Thursday, June 30, 2011

Road Trip Survival Kit

My birthday present to myself is doing nice stuff for other people.

On of those people is our daycare provider.
She is super awesome, and her family?  Is my family.

Last week they packed up the car for a fun family vacation - The Great American Road Trip!
So, I surprised them with a fun "Survival Kit" to help pass the time in the car and help keep them from killing each other :)

I remember making the drive from Iowa to Florida for a family vacation many moons ago.
My best friend came with us, and her mom put together a fun kit like this - we had so much fun looking for different things, it really helped pass the time. 
And, it's super easy to put together for someone!

It doesn't take a lot.  I started with some treats, and some car-friendly games everyone could play while they were in the car:
- Travel Trivial Pursuit
- Deck of Cards
- Hangman pads
- Crossword puzzle book
- Word search book
I also added in a sudoku book and.. a few more snacks :)

Next, I printed out labels and made coordinating tags for the gifts:

The idea is that each gift is wrapped up, and has a tag with a specific item that has to be spotted, or a task to be performed before you can open the gift:

Some are easy, like "Open when you cross the state line", and some take a little more work,  like spotting license plates from 10 different states.

I was in a hurry to get this off and over to her in time, so I forgot to take pics of the finished wrapped gifts.
But whatever, I used coordinating wrapping paper and trust me,  it was cute. :)

I put everything into this cute vellum bag, and ta-da!
(hint: I would recommend always putting the packages in a gift bag/sack - the bag then becomes an easy catch-all for garbage [which is inevitable on a road trip, right?] and makes it a snap to toss out the trash when it's full)

Happy Road-Tripping!


linking to my repurposed life

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tips from the Pros: Better Homes & Gardens

A few days ago I had the opportunity to attend a session with
Jill Waage, Editorial Director for Better Homes & Gardens magazine about
finding your own sense of style and incorporating it into your home.

Jill has been with BHG/Meredith Corp. for many, many years and has some pretty cool perspective and experience.  If you search for her name at you'll find some gorgeous closets and mudrooms she has designed recently.  Beautiful.
 The session was full of great nuggets and information, but rather than recap everything, I'll try and boil down the top takeaway points that jumped out at me:

1) Look at what you love.
Jill said to look no further than your favorite movies and TV shows for inspiration.
What spaces are you drawn to?
She brought up a really interesting example of how a home set in a movie altered home design in such a way that years later, we are still being influenced by it.

Do you recognize this living room?

Photo: Architectural Digest

It's from the 2003 movie Something's Gotta Give, starring Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson.
Jill said this home became what she calls a "Game Changer" in the world of design; this was the first look that really inspired so many of the staple elements that we're obsessing about in home design today:

- Relaxed white slipcovers (these also included the skirted slipcover, which shot up in popularity after the film's release)
- Crisp white trim with contrasting dark wood accents in the floor and furniture
- Beachy nantucket blue stripes on a natural-fiber rug
- Eclectically coordinated - but not "matching" accent furniture
- Embracing light and white on walls and in the architecture to give the room an open, airy feel
- Etc. Etc. Etc.

And yes, I said it was from 2003.
Crazy that nearly a decade later those trends are still on the top of the game.

Jill said finding what you're drawn to in pop culture helps develop your own personal style.  I couldn't agree more.

2) Function in YOUR life. 
When looking for furniture or accents, don't be blinded by the "cool" factor of what some pieces can do.
Do you really need your coffee table to convert to a laptop desk?  Or are you better suited for something that has storage?
Jill says just because it's great that a piece can provide ____ function... but is that how YOU need it to function?
Don't be afraid to break the "rules":
Writing desks CAN be used as sofa/console tables.
Console tables CAN be used as nightstands.
Nightstands CAN be accent/end tables
Dressers CAN become entertainment centers.

Make furniture work for YOU - don't alter your life to fit your furniture.

And Finally
3) Define Your Space.
It's not a new theory, but it's worth repeating.
Open floor plans are wonderful and allow for flow and conversation and lots of other activities.  But make sure you're not just lining up furniture against every wall and calling it good.
Break up an open room/area into space for eating, for chatting, for tv watching, for game playing, etc.
You can accomplish this with furniture and placement, yes, but don't forget floor covering, using different textures, etc.

