Thursday, August 30, 2012

Around the World.

After moving my dresser and adding a massive mirror to the wall, I had a few picture frames, complete with pictures I really liked, that were kicked out of their place and left homeless. Maybe spotless is a better term. Placeless? Why does everything have two meanings? Too deep.

I also had two canvas prints (the flat kind, not gallery-wrapped style around a frame), without frames and homes. After everyone got real comfy cozy in my closet for a couple months, I finally decided where I wanted them, and the packaging from an Amazon purchase (thank goodness for Amazon Prime) helped to put the plan in action.

I started by tracing each of my frames on the brown packing paper. I then took the frames outside for a couple coats of ORB so they would be nice and uniform.

While I was between coats, I cut the frame shapes out of the packing paper and used regular tape to play with an arrangement on the wall. The two frames that previously bordered my bathroom door were also thrown into the mix. That was a lucky accident. The lucky part was that I had two additional frames (with pictures in them) to fill out the mini gallery wall, while the accident part was that I had no intention of ordering additional frames when I ordered my flat canvas prints. The two flat canvas pictures were ordered to go into the frames I had on hand originally, but due to an ordering snafu (read: laziness), I was sure I had the size correct in my head and ordered away. When the prints came in, I realized that I had two 8x8 frames and two 12x12 prints. Whoopsiepie. Again, thank goodness for Amazon Prime and two-day shipping for all of my impulsive needs.

Is it just me or do these papers sort of look lik mummies?

Once I had what I liked, I realized that I hadn't made a mark for where the hangers were on the frames. Dagger. Note to do that before painting the frames next time. It meant I had to wait a little longer for the frames to fully dry. Which was like torture.

So maybe this is the musical interlude where I explain why a post about frames is titled 'Around the World.' I hope you have a little song playing in your head. And I'll give you a clue - you haven't seen what's filling the frames.

And that must've given it away. It's the world. Specifically, the world according to me. I have a picture from some of my favorite places and travels.

  • Starting on the left, there's Castle Stalker outside of Glasgow, Scotland. 
  • The smaller frame immediately to the right, with the deep blue sky, is the Pantheon in Rome, Italy. That's one of my favorite memories - after watching the Steelers home opener all night with Steeler fans in a bar in Rome, we wandered the landmarks and saw the Pantheon and the Trevi at sunrise. It was such a stark difference from their normal daily bustle. It was quiet, the colors were so vibrant, and it was so peaceful. It was surreal. 
  • Below Rome is the tire swing from my grandparent's house outside of Flint, Michigan. That's my favorite pond in the background (which hangs above my bed, as seen here).
  • At the top right of the Michigan frame is a picture of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, taken from Mt. Washington. It's my favorite view of the city, and my favorite place.
  • Below Pittsburgh is the Bean in Chicago. I've been to Chicago once. It was horrible weather, but I fell in love. I fell hard. I need to get back.
  • The big frame on the farthest right is London. I took it on my first trip to the city, and it's been my favorite city ever since. I can't wait to get back and discover more of its variety.
  • At the top left of London is a picture of the sunset from my parent's porch outside of Pittsburgh. It's my home, and it's love.
I don't have any pictures from my trip to France, and I need to remedy that. The problem is that that trip was pre-modern day digital cameras, so all of those pictures are printed, but the negatives are MIA. 

And, as you can see, the format changed a bit. That's the should've-marked-where-the-hangers-are step.  I kind of like the arrangement though. Another happy accident. And now I have to restrain myself every time I see frames. I'm not allowing myself to buy frames without pictures.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Bunday funday.

I have thin hair. If you're around me for more than 24 hours, you've probably heard me lament about it. It's worse when I'm around my sisters for any period of time as they both have thick hair that I have seriously never seen look bad. Dirty, maybe. But their cuts are always great, it's always voluminous, and it styles. My wispy hair refuses to hold a curl and falls flat in less than six hours. 

