Friday, November 25, 2011

no, christmas tree!

I have a feeling we will be spending the next several weeks trying to keep James from tearing down our Christmas tree.  It's hard to keep myself away from shiny, sparkly, objects so I can imagine how appealing they would be to a 13 month old.

I convinced Joe that it was OK to put our tree up despite it still being November. James tried his best to get in on the action but was most helpful watching from a generous viewing distance.

Because I'm cheap and always seem to have an idea of something that doesn't actually exist in any stores east of the Mississippi, I decided to make my own tree skirt.  It cost me less than $5 for some burlap and linen-ish fabric.
I used the leftover fabric to make a few ornaments...

I bought "family stockings" last year but because we were living in the condo, we didn't really have a place to hang them.  They've been up for less than 3 hours and Joe has already complained that his doesn't have any gifts in it - but I also don't see him rushing out to fill ours with goodies either.  I'm still not sure how I feel about the mantle so it will probably change several times over the next month but, for now...

Guarding the tree from little, curious hands will be enough of a challenge so I don't think we'll do too many other decorations inside the house.  We (*ahem* Joe) plan on taking advantage of the unseasonably warm weather and hang some lights outside tomorrow.  Our house is set back and barely visible from the street but I'll still appreciate pulling into the driveway and getting that warm feeling that Christmas lights seem to bring - hopefully Joe will be equally as appreciative of $5 hand-made gifts this year.
'Tis the season!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

something new...

As mentioned in my last post, I took a pair of scissors to my Mum's "going away dress" that she wore after her wedding in 1969.  Because I wanted a piece of my parents' history to be a part of my wedding, I chose to repurpose pieces of that dress into a headband as well as a "bouquet" for myself.

Both were easy peasy to make - the hardest part was making that first cut into such an old, beautiful dress.

First, the headband.  I just used a basic black headband that I already owned, a piece of the silver trim from the jacket, and a $5 flower clip.

Since the silver beaded strip from the jacket had a silk lining, I decided to cut a small slit in one end to slip the headband through - as opposed to affixing the strip on top of the headband...

There were a few spots where the lining was frayed but I later cleaned that up and used a few dabs of hot glue to keep everything firmly in place.  Because the flower had an alligator clip, I just attached that onto the headband once I had it in my hair - that way it actually held some of my hair in place as well.

I think my Mum was disappointed that I wouldn't let her order me flowers to carry into our informal ceremony.  Not only are flowers expensive, I haven't found any whose smell doesn't remind me of a funeral home.  So, because I would probably just fiddle with my hair or bite my nails, I needed something to occupy my hands and take the place of a flower bouquet.  The historic home/garden where we had our ceremony did not allow open flame so candles were out of the question.  Anything else that I  thought of was too quirky until I decided to use some more of my Mum's going-away-dress.

I was playing with James while I made my "bouquet" so I didn't get a chance to take pics of the first part.  I had a styrofoam ball from Michaels and secured another piece of the silver beaded fabric around the ball, leaving a long piece dangling as a handle.
I cut the ivory dress fabric into squares.  I didn't measure anything but they were roughly 4"x4".  I folded each square into a triangle and then folded the other two corners down so all corners were together and I had myself a little poof!
I just used straight pins and attached to the styrofoam ball...
As you can see, the edges of this fabric are a bit frayed.  Most of that was hidden once the entire ball was filled with "poofs" and then I just trimmed any visible stragglers.  There were also a few spots, mostly around the beading, where the pins didn't want to stay put so I just used a few dabs of hot glue.  Also, one side of the fabric had more of a matte look while the other side has some shine to it.  I alternated the way I folded each square so that my final bouquet had some variation.  Voila!

(For those budget-conscious folks like myself, my wedding headband and bouquet cost me less than $6.)

Monday, November 14, 2011

something old.

I was never the type to dream about a fairytale wedding with guests throwing rice as we left a church, a reception hall donned with flower arrangements, stuffing pieces of a multi-tiered cake into my groom's face, or embarassingly having a piece of lingerie pulled from under my dress and thrown into a sea of single relatives.  I have always been the type to want to be married - to find a man that I could spend a lifetime creating memories with.  To me, a wedding is a formality that can be celebrated but it's the life after the wedding that should consume all of one's heart and energy.

