Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Pinterest Challenge: secret boxes.

It's that time of year again...

Pinterest Challenge time!

The challenge, spearheaded by Katie and Sherry, is to stop pinning (for at least a minute) and start doing. The projects tend to be as vast as Pinterest itself, sparking even more inspiration. Hosting this challenge with them is Sarah and Carmel.

As this challenge came during busy season, I thought I'd tackle something quick: restyling my wireless internet router and cable modem box by hiding them.

Images via Pinterest and from this same source site.
I've been searching for a while for two boxes to fit the bill. Over the past few months, I'd had no luck at HomeGoods, Marshall's, Target, Amazon, or any store I tried, for that matter. It didn't dawn on me to try to make them myself until I dragged Zach down the aisles of Target and he whined, "Couldn't you just make these?" Light bulb. I could. I probably could make these.

So here's the before situation. I like to call this my "electric corner."

You can cozy up to the gas fireplace, snuggle in, a.. in the ambiance of a router modem and wires.  It's realll nice.

And safe. That's heavily coated in sarcasm. This has to be a fire hazard. After hearing my coworker's story of how her apartment burnt down her senior year of college, I'm sensitive. More on that later.

Onward with this saga. I'm a packing supplies pack rat. I have boxes, bubble wrap, packing paper and packing tape of all sizes. I blame it on the perpetual moving since leaving for college. Luckily for me, I had two boxes of comparable size with no planned use.

I put them on the end table and they seemed just right. Not too hot, not too cold too big, not too small, juuuust riiight, Goldilocks.

So I skipped down my hall to start my project.

I started by cutting a flap in the back of each box. I used a kitchen knife, which admittedly wasn't the safest. It's what happened though. I cut a flap to take out most of the back.

Then I taped the tops of the boxes to seal them. I used brown packing paper to wrap the boxes like a present. The only difference from a usual present is that I pulled the sides down to be taped on the bottom. I didn't want any tape to be visible. That was partially due to wanting a clean look, but I also planned to spray paint these boxes a color other than packing-box-brown, and didn't think the spray paint would look the same or cover as well over tape.

See? All tape on the bottom.
Then very carefully, I cut a slit in the brown paper on the back with the flap. I cut the length of the flap very slowly. Even more carefully, I peeled the flap out of the slit.

I then tucked the paper into the box and secured it at the base of the flap so it wouldn't peel further. The goal was to preserve the top and three sides for presentation purposes.

Presents! Except with nothing inside. And if anyone attempted to open them, I'd be mad.

And the reverse view. Don't mistake this for a Mrs. Fields' ad. True to my packing-supply pack-rat tendencies, I swiped the box that our company delivered cookies in to our audit team. Busy season has some perks, and this was a double purpose present.

As I said earlier, packing-paper brown wasn't my decor choice. I had a can of Brilliant Gold, the same gold i used on my starburst mirror, so I took these babies outside for a couple coats.

Three coats later, they were ready for business. I popped the router in one, the modem in the other, tangled myself in the wires a bit, and called it a party.

The balance was off a bit to me with the boxes below the table, so I moved them back to the top. I probably just wanted people to come in and notice.

"Oh! Did you use to have a router and modem here?"
"I did."
"Where'd they go?"
"They're in the boxes!"
"Wow, I thought those were just pretty boxes from West Elm!"

These are the fake conversations that compliment my boxes in my head. Yuuup.

Party in the front, and business in the back. In true mullet fashion.
I cut a chunk out of the back flat for the wires could get out without being pinched between the cardboard. I like to think that'll help some airflow get in there. So far though, there hasn't been an overheating problem. I've become obsessive with checking their temperature. That, and our internet hasn't kicked out, so that seems like a good sign.

But let's do a comparison. This is now "electric corner." It could be officially renamed to "cozy corner."

There's still an cable cord that won't tuck in nicely and it a little long, but I didn't have a shorter alternative. I'll hold that for the future.

