Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Be our guest, be our guest!

This is long overdue. As much as I want pictures to do it justice, the apartment layout and spacing isn't real on the flat picture. As it's been a year since my last apartment tour, it coincidentally happened to be the best time to see how everything's evolved in my year in one place.

Some themes to note:
  • I am not trying to insinuate that either Cat or I are even slightly important enough to be considered in the same realm as the Prime Minister. Our black doors are our only likeness. 
  • There's a bunch of made-up and nonsensical phrases in my speaking vocabulary. I think there's some neuron misfiring, as Dad would say. As in, "great finding things," which I used when talking about my Polish bowl that I got at Eastern Market (a giant flea market/farmer's market in DC) and "can't look too deeply on," when I'm talking about a project the camera panned over quickly before I redirected.
  • I have no clue about the history of Denby, England, nor have I ever visited. My dad currently lives in Derby, England, which I think is the Pub Capital of England. I totally made up that tidbit about Denby being the pottery capital of England.
  • My Pittsburghese still makes appearances, especially in the world 'really,' which I say more like 'rilly.' I like it.
  • I use about five different voices and it's annoying to me, so it must be to you too.
  • My muttering side comments, such as 'I don't know why I looked in there' pertain to things like the shower that I peeked in, but have no idea why I even considered that you would be remotely interested in my shower. Except for the fact that my sister thinks I have awesome water pressure. But I can't demonstrate that.
  • What I refer to as 'my pond' is actually my grandpa's pond. I have no literal ownership of it.
  • My presenter voice is higher and more fake than my real voice. After a few takes I couldn't get myself to correct it. Apologies.
  • When I say 'bye' in such a high pitch voice, it sounds like I'm saying 'hi.' It's my fake voice. I can't turn off my Vanna White.   
Feel like you're home? I have also been told my cupboards make very logical sense. So make yourself comfortable.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Grandma's standards, my style.

One of my favorite parts of my grandma's house are these three giant floor pillows that she has in her living room. They're heavy and at least 20-years old, but they are the perfect pillows for a nap in the middle of the living room floor.

Similarly sized pillows run about $80 (from Pottery Barn, on sale), and the prices just get worse. I took the DIY alternative.

Using leftover fabric from my reupholstered ottoman, I cut out two 25-inch squares and four pieces that were 25-inches long and 2.5-inches wide. At JoAnn's, I picked up 6-yards of red cording and a zipper.

To start, I pinned the cording around the edge of my two squares. I lined the edge of the cording up with the edge of the fabric. At the end of the cording, I overlapped the tails about an inch and a half. The corners are difficult, but nothing that a little wrestling couldn't handle.

Then, using yellow thread to made it stand out, I sewed over the cording's thread line with my zipper foot. You see that red line on the cording? That's what I traced over.

After I had my two squares corded up, I pinned one side on, patterned-sides together, and put in the zipper. This was the most frustrating part because the cording makes it a thousand times more difficult. In the end, I didn't get the zipper in there the correct way or with the most-flush sides, but it was in. And it can open and close.

Then, I pinned all of the sides to one square. Following the same process as before, I lined the edge of the fabric up with the edge of the cording and pinned. At the corners, I put in another pin. Because of the square, the sides popped up, making a cute little baby pool for my elephant pin cushion. Thanks, Stephie!

Then, I followed the seam line I created when I was attaching the square to the cording to attach the sides. I also inadvertently put my pins in backwards. So maybe don't do that.

Especially because it could end in this.

The tip of a needle. Dangling. Whoopsie.

After a quick needle change, I was back on track. I waited to do the corners (the vertical piece) until the sides were done. That way, I had the tightest fit. 

Finally, I opened the zipper (CRUCIAL so you don't sew the entire thing shut), pinned the other other square to the sides, and again traced the previous thread line. I flipped the pillow out through the zipper, stuffed him with a bag of Poly-fill, and there it was - 

A two-foot square, comfy, giant floor pillow for the low, low price of $12. Okay, I sort of cheated by having the fabric and Poly-fill on hand. A coupon at JoAnn's definitely helped, too.