Before an afternoon in Georgetown a couple weeks ago, my friend pulled out a sock bun tutorial and in less than five minutes, she had the largest, most enviable hair. I was instantly jealous. She pulled out the partner sock, cut off to toe, rolled it into a sock bagel, and I was right there with her.

We followed this tutorial. This is seriously a game-changer. I think I've already mentioned it, but I don't wash my hair daily. That's really changed the texture of my hair and I've noticed that it's not as oily as quickly as it used to be. However, finding an up-do every other day is difficult. My go-to was the messy bun, but this is a quick and easy more-polished option.

It's held up all day too. 

That, and it makes my hair big. I won't apologize for my Midwestern roots.

Any other tricks to get your hair higher than heaven? I'm trying not to tease it after I was berated by my sister for ruining my hair, but I got to have big hair. It's where I keep all my secrets. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Exotic, Mysterious, and We are Inviting: St. Croix Adventures, Part 2.

A little rain forest rap, anyone?

This is the second part to my St. Croix adventure. Catch part one over here.

True life: I can rap that entire thing to you. I had to memorize that in sixth grade, and then we were forced to sing it all the way to the zoo for our field trip. That happened. And now it's ingrained.

The presence of a rain forest on St. Croix meant a reprise of that fabulous rap. To my great surprise, my friend Jen could sing along. Danielle kept her talent hidden though and refused to join in, though she knew the words. 

Next time, you will not be allowed to protest the chorus.

In the land-lover portion of our trip to the island, I think everything can fall into the category 'I will never do this again, nor would I even get the chance.' First to see the sun in the US? Check. Feeding pigs beer? Check. Where else is that possible?

I have to go in chronological order - otherwise I'm afraid I'll miss something. The first morning, we got up at 4:45 to drive over to the easternmost point on US soil - Point Udall.

Obviously we were pumped. And/or questioning the value of the drive.

But it was so worth it.

I was the first person in the US to see the sun on July 29. The. first. person. I'm still impressed and in awe of that. It's going to be my fun fact in those weird icebreaker exercises.

The next day, we drove around in the rain forest with the main objective being to find the place where we could feed pigs beer. The rain forest was straight out of the books - vines hanging down over the road, trees I've never seen anywhere else, and the lushest, densest forest with some of the brightest and most exotic flowers.

A flat tree that isn't made out of plaster!

After winding our way around, we finally found it: The Domino Club. Where you can feed pigs beer. It's non-alcoholic, but it's beer. The pigs love it. We paid our $3, shook up a can of O'Doul's, and went to see the pigs. They were ready for us.

All the pigs drank their beer nicely. Well, as nice as pigs drink. We took our turns, sticking a can of shaken beer in each of the four pigs' mouths. Our numbers matched perfectly. The pigs chomped, opened their cans, and drank their beer. Then it was my turn.

Do you see me dripping in beer? And the next-door pig wanting to lick me up? Not what I planned for. But now my second fun fact for the icebreaker is that I fed a pig beer and it showered me in beer. Beat that.

I washed up as much as I could and we hit Fredericksted to try Polly's, which was highly recommended for their grilled cheese. I second that recommendation. I didn't grab any pictures, but trust me. You pick multiple cheeses and veggies, you pick your bread, and they make it to perfection. We wandered around Fredericksted and the waterfront after that. I picked up another ornament for my non-existent Christmas tree, so it was a great success.

Later that evening, we were back in Christiansted for the rehearsal dinner. We didn't get as much wandering in that time, but the pier was pretty awesome. The mix of Dutch architecture, sugar mills, and the beautiful water is so weird to imagine, but awesome in person.

The next day was our final full day on the island and all about celebrating Kay and Ben. It was a perfect day for the gorgeous couple.

Obviously I creeped on them before the wedding.

It's still hard to believe that I spent a week in this beautiful location with some of my favorite people, new friends and old friends.

I'm getting mushy and there's no good way to wrap this up. I loved St. Croix, I loved the people I spent every minute with, and I love my tan. I miss it all.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Let's go to the beach, beach: St. Croix Adventures, Part 1.