We left the session with a copy of the latest BHG issue, a handy card for session notes on one side, and tips from Jill on the other, plus a coupon for the furniture store that was hosting the session.
(Homemaker's for the locals).

And now, it's time to end this post with some eye candy:
 I kept slobbering over this industrial table every time I walked by.
I love the contrast of the worn iron base with the scrubbed reclaimed wood top.
So simple and beautiful.

And check out that wall art behind the table!
It's simply a grid of distressed round mirrors - totally something you could DIY, I think!
Instant glam into a room, for sure! 

More reclaimed wood tables.  Love love love.

I'm not normally a fan of the big matching mirror bolted to the dresser,
but I had to take a picture of this one because the design is genius!
See the panel on the left with the necklaces hanging from small hooks?
That panel actually slides behind the mirror, so it hides your jewelry!
I would love it more if the mirror was designed to hang free on the wall over  the dresser, instead of attached to it, but regardless, that is smart design.

 (This piece is actually one from BHG's own furniture line. )

I loved these fake books they had stacked in one of their displays.
I have some hollow books that are great for stacking and hiding stuff
(When The Redhead was an infant I stashed tiny diapers in a hollow book in the living room so I wouldn't have to run upstairs for ever diaper change.  Worked like a charm)

These have a thick woven cover and are embellished with a rich leather strap.
I think with the right fabric you could totally DIY these, too.
Very tailored and handsome.

And here's some more potential project inspiration...
I love the fabric panels in this lantern!
Rustic and simple, and would be easy to make your own, and even change the panels out as the seasons (or your decor) changes too.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

One of These Things is Not Like the Other...

Last week I posted the tutorial for how I created a gallery wall in our office.

Well I still love it, but one thing keeps catching my eye and I'm wondering if I should change it.

Can you guess what it is?

[and no, it's not that one photo is in color and the rest are in black and white.  That's another story altogether, and I'm working on that.  So in *addition* to that.. :)]

This little oval mirror keeps creeping into my brain. 
I love the shape and the size.  I like it in its current position.
It's the color. 
Does the cream look weird?

What say you?
I wanted something other than black because that would be too much black, I think.
But now I'm second-guessing myself.
Am I better off with a muted metallic?
Is this call for a big pop of color?
Should I glaze over the current color just to tone it down?
Oh, the decisions, decisions that keep me up at night... 
Once I figure out the answer to this dilemma, I'll get cracking on world peace, I promise.  ;)

Help, please!
What do you think?


Monday, June 20, 2011

A Splash of Summer

I don't know about where you live, but here in Iowa we had been experiencing some real up-and-down weather over the past few weeks... from steamy and 90+ degrees... to 50's and raining, all within a 48-hour period. 
Gotta love the weather in the midwest!

Now that summer is here [I think!] to stay, it was time to update the house.
I'm not one to redecorate everything for holidays or different times of the year
[no, Pottery Barn, I am not buying new bedding just for Christmas.  No matter how badly you want me to]
But I do like to switch things up and add a few touches as the seasons change.
This year, I'm feeling a little beachy.


I'm finding that dropping a starfish here and there is like putting a little "kiss" of summer in a room.

Yep, I put a frame around our thermostat.
If our builder can conspicuously slap the thing of a large wall,
then I can make it art.[ish]. 
Right on.

The peonies were wonderful while they lasted...

..but now that they're gone this sandy succulant has moved in for the summer.

I haven't fully jumped on the sand dollar craze yet this season, but I like this little guy.

My planters on the deck are already growing out of control - with all the rain we've gotten lately my vines are going bananas.

And now that I'm feeling like the inside of my house is ready for summer,
I'm looking forward to some breezy nights out on the deck and
more warm days to let this one loose:

Cheers to Summer,

Friday, June 17, 2011

For the Green Door Girl

I'm a little hard-headed sometimes.
But eventually I come around. 
So... I finally came around.

I've posted about a little "something missing" from my Giant Mantle of Doom a couple different times.

And each time I ask for suggestions, the lovely Jenn at Green Door Designs tells me I need something in between the square windows.

I know she's right, but I've procrastinated.
Well Jenn, this one's for you. :)

As I was moving some accessories around for summer, I took this glass hurricane and propped it up on some books and added a candle.

I liked how the fluted rim mimicked the fluted rim of my big footed hurricane over there on the right, so I fished out his twin from the basement and added some more books.