I'm a bit in love with the red cording too. I don't know what it is about July - it makes me love the color red. Maybe it's my favorite things - tomatoes, fireworks (I realize they have color varieties, but I think red and white), suntans, and summer. Our apartment and my life was missing a serious pop of red, so this came at the perfect time.

And now I'm napping in the middle of our living room floor. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

I (now) love lamp.

Nope, I haven't improved my lighting situation. In any room in my house. This is the story of a free lamp make-over to make working with what I've got a little more bearable.

This is the lamp that's been sitting inside the front door -

It's a black base in a weird wire bubbly shape (a dusting nightmare, I tell ya - or I guess because I never really dust). The shade had this two-tone wave that never did it for me, but I never changed it. But the price was right: F-R-E-E. My cousin dropped it off at a time when I was in the negative lamp count. Really, I had just broken a lamp that morning. I was seriously in the negatives.

But that shade wave -

Yeah. I was over it. So after changing up my curtains, I had a few yards of tan linen-like fabric to work with. And the lamp's name was called.

First, I took off the shade. In true bull-in-a-china-shop fashion, I snapped off a piece of the tread because I expected the shade to pull off and not twist off. Whoopsies. I sanded the base down with some 120-grit sandpaper, cleaned him off with a wipe and microfiber cloth to get all the dust off, and gave him a few coats of ORB. That was the easy part.

Then I pondered the shade. It appeared to just be hot-glued together, so I decided to deconstruct. I peeled the wire frame from the paper-like shade and then peeled the shade flat. I was left with a call for Batman -

I waited around a bit, but he didn't show, so I assumed it was safe to proceed. I cut the tan fabric into a rectangle surrounding the shade and didn't bother trimming to shape. That came later. Then I sprayed the outside of the shade (the nice black waves) with spray adhesive. I smoothed down the tan fabric on top. Then I did the trimming around the shape, leaving a bit to wrap around the shade.

I haven't used by hot glue gun in forever. I didn't realize how much I've missed it. 

We bonded while I wrapped the fabric around the shade and the glue bonded it down. Wrapping the fabric was just like wrapping a present or upholstering - I pulled tight and tried to get the corners as flat as possible.

After the shade was wrapped in the new fabric, I drew a line of hot glue along one of the bottom sides of the shade. I laid the larger wire square down then repeated that process along all four sides.

It became clear that I wasn't pulling tight enough the entire way around. So I did what I had to do - I faked it. 

I took a piece of fabric, dotting the wire with glue, and wrapped it around.

And it's not so bad. I repeated the process with the wire that fit in the top part of the shade and didn't have to do any faking it there. Thankfully that worked out. I would have had a mini panic attack if not. 

Just like that, I was done and had a lamp that was more my style. The linen-like shade style at least. I guess the ORB is better than the black base, too, even if it is a bit too wirey and loopy for my taste.

Here's a shot of the bad side, which is visible from the couch.

Really not bad for a bad side, I'd say. It's like Jennifer Aniston's bad side. Where is it?

Anyway, color me impressed. I didn't even know I had these skills - isn't that the best? Jumping in before you can double guess yourself and it not being a total failure. I suggest you try it and share your awesome results!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Classing up the curtains.

I don't know how many times I've complained about my curtains. Still, they were too-short for a year.

I had an idea in my head of finding a pale grey zebra and pairing it with a sheer white underneath. After searching off-and-on for a few months to no luck, I was reaching that point where I might never have curtains. The perfect muted grey zebra was eluding me and I was getting obsessed with the hunt and if I didn't find something else I loved soon, I would be doomed.

Besides, I can hold off for the perfect zebra for the living room.

So I putzed around JoAnn's and found a bird-and-leaf pale grey-tan fabric. I could see it in my room and it was perfect. I dragged it over to the cutting counter (it was on a bolt), only to have my hopes nearly shattered. They didn't have three yards. Dagger! But just like the elusive zebra fabric, it was all about the hunt. Semi-long, but uninteresting story made short, I got the fabric at another store after being told they didn't know what I was talking about, even though the first store had called and then put it on hold. Did I mention I got three yards of sheer fabric for $3 though? DAY SAVED.