Bridesmaids were meant to flyyyyyyy! That was the line of Kay, the bride we flew to St. Croix for last week. To the tune of Nicki Minaj. Yes, we sing talk to each other. Generally it's in 90s boy bands, but an exception is made for Nicki.

And the island is so beautiful that you just have to sing. That right there is what we call a stretch of a transition. The island is beautiful, without a doubt. It didn't have as much cheese and I'll have you believe. In all honesty, there was a shortage of goat cheese for the amount of goats I saw. I'm breaking the six days I spent on the island into two posts. In this one I'll cover the sand and surf portion, and I'll cover the land lover portion in the next post.

St. Croix is an island, and therefore has a bunch of beaches. Duh. Kay let us in on a secret though - all of the beaches are public. Hotels can gate access and charge for chairs, but if you walk into what looks like a private beach area on your ambles down the shoreline, you don't have to fear because all they can do is give you dirty looks. I don't even know if that would happen, because I didn't experience that at all. On our first day on the island, we hit Cheney Bay on the eastern side of Christiansted. The sand was soft, the water was clear and super warm (which I love) and there was another island in the distance. Quintessential paradise. The only dagger in the side was apparently there were some urchins lurking and Kay's mum found one in her toe. Ouch.

Nothing a little vinegar bath couldn't fix though - she wasn't down for long! 

The water here did have sea life when you went about knee-deep: the little ocean scrubby grass (not the long, dangly, tickling seaweed making me dart every five seconds for fear that something touched me),and rocks and shells. I didn't actually see any fish, but like I said, the urchins were somewhere.

That same night, we traveled across the island (which is seems easy as a less than 20-mile drive, but the roads are some of the worse I've ever traveled, so the progress was slower and full of pothole-dodging, speed-ditch avoiding, and bottoming-out on cringe-worth speed bumps) to try our handbalance at paddleboarding at Stand Up Paddle at Teres Veho Beach. It. was.awesome. The water was probably like 15-feet deep, but so clear that you could see straight down to the coral, rocks, soft white sand, and occasional fish. We started out a little rough, but by the end of our hour and a half on the water,we weren’t toppling over every twenty minutes. We were feeling the burn in our arms and abs too. I can see why people get hooked.

The next day, we hopped on a catamaran boat with the bride's family and relatives for a trip to Buck Island. Buck Island boasts the only underwater national park, designated by President JFK. After a rough ride to the side of the island with the reef (we were going against and across the current), we were sufficiently drenched and ready for snorkeling. Our guide hopped in ahead of us and dove to clear off the signs underwater as we snorkeled above. The coral was incredible- and close! At some point there was less than a foot between the coral and my belly. We saw fish I swear were right out of Rainbow Fish, barracudas, and the largest lobster I could not have even imagined. This guy was seriously over three feet, tail to head. And chompers to match. I backpedaled quickly. The trail through the coral opened up into the ocean and the sight was phenomenal- there were schools of fish and it was straight out of The Little Mermaid.

That's our boat on the left, and our boat riders in the water.

After we took in all we could, we climbed back on board the boat to sail to the other side of the island for Turtle Beach. The sands were so white and the water so glass blue. Beautiful.

And there is no editing to this photo. None. I wish I was kidding.

We spent the rest of the afternoon jumping off the anchored boat, rolling in the warm water, and chastising the bride that this was her life.

On the way back to the big island we saw what I've been dying to see: a sea turtle. In the wild. Happily swimming. I didn't grab a picture because we were sailing and I was sitting on the side of the catamaran, not within the boat, which simultaneously made me feel very cool and like I was about to be eaten by a jumping shark's very precise timing.

Those were my water adventures. I missed the excursion to Rainbow Beach on the west side of the island, but it came as highly recommended as Turtle Beach. The only difference is it's a little more convenient with the travel aspect.

From the variety I saw, you really can't go wrong. That's how paradise should be.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Good morning, Sunshine.

