robins egg blue isn’t enough for you. There’s SO much contrast going on, but it works on the most basic level and that’s one step up from the brush pile above.

“Excuse me, waiter, there is a roll of rusted wire in my soup.” I’m all about the nature meets industry contrast, but that’s seriously a gnarled mass of wire hanging from the ceiling. Is there a light in there? I have no idea. Is it just for aesthetics? I sure hope not because it’s not doing its job. I’m not a total hater because I feel like I get what they were going for, but I am not one to sacrifice function for, well, anything. A light fixture made of deer antlers would have gone very nicely here. (I hope you know that last part was a joke.)

You want random wire pieces suspended from the ceiling? Perhaps going the more structured route is best. As you can see, the two circular shapes (right) don’t seem quite as jarring as the rats nest of metal over the table (upper left, remember?) A great contributor to the setup is the open space that surrounds the circles. There’s no busy rug or patterns that also compete for attention. It follows the same vibe with industry meets nature, but it’s simplified and doesn’t leave you with the question “Should I get a Tetanus shot?”

I kind of don’t even know what to say about this situation to the left. Yeah, I get it, you like primary colors and NASCAR, but there doesn’t need to be a head on collision juxtaposition of this magnitude in your house. Believe it or not, this person did do a couple (not many) things right here. The furniture (“interesting” as it may be) is right in line with the scale of this room. It’s a little room and the furniture is small, but it doesn’t look very comfortable and I couldn’t spend more than 11.3 minutes in this room before I’d need to stretch my legs. On that same note, because the room is so small, placing mirrors on one wall is an amazing way to open up space for the area to appear larger. However, I would not have placed “Halloween” and “Bumblebee” themed mirrors in this small of space (or any space). Not only are they on the hideous side, they are WAY TOO LOUD for the area. The checkered flag table and mustard yellow carpet…? Let’s just say I hope they have really great personalities.

You want volume and primary colors? The situation to the right is a great example of how loud can be calmed. Yes, there is a huge red wall. Yes, there is a cheetah print chair. Yes, there is a black and white striped area rug and a painting of John Wayne (?) above the TV. But somehow, it’s a place I could relax for an extended period of time. The key to this is that the 4 items that I listed are really the loudest pieces of this room. The coffee table is virtually colorless, the TV stand is a plain, toffee, mid-century modern element and the small dining table near the wall doesn’t compete because it is so bland. You can be loud, ridiculous and a little esoteric (John Wayne, really?) but you don’t have to lose your mind in the process.

Just remember, you have to live here after you decorate here.

Organization Nip/Tuck


Sometimes you look around the house and it seems like you have a million and a half things to do. It’s not like they’re huge projects, but in the whirlwind of cleaning the kitchen and doing laundry, the “clutter busting” tends to get skipped. However, your less likely to skip the little tasks that get under your skin if you do them before all of the big stuff gets in the way. Here’s a list of those small things that you can do in less time than you think.

File Keepsakes
Organize mementos and knickknacks within keepsake boxes. Pull out those empty chocolate or tea tins and fill them with letters, sea shells, ticket stubs and photos.

Clean the Home Office
With the computer off, turn keyboard upside down and shake out any crumbs (Ew, I know). Dust the computer monitor with electronic wipes, eye glass cleaning cloth or even a used dryer sheet. Dust keys with Endust or a small, clean paint/makeup brush.

Use Under-Bed Storage
Neatly fold blankets and store them in their original plastic or a plastic tote under your bed. That way, you’ll create square footage of storage and also have easy access for guests or especially cold nights.

Contain Shoes
Separate his and her shoes (if necessary) and then group by style: high heels together, tennis shoes, sandals etc. Some people will suggest to put your “special occasion” shoes in the back of the closet because you rarely wear them. Maybe this is a good idea for guys, but for girls who have several pairs; KEEP THEM ALL IN VIEW! You will completely forget what you own if you hide them or keep them out of reach, which will automatically force you to exhaust the same few while there are others in perfect shape just dying to be worn.

 

Style the Countertop 
Instantly give your countertop style an upgrade with a cake stand to contain salt, pepper, olive oil and frequently used seasonings.

Rearrange the Cabinet 
In the kitchen, tackle one cabinet at a time and sort its contents. Group glasses by style and place upside down. Layer a nonskid liner first if you’re really feeling ambitious! If you have too many glasses to count, just make sure you place the rarely used glasses in the cabinets that are hardest to reach. (You see, the “rarely used shoe rule” doesn’t apply here.)

Organize Under the Sink
Stick adhesive hooks (found at any hardware store) to hang a pair of rubber dish gloves in the cabinet under a sink. Some people like to wear rubber gloves to protect their nails (which is a valid point), but I just don’t like to touch soggy, old food. (Honestly, I’d rather clean a toilet.)

A Space for Everything

The best way to organize and STAY organized it so make sure there is a place for everything. How freeing is it to know that the flashlight is next to the batteries and matches in the utility closet? As opposed to “Where the hell did I put that flashlight? I had it when the power went out last week, but now who knows?” Once you create a place for everything (and ensure that items always return there) then you won’t have to do an “organization overhaul” of your home more than once.