I skipped home with my fabric and immediately hemmed the two long sides and the top. Then I realized I didn't know how I was going to layer the sheer and the birdies. After some research, I found the guidance I needed over at Young House Love. Drapery clips! Of course.

After picking up a couple packs of 1-inch diameter clips in Mocha, I then realized that my curtain rod needed a make-over. Thankfully, I almost always have a can of ORB on hand.

While the curtain rod dried, I decided that hanging my curtains higher would probably correct this problem of the old curtains:

See how the curtains bend over the header board? That's what I call it at least. When the complex gave us new blinds, they put this piece on top to frame it up a bit, I guess, but it pops out a good amount and didn't help my too-short curtain problem. I decided that moving the curtains up would add height, drama, and hide the bump.

So I did some measuring and ladder-climbing and waited not so patiently for the ORB to dry.

But all that's the details. It's the same everywhere. Curtain rod, curtains, hemming.

The before:

The now:

Can I just bask in this for a minute?!

I may be in love with my window now.

And I am still in need of some serious lighting. Everything looks blurry in the bask of my one light. Maybe if I complain about it enough I'll do something about it. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Pins in Place.

This is a girly post. Dads might understand, too. I know my dad will.

I have bobby pins everywhere. In my wallet, with my vitamins (they're in a pack-like thing), in my jewelry dishes, on my desk at work, on my bedside table, in my medicine cabinet, and tons in my little box that's actually supposed to hold them. I can even count on a few to be on the floor. If I'm walking and I need one, there's usually one in sight. 

And if you're not a girl, it's probably annoying. I know to my dad it was. Frankly, it annoys me a bit too. 

I finally took a strip of magnet, peeled off the sticky back, and stuck it to the inside of my mirror.

This is a real game-changer. I know I have a box of bobby pins under my sink, but knowing that I also had a million in a variety of locations across the apartment, I would spend my morning bobby pin hunting. Unsurprisingly, I am always running late.

Now I don't have to dig in and under all my cosmetics in the mirror, I'm not rummaging in dishes, and I'm not poking around my desk and thinking I really should dust. I expect to have at least five more minutes each morning now. Maybe my hair will venture out from its staple high-messy bun. 

Nah, DC would have to be under 100 degrees for that to happen.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Dresser Diverted.

Anything missing from this blurry, and a little cluttered, view?

I talked about my bedroom's layout in this post, if that helps.

Maybe this view will give you a hint.

See anything creeping in my closet? And no, I can't make the lighting any better up in here.

No, not a creeper. Or even a creepy crawler. Both of those would merit screams, not pictures.

Actually, I huffed and I puffed and I moved my dresser into my closet.

Closet is a bit of a misnomer. This thing is huge. I would say maybe 8-foot by 4-foot huge. My bedroom growing up was about 5-feet wider. So I consider this to be another room, because honestly, if need be, I could probably live in there. But I'm not signing up for that. After moving my bed last week, and my bed then facing my dresser, I realized I didn't like that view. It stressed me out. There was no happy solution for my dresser, and I had to give my bed some time in it's new spot, especially after I went through the trouble of leveling my side tables. So the dresser had to move.

And I had a revelation. A minimalist room calms me. My dresser is where I keep most of my things for the next day - from my phone, to my list, to my jewelry. Seeing that before I go to bed just made me pop up more times than one for something I'd forgotten. And it stressed me out.

So I did some rearranging of my clothes, crafts, and storage to fit my dresser into the corner. I love it there. Most of the stuff on my dresser is fairly personal -

I have my 'grandpa bear,' which is a bear my aunt made out of my grandpa's flannel, my print of Tasha's paw, and other mementos. I like having all of this in a more personal space - it's more for me anyway. It's also nice to have my jewelry in with my clothes. I'm dwindling my excuses to avoid accessorization. Why isn't that a word?

I feel so much more zen with this in there, and I don't even know how that's possible. Has that ever happened to anyone else?! It's crazy how such a small change makes such a big difference.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Pinterest Challenge: Summer Edition and Dates Cross-stitch.