I tend to attempt larger projects when I'm at my mum's house and have the space and larger variety of supplies. That also means that these projects take roughly five times as long. I started this one in February, and finally finished in July. Five months exactly.

I started with about 10 packs of Dry Cedar Shims that I found in the lumber aisle of Home Depot. The five month delay also means that my project specifics are much more vague. 

Using Liquid Nails, I then started gluing the shims together in points. As you can see below the product paper, the points were then glued together. I went all the way around like this to make a sun. And, as I've forgotten to take a picture, imagine a circle of plywood on the back, too. The circle is about 2-feet in diameter, and the points are glued together on the sides and to the plywood on the bottom.

This post does a much better job of documenting the process, with pictures.

Once everything was glued together and down with Liquid Nails, I sprayed the front with some gold spray paint we had on hand. In this case, that was Brilliant Gold by Design Master. No idea where it came from (other than Mum's workbench), but it had color.

And my sun was shining and glowing.

That was the progress as of March. It then took me four months to find a mirror. JoAnn's and Michael's didn't have a mirror large enough for my purposes, and I was striking out on the thrift stores. I finally settled on an 18-inch beveled mirror from Target.

I used a tube of Liquid Nails Mirror to attach the mirror to the front of the sun. I then stacked books, candles, and everything large, heavy and flat on top of the mirror to help the glue/nails set. In this case, a set of the American Harry Potter series in hardback and the English Harry Potter series in paperback worked for the weight, along with a few too many Yankee candles. It's a multi-use obsession.

After letting everything set for 72 hours, it was ready for a hanger on the back. I carefully flipped the mirror over and attached the metal hanger. I have no idea how this mirror weighs, but the hanging system says 60 pounds, and that seemed more than adequate. And this mirror has been on the wall for two weeks at this point, including one week where the air conditioning was broke. I'm more excited by the day.

After a bit of rough calculation, I then put the matching piece on the wall with it's built-in level. Then I struggled to get my wingspan around this over three-foot-wide mirror/sun/monster while my roommate directed be toward the wall.


It's really hard to see the scale of this thing because it's on a giant white wall. It's giant though. As in, it dwarfs the 5-foot-four me.

I propped the camera on the dresser in the closet to get a shot of this from the floor to ceiling. Massive.

I'm enamored, though. In lounging on the bed, I can see the pond.

And the sun is the first thing I see in the morning. It's perfect. If you can't see the sun first thing in the morning, I suggest you bring the sun to you.

So, I feel like I'm six months behind the sunburst-mirror trend, but in making it by myself, it's exactly what I want and roughly $100 cheaper. Lucky for me, I'm always slow to pick up on the trends, too, so I'm not over it. Here's hoping it sticks for a long while, too. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Curtains aplenty.

After my bedroom jumped fifteen-thousand points on the fabulous scale thanks to these curtains, I was consumed with making curtains for the living room.

I think it's been a real game changer.

Per usual, my impatience means that the curtains are up before a proper 'pre-curtain' picture. You can see the area in the background of this picture from this post about these beautiful teardrop vases.


Yawn retracted.

Except if you want to cuddle, because this space just became a thousand times more comfortable and cozy in my opinion.

After ordering yards of fabric from and convincing myself that these curtains could change the world, I was ecstatic when I found a long skinny box on my doorstop. Impatience again took over. I moved furniture around the room to give myself a clear 8-foot runway and used a very precise measuring system.

Or not. It was also about this time that I decided a chevron rug would be a fabulous thing. I measured out 8 feet of fabric, then repeated the process so many times. The two large windows are two panels measuring 59-inches wide by roughly 8 feet long.

I hopped right to the sewing machine. After winging it with the top seam, I realized I wasn't going to be able to wing it. I don't know how subtle this is, but the chevron (officially called ZigZag Twill Storm on wasn't straight. After I noticed it, I couldn't stop seeing it.