My parents were married on May 17, 1969.  At the end of the reception, as tradition dictated, my Mum switched out of her wedding gown and into her "going away" outfit.  It was an ivory shift dress paired with a matching ivory jacket with silver details around the neckline and side darts.  (Excuse the lighting and wrinkles...)

This going away outfit was what my Mum wore when she officially began her "life after the wedding".  It was what she had on when she started a new life - a life as my Dad's wife.  My parents have been creating memories together for the past 42 years, 5 months, and 28 days.  They've shared countless plane rides, boat rides, car rides, and mai tais. They've raised four unique and confident children.  They've been there for each other through the happiest of times and have turned sad times into happy ones.  They've conquered heart surgeries and cancer together.  They have had patience with each other and my Dad still answers "but of course, Jo!" with a smile whenever my mom asks him to do the most ridiculous household chore.

I have never wanted a wedding like my parents had.  I have always wanted a marriage like my parents have.  Joe and I were married this past Saturday in an informal ceremony and later celebrated in the best way we know how - stuffing ourselves with Mexican food and having many celebratory drinks with our families.  Despite our non-traditional day, I wanted to have a token of my parent's marriage with me so what would better fit that bill than a piece of the dress that began my Mum's married life.  After much insistance from her, I reluctantly took a pair of scissors to the dress that had been stored in her hope chest for the past 15,521 days and carried pieces of my parents' beginning with me on my own wedding day...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

i'm dreaming of a white kitchen...

As if daunting piles of laundry, infinite to-do lists, and a creepy moaning furnace weren't enough to keep me awake at night, I've been planning out a new kitchen in my mind for the past several nights.  Well, I guess I've been mulling over it for months.  Sure, I've seen worse but our kitchen is a total pain in the rear.  The cabinets are solid but not-so-functional.  It seems as if all of the doors are on backwards and they're divided up in a way that makes it hard to fit anything inside.  The floor is in decent condition but it's a laminate that's supposed to look like real wood but fails miserably.  The appliances are old and, ummm, sticky and are horribly inefficient.  The countertops are aqua.

We tore down the 70's wallpaper several months ago but haven't done anything to cover up the random outlets or spotty paint.  I'm not big on temporary solutions (even if temporary isn't so temporary) so we're living with the imperfections until we can give the entire room an overhaul.

We aren't exactly rolling in cash so we're meticulously planning our kitchen renovation so that every penny is used to it's full potential.  (Well, I'm literally going insane comparing prices and looking for deals while Joe just smiles and supports each new idea that I spout out.)  We're still in the "research" phase of our kitchen project and may not be able to get down to the actual "doing" phase for a few more months but, in the meantime, here's what I'm thinking...

One side of our kitchen is a long, empty wall with windows that look out onto the driveway and front yard.  In a kitchen that doesn't have many functional cabinets, this wall is pretty much wasted space.

I'd like to put some narrow storage on either side of the window.  We usually enter the house through the kitchen so a place to drop our mail, keys, and all of the other junk we seem to juggle into the house everyday would be nice.  A recycling/trash cabinet similar to this one would gladly replace the small trash bin that's currently under our sink.  I'd rather not block the flow of traffic with a table so I am thinking that a bench under the window might be a nice place for Joe and James to sit and cheer me on while I cook them amazing meals.  (Note:  Joe recently pointed out that I don't cook him nice dinners anymore.  I think I'd be more likely to cook if I had a cheering section - oh, and if I had someone to go grocery shopping for me and then prep everything and clean up afterwards so I can spend some time with James in that short window of time between work and bedtime.)  But I digress...I'd like everything on this wall to look built-in and custom as opposed to random, free standing pieces of furniture.  As you can see from the pictures above, there's baseboard heating along this wall so we'd need to take that into consideration.  Here's a sketch of what I'm imagining.  Look out Picasso...