(Sorry for the bad pic here)
Yes, Jenn, you were right.  :) 
 I like having something there to not only visually break up the windows, but also to add another layer of texture and some depth.

So, thanks Jenn!
If you wanna see what other good ideas she's puttin' out into the blogosphere,
you can show Jenn some love right here.

Happy Friday!


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Happy Birthday, Indeed.

Tomorrow is my birthday.

My mom has been asking me what’s on my “birthday list”… what I want, what I need… and all I’ve been able to come up with is “a nice wine opener because mine (from working at Bennigan’s through college) finally bit the dust”. And let’s face it.. if I can’t open up a bottle of wine on my birthday, darn right I’ll cry if I want to. :)

My point is that I’ve had trouble coming up with gift ideas because now, more than three decades into my life, I've finally realized that I don’t need anything. And anything I want is really just gravy; it’s frosting on top of a cupcake I already don’t deserve.
I’ve been touched by Grace and live a life that’s beyond blessed. I’m living the dream.
Or rather, to quote my friend Lisa,
“Actually, it's bigger than a dream and better than I could have imagined. Just goes to show you that God has bigger plans than we do.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

So I don't need... "stuff".
For this birthday, I’m saying Thank You.

I'm putting 33 acts of kindness into the world, one for every year God has granted me the privilege to live this life.
And maybe an extra 2 thrown in there because the two years The Redhead has been on this earth have been—at the very least—more interesting :) because of her. And that deserves some bonus kindness and gratitude shot back out into this universe, I think.

I’m not putting a deadline on myself like “do this all in one day”, because I have a jobby-job and I never want to feel motivated to do something nice just because the clock is ticking.

But I’m all-in, and I’ll keep you posted on what I’m up to.

So back to my mom. And her question.
What do I want for my birthday?
I want your help.

I’ll hold up my end of the bargain, but what do you say…. Will you join me?

I’ve written before about my goal to start a revolution.
And right now?
It’s the best time to suit up and get on board.

Take a MINUTE out of your day and do something nice and unexpected for someone else.

And then when you’re riding the high of how good you felt, do it again.

Once more, or twice. Or maybe 33 times for me. :)


Monday, June 13, 2011

Gallery Wall

When you first walk into our house, we have a nice, sunny office
right off the entryway.
It has pretty french doors and I love it.
(see the doors, ignore the mess :) )

What I don't love is the big blank wall that [until just recently] greeted
visitors when they arrived.
When we first moved in, I had a big shelving unit there that looked all right, but was a magnet for clutter.
A few months ago I swapped out the shelves for this sweet dresser.

It was hefty enough to anchor the wall, be a focal point for the room, and hide store all the clutter.

My problem was the giant expanse of wall above it:

I tried leaning frames against the wall as a temporary solution.
It worked all right, but it was just okay.

Still too much space up top for my taste.

I love our high ceilings but they made utilizing the space a challenge without having some ginormous piece of furniture or a colossal china hutch weighing down the room.
Enter gallery wall.

I really didn't want to spend much of anything, and like many of you out there who enjoy decorating/thrifting/repurposing, I'm a bit of a hoarder I keep things that I might need later. ;)
So, I set out shopping the house and got to work.

I started by taking all the objects that I thought might be "contenders" for the wall, and tracing them onto kraft paper. 
From there, I played around with placement of those things on the wall using painter's tape, and made sure to label each piece so I could further visualize what was going where.

This way, I could reposition the objects any way I wanted and not worry about putting unnecessary holes in the wall or peeling paint with regular tape.

When I found an arrangement I felt happy with, I left the paper hanging there for a couple days to get used to it and make sure I liked it.

When it came time to hang, I measured where the nail should go based on the hanging hardware on the back of each item, then put my nail right over top of the kraft paper.

I'm the first to admit I'm not perfect, and
neither are my skillz.  So this method proved helpful when my
measurement was off - I was able to see right away that I needed to re-place the nail.[See how the edge of the frame and the edge of the kraft paper don't match up?]

Much better.

When the hanger was in the right place, I just tore the kraft paper off, leaving the nail
 in the wall.  Piece of cake!

And the final result...

I still have some tweaking to do with the accessories on the tabletop, but overall I'm super
pleased with the way the wall turned out!


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