Nature Lighting


When it comes to light fixtures, the options are endless. As I scoured the web sites for my favorites, there was one category that I avoided because I didn’t like the sound of it. “Rustic.” When I think of “rustic” lighting, I think of something like this…

But as I grew more and more desperate to find the fixtures that I envisioned, I finally took a peek. I soon realized that “rustic” is a term that seems to be stamped on decor that has a lot of natural undertones.

These capiz shell chandeliers come in many shapes and sizes.

Obviously, this is a more natural "shell environment."

It's mostly glam, with a hint of foliage.

See the resemblance to the detail at the top?

Shiny circles.

Shiny circles.

I think this makes a pretty obvious nod to nature.

This illustration may be unnecessary, but why ruin a good layout?

This references nature in color and finish more than design.

You can see it, right? They're like cousins.

I like that this is interesting, but not too ostentatious.

Not ALL of the natural inspiration comes from plants.

This gives an urban-hippie vibe that is super fun and unique.

This fixture doesn't just mimick the appearance of twine, someone could actually create a fixture out of twine...and I plan to.

As you can see, professionals get their inspiration from the forest, the ocean or just some stuff they have in their shed. I want to take a cue from them; to recreate some of these concepts and totally disregard the labels, whether they be “rustic,” “Mediterranean,” or “Hobo.”

Rethink White


White walls are a huge trend that I have noticed sneaking it’s way back onto the radar. White has always been THE chic color (or in contrast, a very simple country color) but it popping up in magazines and homes outside of metropolitan areas (and not quite in rural areas) begs the question- What’s changed?

What has made this stark color palette so desirable? My left brain immediately recalls the materials that are used and the improvements that have been made. Glossy paint is more durable and water resistant than ever; it can be scrubbed to remove stains without streaking. And Hello Scotchgard! Carpets and upholstered furniture can hold up against the toughest kids, so white furniture is no longer just a blank canvas for grape juice stains and macaroni fingerprints. Even cleaning products have become more effective. Two awesome products that have become popular within the last decade that I have fallen in love with are the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and OxiClean. All of these factors contribute to white coming back into the normal household as a statement color.

But then my artsy right brain kicks in and says “How about the fact that it is just pretty?” But my right brain has nothing else to back up that statements so my left brain tells it to shut-up and will fill in the gaps that my right brain can’t bridge. Is it pretty? Yes. Why? Because it can be ANYTHING you want. Nothing is more versatile than a clean slate, and that is just what a white room delivers. Here are some examples:

A chic boho getaway with embroidered pillows and a bright rug.

A family friendly room with pops of color.

A sophisticated and clutter-free space at grandma's house.

A study fit for intellectuals and bookworms alike.

An understated parlor; perfect for entertaining.

Basically, in a white room your accents and possessions become the decor. Old books are now your pops of color and lamp shades and pillows can tie it all together. This is awesome for world travelers or Pier 1 shoppers (yeah, I said it.), but not everyone has such “fancy” stuff. If this is the case then you have one of two options:

1) Get better stuff.

2) Transform your current possessions into the statement pieces you need.

Obviously I am a fan of the second option, even if it comes with a price tag (and by now you know how much I hate that.).

All of this for just under $45

The family room is one area where your possessions really have to take center stage if you are going to have white walls and furniture. My most favorite place to see a white palette is in an office. Not only does it force you to “femme up” a typically utilitarian area with curtains and chair covers but also because (here I go, talking about how much I love organization) boxes, containers and dividers come in an array of colors. Office supplies, as dorky as it sounds, can really turn the volume up when it comes to color. If you don’t believe me, just take a peek…

This is how an office becomes fun. It's a little overwhelming, but it's super electric for having white walls, furniture and flooring.

Although this room isn't quite as lively as the previous sunny space, this is obviously the office of a thinker. The difference is incredible when you imagine that these 2 rooms look extremely similar when empty.

This area has pattern and texture in spades. With so much presence you can tell this is a room that is used daily and for long periods of time. This isn't a casual, e-mail checking set-up.

On a more attainable level we have the casual, e-mail checking set-up. It's clean, small and maybe even slightly uncomfortable for long periods of time. This is a room that would fit into many houses. A "catchall" behind linen sheaths and a repurposed birdcage to hang the mail....I'm sort of in love here..

As you can see, the white room is no longer too chic for the normal family or too “country” to be modern, but it’s easy for the average person to look at a white room and get overwhelmed with the decorating process. There is a sense of “Where do I even start?” My answer to that may seem flippant and unhelpful, but start anywhere you want. Just find ONE thing. ONE piece of random inspiration, be it a pillow, rug, light fixture, kid’s toy; just something that embodies the color and feeling of what you want to create. If you want an open and airy living room then picking pillows with dark green and rust colored ticking may not be a good start. Just find that one item and draw ideas from it, similar to my previous post about appetizing colors. None of the items that I was inspired by had anything to do with the kitchen, but each item had different color combinations and nodded to the many directions  that I could take the kitchen.

Always start simple. It’s hard to know how much is too much when it all gets packed in at once and then you’re forced to blindly pare down. Start with the white room, it’s not just for insane people anymore. In fact you’d be crazy NOT to try it. **Rim Shot**  (OK, that was ridiculous, I’m so sorry for that…)

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