It's that time again! Dreamed up by Katie Bower of Bower Power, the challenge is to stop pinning and oogling Pinterest and to start doing.  Kate and Sherry of Young House Love have teamed up multiple times to issue this challenge to bloggers, and personally, it's always come at the right time. It's the kick in the pants to get the creativity flowing again.


And then just as quickly as I was pumped up, I was deflated. What to do, what to do? It has to be good. I want it to be original. I want to want it, too. Then the light - it's Mum's birthday month. Something for Mum.

And my sister, actually, found this - 

Found via Pinterest, but originally from here.

It's Mum's 50th this year and we want the celebration and gifts to reflect that. However, we bombed when we tried a surprise party for her 40th. And though we took Dad skydiving for his 50th last year, an adventure-seeking activity was not in the cards. And we were stumped.

We decided on a celebration month. A month of presents, spaced out by connections to different days. For example, on July 1, we kicked it off with '#1 Mom' and gave her flowers. On the third, we noted that she'd lived in three states and gave her a dinner certificate. So the presents didn't actually always line up with the reason we picked the day. But it's a present. 

I'm getting off topic. This dates print is sentimental, simple, and sweet. I, however, am in no way talented at print-making or computer-manipulating.

Enter cross-stitch. I'm a cross-stitch fiend right now. I'm like Oprah. You get a cross-stitch! You get a cross-stitch! And you get a cross-stitch! But really, Veronica, you should only be expecting cross-stitches for a bit. Get pumped.

So Steph and I took to the graph paper. We tried out some number formats before I decided that it wasn't going to look right until we did it. And I took to the fabric. I started with a roughly 10x12 piece of tan 14-count Aida cross-stitch fabric. I folded it hotdog-style, then hamburger-style, wondered if the first-grade terminology of folding was still as accurate as I could get, then marked my center with a pencil. From there, I counted down five spaces and started from the middle of my birthday (so the second number of the day) and worked my way out.

This should clear it up:

I upped the contrast so it looks a bit wonky, but it was the easiest way to see the folds. You can see half of the date starting a few spaces down from when I found the center with my folding technique.

I finished my birthdate and used it as a centering point for all the rest. Eventually, after some re-dos because numbers just didn't look right, I had all the dates in a line. Then, using a cross-stitch lettering guide for a pattern we had on hand (and that you'll see later in the month), we eye-balled the saying and stitched it in. Of course there was some ripping-up and redoing. Lastly, I added in lines between the dates. We were going to stitch our names in originally, but thought it would look too busy. And if Mum doesn't know what these dates are, then we have much bigger problems on our hands. So finallyyyy, I had this:

Hoop imprint and all. I free-handed that heart based on a little drawing I often put on cards, and I love that it worked out. It would have been uber frustrating at 2 AM when Steph was up with me and we were trying to finish this. We used black for the dates and grey for the writing and the lines. I like the simplicity of it.

I sent it off to Steph for ironing and framing, because she's in the same state as Mum. And voila!

It's a cell phone picture, so go easy. Mum hasn't gotten it yet, but she doesn't know how to check my blog so I should be safe. We're really excited though - our sole life mission is to have Mum react to a present with more than a "Ohh, nice!" We want tears. Happy tears. This just might be the trick.

Thank you, Sherry and Katie, for getting me moving on another Pinterest find! Make sure you hop over Sherry's, Katie's, Kate's, and Michelle's blogs to see their wonderful projects!  

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Lemon and Blueberry: a match made in refreshing heaven.

I just need the weakest excuse to go on a baking spree. In this case, it came at the opportunity to use the lemon zester and blueberries that were just past their prime and demanding immediate attention. I'm a sucker for the zester.

I started with a lemon cookie. To be exact, it was this lemon cookie, but to make life easy, it's reposted below:

  • 1/2 cup no-salt butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest (though really, the zestier the better, I'd say)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1-1/2 cup flour (I used whole wheat flour in attempt to argue these cookies healthy)
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • Cream butter and sugar (the regular sugar) in a large bowl. Add in vanilla, egg, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Stir in dry ingredients (still keep the powdered sugar out of this mix). Stir until combined. Pour powdered sugar on a plate. Roll balls of dough in powdered sugar before plopping them down on a baking sheet.
  • Bake for 9-11 minutes at 350 degrees, or until the bottoms are light brown.
  • Cool on rack and start the icing.