I've done countless calculations to figure out if modifying our existing cabinets would be better than ripping them all out and putting in new ones.  Result: rip them out and get new ones.  With everything reconfigured and space optimized, I am hoping to get rid of these cabinets all together and replace them with open shelves.  Also, if budget allows, I'd like for this wall to be completely tiled from counter to ceiling.
Again, here's another totally-not-to-scale or accurate drawing of what I'm imagining for this wall:

Aside from new appliances and cabinets, the other side of the kitchen would remain relatively the same.  The only major change I would like to see would be to get rid of the microwave above the stove and replace it with a traditional hood.  Combined with the open shelves, I'd hope to make the space feel as airy as possible and getting rid of the microwave and upper cabinet might help.  Ya think?
Google images of "white kitchen" and I will take any one of the 150million results.  Again, once we get around to implementing these plans, we've got to do it on the cheap.  (Cheap: adv. to look rich and be of quality construction and function while costing as little money as possible)  I'd love for someone to give me a coupon for free soapstone countertops but we will probably settle for butcher block.  Butcher block should keep things feeling warm anyways. I'm still searching for flooring options but I hope to find black (or slate-colored) cork that's within our budget.  The dark floors would go with the masculine look I so enjoy and be a nice contrast to the wood floors in the adjoining room.  White cabinets, sink, and walls would allow for pops of fresh color throughout the space - and give me a clean slate to adjust whenever the mood strikes. 

As if my babbling descriptions and wonky pictures didn't explain the look I'm going for, here's a little sample of what I'm basing my research on:
Has anyone recently renovated their kitchen?  Give me some tips, suggestions, cash, etc.!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

to my one year old:

You let me hold you this morning while you took a short nap on the couch.  For an independent, squirmy kid, this was quite a treat!  It was only a year ago that I got to hold you for the first time and you fit perfectly in the bend of my arm.  Today, your legs draped over my lap and your arms spanned across my body.

You're quickly turning into a little man and it's hard to accept.  On the other hand, it's exciting to see you forming your own personality to mix in with the traits you've got from me and your Daddy.  Like him, you are sweet.  You instinctively know who to trust and aren't shy about showing them your affection.  You like to test your boundaries and make sure to investigate any and all nearby gadgets!  And like Daddy, you're a rascal!

Like me, you are stubborn.  You want to do things your way and you don't want help from anyone - you love your toys and books so much more when you get them off of the shelf yourself!  (Just to warn you, these qualities might frustrate people when you get bigger but understand who you are.  Own who you are and appreciate yourself - and know that Mumma will always be proud of you!)

I wish that you continue to explore and continue to find humor in everything.  I wish that you stay happy and confident.  I wish that you stay strong and stay brave.  I wish that you'd make time stop moving so damn fast.

Happy Birthday, little buddy.  I love you!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

camera bag

As mentioned in an earlier post, the main lens I use on my camera was involved in a tragic accident and went on to a better life.  I ordered a new one and it arrived the other day.  Woo!  Seeing that I carry two different lens in my small, cramped bag, I figured now is as good of a time as any for a new one.  Unfortunately, decent looking camera bags cost a crap-load of money for some reason.  I'd love to have a Ketti Handbag but I would also like my son to eat for the next few months.

So, I decided to make my own - for a fraction of the price.

A purse - preferably one that is sturdy and has a large main compartment (as opposed to a purse that has a few dividers already built in)
Headliner fabric - thats the stuff you'd probably find on the roof of your car (inside, duh) but they sell it at any fabric store.  I probably used about a 1/2 yard.

Forgive me in advance but I don't know the technical terms for any of this stuff.  Also, I'm not much of an instructions gal so I pretty much just winged it.  As with all DIY projects, you can find a zillion tutorials online if you want to attempt your own bag.

Here's the purse I started out with.  I think it was about $15-20 at Marshalls.  (I don't remember the exact amount but I try not to spend more than $20 on anything so I assume that's how much it cost.)

I cut a few rectangular pieces of cardboard out of a box from our recycling bin.  I then laid the pieces inside of the purse to make sure they were the right size.  One piece lays flat on the bottom of the purse and the other two lay horizontally on each side.  I made sure the horizontal pieces weren't too tall so that I can still make use of the side pockets in the purse.  I wrapped the bottom piece in some batting.  The headlining fabric has some cushion to it so the batting just added some extra smoosh to the bottom.