I whipped out the seam ripper and erased my progress thus far. I resigned myself to the use of the iron. On the top and bottom, I ironed a seam in line with the chevrons. I didn't have to do this on the sides because I was keeping the curtain panels the same width as the bolt. I followed the edging on those sides and just folded as I sewed. I followed this same process for the other chevron panel and for the light grey patterend panels (officially known as Madison Twill Storm on in the nook.

For the sheer panels, I used iron hem tape to make a top and bottom hem. Again, I kept the width the same as when it came off the bolt, so I was able to use the factory seams there. I did this four times, two for each of the big windows. For the two smaller windows in the nook, I swapped out the panels from my bedroom curtains. These were made as half the width of the bolt, but, again in my impatience, the hemming on the bottom and the side I cut is a little wonky because I didn't get the tension on the sewing machine right until the top hem. The wonky bits are hidden behind the fabric panel though.

I intended to replace my bedroom sheers with panels the width of the bolt for a fuller, softer look, but I did some yardage calculations wrong somewhere along the line. Whoopsie. Those will come again later.

I can't stop staring at these curtains now though. I caught myself staring at them the other night while brushing my teeth. Which means that, yes, I was brushing my teeth in the entryway, but more disturbingly that I was literally entranced by curtains. I am concerned for myself.

Can we agree they totally transform the entire room though, while also playing up their own areas? I was worried they'd be too bold for being so close, but in happily surprised to be so in love with them.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Shower steals.

Alex got some great things at her bridal shower. Awesome things. Things I need. Things I need and things that make me want a house right now. Now now now!

And then there was this mirror. 

It's the clover mirror from Target. It was love at first sight. The can't eat, can't sleep, can't be bothered with social conventions so I shouted mid-present opening, "Mel! Where is that from?!" To which the bewildered present giver said, "Uh, Target. It's on her registry."

Noted. Tar-jay was in my sights.

Immediately upon my return to DC, it was on. I beelined for the home department, dodging up and down and poking my head down the aisles. I missed it once. Then I head angels singing and the mirror was mine! 

The back is wonky. It's two little of those triangle hooks real close to each other on the top. So I did the paper trick of taping a piece of paper to the back, poking holes where the nails would rest, then holding the mirror and paper up to the wall, and taping the paper to the wall.

And so there was a paper with two holes on the wall.

In this edition of "The Weird Colors my Wall Looks in my Poorly Light Apartment..."

Easy as pie, I nailed two nails in the holes in the paper, then ripped the paper off the wall.

Bada-bing, bada-boom, a mirror was hung.

Wam-bam, a table was redecorated.

I switched out the football (Steelers!) for the coffee table books from the nook. It's such a simple switch but feels so fresh for some reason to me. I feel the mirror adds some height to this area and helps to include it in the room too. But I didn't take pictures of that because the other half of the room is a bit disastrous at the moment. Hopefully I'll be finished soon, able to share, and remember to take a full-room shot. That's asking a lot.

I need to know though - what awesome (and cheap) things are out there that I need?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

In the details.

Ack! I'm just realizing that this didn't post at 10 AM EST as I thought it was set. Apologies!

My oldest and dearest is getting married at the end of the summer. Her shower and bachelorette were a few weekends ago, both of which were perfect, along with the details. I can't believe it's taken me so long to share.

Birchbark vases, engraved with the soon-to-be-wed couple's initials.

A candy bar for guests to fill up on the bride's favorite sweets.

Cupcakes that glittered with sparkles. 

Handmade cards to fit the theme. I'm getting really into card making.

Dinner at a downtown restaurant that serves food with local ingredients. And our fabulous outfits.

And, as soon as I get my act together, I'll share a gift I got myself after falling in love with one of her shower presents. Don't you love when that happens? 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Knee-deep in the water...

For nearly the past week, I've been in St. Croix, Virgin Islands, soaking up the sun and surf. My college roommate and dear friend has lived here for almost a year and she found the perfect excuse to get us down here- her wedding!

I'm so happy for these two and wish them all the best in their lives together.

As for the St. Croix adventures, I'll be filling you in after I get back and sort through for the best beach shot. And the best shot of pigs drinking beer. That happened.

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