And by icing, I mean hands-down, most sugary-sweet icing: the Wilton brand icing. I learned how to make this in a cake decorating class that my mum signed my sisters and me up for in high school, and it has been our sweet staple ever since.

  • 1 cup Crisco (do yourself a favor and buy it in the stick form)
  • 1 teaspoon of flavoring (I used vanilla, but this could be almond or butter or the like)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon meringue powder (this is sort of optional- its the stuff that hardens the icing)
  • Pinch of salt to taste (and with my super sweet tooth, this never gets thrown in)
  • Blueberries, washed and tossed in by the handful to color (I would estimate I threw in 2.5 handfuls)
  • Toss everything in the mixer and mix. The longer it run, the more light and fluffy it will get.

I garnished by smooshing in some extra blueberries on top. I really did it to try and emphasize that the icing was not pink, but a faint blue-purple, a la blueberries. Duh. It was totally a decoration thing until I tried one - and the burst of blueberry juice with the sweet icing and crisp lemon cookie is kind of the best accident I've ever made.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

In their place.

Coldplay reference anyone?

I shared my thrifting spoils a couple weeks ago, but didn't have everyone in their place. Rather, everyone was in a pile much less neat than the one pictured, calling out to me daily and waiting patiently. Now, I have these guys in their place. In theeiiirrr place.

First up, the big swoop-like vase. I'm sure it has a proper name for its shape, but you know. I used it for my bunches of beautiful flowers last week, but as those have started dropping their petals, it was time for it to go back to its first use: holding more of those IKEA balls, fabric artichokes, and hiding wires.

Nothing was under this end table before. It was begging for an object. And I think this combo does the trick. It helps to tie together some of the colors of fireplace sitting area to the browns in our window nook (and you'll see that at the bottom of the post).

Right above the vase/end table combo, as the wall turned into the kitchen, are the state plates.

I love that it's Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Ohio. It's all of my places. And the coincidentally, it's part of Cat's places. So it's like both of us! Mind. Blown.

See the fireplace mantle in the background? Getting the context. Again, I need a video. Maybe I'll clean up and do that soon. But you need a close up on the plates, yes? They say the state name, obviously, and then have little pictures of iconic areas to the state. However, I don't know who was tasked with picking what I would think to be the quintessential pieces because they're kind of random.

Take Pennsylvania.

Clover leaf on Pennsylvania turnpike? Really? We're picking that when the Little League World Championships are here? Or the three rivers? I guess it notes the Pittsburgh skyline. I just wonder.

Anyway. The wicker basket, or snake charming basket as Cat calls it, holds blankets. I have a lot of blankets and afghans, and reach for one no matter the season.

The color's a little too matchy-matchy with the coffee table (a Walmart find from a while that I'm not in love with). I'm not sure if I'll paint the coffee table, just because it's not very sturdy and was bought more in haste when I had hoped to make it a tv stand. My parents had a darker and sturdier version from Aldi, which they used as a tv stand for a spell. It was such a steal. I can literally stand on theirs. I would crack through this one if I sat on it.

I have to stop myself from these rants and move on to the next item. The blue decanter!

This is my favorite piece and plays off the blue in my room so well.

Am I right? AM I RIGHT?

Lastly, the cute little 10-cent bowl. Well, technically I have those gold trees. But I stashed those for the holiday season. So the dish!

It's on the back of the toilet, catching my jewelry before I hop in the shower or before I wash my face. Well, jewelry and a lipstick, it appears. The delicate little design around the edge makes me smile. After my dish of Polish pottery (did you guys every see that? It's absolutely gorgeous. Note to self to share.), I may be developing a penchant for small dishes.

So that's the roundup! I'm really into thrifting now. I'm cheering people into it and I'm the number one supporter of stalking Craigslist for steamer trunks. Please read that entire sentence. I'm only into stalking if it's for steamer trunks. But now that I think of it, that sort of makes it sound more creepy and dangerous. I'm going to stop.

I'm just all about deals. Of the homegoods variety, namely. And if you have a secret steamer trunk warehouse, do share. 

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