Next, I laid out a long piece of the headlining fabric, the same width of the pieces of cardboard I already cut out.  I figured out where I wanted to secure a few pieces of velcro and then sewed it on.  I forgot to take a picture of that step but here is a picture from later on in the process but it shows what kind of velcro I used:

Next, I folded the piece of fabric in half and then sewed seams in where the folds/bends in my camera bag insert would go.  I hope this picture explains it because I don't know how I would with words.
In the picture above, I already sewed two straight lines where the insert would fold up along the sides of the purse.  The opening that I am holding up will be at the bottom of the purse and won't show - so I wasn't worried about doing anything major to hold it together.  To close up the ends, I just sewed a straight line down the two sides of the insert.  Here it shows how it will look inside of the purse:
Disregard the horrible sewing job but James was napping and I knew I probably only had another 10 minutes to finish this project.  Yes, I was rushing.  No biggie though - all of this would be inside of the purse and not-so-visible. more wiggly lines!
I've seen several tutorials online that make sides for the insert but that would have been too fancy for me.  Instead, I just made three dividers to slip inside.  Because they have velcro on the ends, they can be adjusted to fit whatever it is they are dividing:
With these all sewed up and inserted into the insert, it looks like this:
I could make additional dividers if I wanted to tote around additional lens or other items.  For now, it holds a spare lens, my camera (old camera is in the pic above for staging purposes along with some rolled up batting in the 3rd compartment) as well as a wallet, phone, etc. can all fit!

Much better than what I used to have to carry around in addition to my regular purse!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

not-so-quick bathroom fix

I have yet to share any pictures of our main bathroom.  There's nothing terribly wrong with it...except for the nasty green sponge paint it was sporting.  It made me cringe every time I've gone in there since we moved in this past May.  Sherwin Williams was having a 40% off sale this weekend so that gave me a good excuse to go buy a can of bathroom paint and fix 'er up!

It was supposed to be an easy project.  There's wainscoating on the bottom half of the walls so the area that would actually require paint was fairly small.  To make sure the green didn't sneak through the light colored paint we chose, we decided to throw a quick coat of primer on the walls.  About 20 minutes later, the priming phase of our bathroom makeover was done.  (Joe manned the roller while I took to the trim and cutting in.  For someone who admittedly isn't very patient, I really enjoy that tedious task for some reason.)

A short while later, I went to check on the primer to see if it was even close to being dry.  It was...but I also noticed something else...bubbles.  There were bubbles forming on two of the walls.  Uuuugh.  That horrible green sponge paint was actually over a layer of wall paper.  People who paint over wallpaper should be thrown in jail.  We couldn't ignore the fact that there was wallpaper under the paint and we certainly couldn't ignore the bubbles on two of our walls.  After several curse words and a few attempts at pulling off chunks of wallpaper, we realized two things:  1.  Whoever papered the wall did an amazing job.  We couldn't even see any seams.  Without the bubbles we never would have known that crap was even on the wall.  2.  The wallpaper was only on two of the walls.  It appears that the paper was only on the walls that were a part of the original bathroom.  We think the original bathroom used to end about halfway between these two windows.  (Warning:  Horrible green sponge paint + still having to use my old, junky camera = a nasty sight...)
So, we spent 20 minutes priming the entire bathroom and another 5 hours trying to scrape wallpaper off two of the walls.  Luckily, the walls underneath the wallpaper were white and in perfect condition so no repairs or additional priming was necessary.

I still want to paint all of the orange-y wood work, replace the fixtures, replace the vanity and install a new steam shower - and Joe wants to install a $5,000 toilet.  We dream big.  For now, we'll settle for a fresh coat of paint.

Scroll on and off the pictures below to see the before and after...

Despite the sweat and patience that was lost during this 'quick" project, it was all worth it.  The bathroom feels twice as big and I don't have that sickly green glow when I look in the mirror.  Well, I still have a sickly glow but that's attributed to pure exhaustion and not green sponge paint.

(In case you aren't able to see the before and after pics above, here's what you missed...)