So that wraps up my pinterest project. Totally free (thanks to having everything on hand), but even it I had to buy the few supplies, this project was much quicker than the $30 not-in-love-with-it alternatives I was finding.

I can't wait to see everyone's projects! I'm hoping Hurricane Sandy will allow for that. Stay safe, everyone on the east coast!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Saaaandy, oh oh.

That's a Grease reference. This hurricane is nothing like a fun summer night, however.

I'm currently camped out at a friend's house, escaping the below sea-level status of Alexandria, working remotely and trying to be productive. That, and the Internet just went down while I was trying to write tomorrow's post. So until I get power and Internet more continuously, I'm going AWOL on the interwebs.

Everyone stay safe out there! It's looking like the storm is hitting DC soon and will be hanging around until the morning. Stay indoors, stay dry, and fingers crossed that it'll be over soon.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Shopping bag decor: stretching that dollar.

I've struggled with deciding to write a post about this because I'm afraid this sort of decoration does not accurately portray me. And as this blog is just that: a portrayal of me, I'm very cognizant of what goes up on here. I feels it reads too "material girl" when I don't consider myself to be that way. But then again, they're on my wall.

So here's what I did: I framed shopping bags. I framed the only two shopping bags that I have of any value.

The Tiffany's bag came from my bridesmaid gift from my friend's wedding. She very generously got us all a Tiffany's wine glass, and it was the biggest Tiffany's box and bag I've ever seen. I'm in love with the wine glass alone, and wine, for that matter, but the bag was so pretty and iconic and bright that I couldn't get ride of it. I didn't know what to use it for either.

The Chanel bag came from my purchase of big-girl fancy-pants sunglasses in January. I'd saved up, passed my CPA, and told myself that I'd get myself something I've wanted since high school after that was done: designer sunglasses. I've worn and treasured the sunglasses, but knowing how much I spent on them, and how iconic the bag is, I couldn't get rid of it. It sat in my closet with all of my gift bags. But I couldn't reasonably use it as a gift bag and trick someone into thinking they just got a hella expensive gift. So it sat there.

As my bag collection of can't-use-these-as-a-gift-bag and too-pretty-to-use-to-transport-things but too-fancy-to-throw-away bags grew to two, I figured they should have another purpose beyond catching dust.

Thankfully, I had a JoAnn's coupon as well.

I picked up at 16x20 frame at JoAnn's for the Tiffany's bag and a 5x7 (I think, but I can't remember) frame at Marshall's for the Chanel. I spray-painted both a flat black before popping them up on the wall in my closet.

I like that they define my closet nook as my pretty-girl accessory and fashion area. That, and I just see them on the regular. It's not something you'd catch at a glance, so those that don't know me that well  can't jump to conclusions. But then you have to ask why someone I don't know as well would be in my room. And then I posted this on the internet for lots of people I don't know as well to see. Conundrums. Does that sort of situation happen to you? Do you like something that you feel is out of your character? Are you afraid other people are judging you for it? Maybe it's just that I know my sister will have a comment over it. That, and/or I have a complex. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Baking better bread.

Maybe I'll alliterate all through fall. Can't stop, won't stop. 

Anyway. I really wanted to go pick apples this year. Actually, I've really wanted to go apple picking for many years. This year, though, I made active steps in achieving that goal: I picked and weekend and searched "places to pick your own apples" on Google. I even called a farm for their hours. All to have my hopes shattered with the line, "it's late in the season for apple picking, so all the trees are pretty well picked over." Dagger. I thought late September would be perfect, but apparently for Northern Virginia, I have to get into the apple-picking mindset while I'm still holding onto summer. This sort of ruins my picturesque apple-picking in boots dream. Oh well, there's always next year.

In the meantime, I'd just make it work. Pun intended.

I've been drooling over this recipe found via Pinterest for many moons. I'd say a solid year. The time had come, with or without my hand-picked apples.

I started with three Fiji apples, diced, and mixed in three tablespoons of suger, 1 1/2 tablespoon of cinnamon, and 2 teaspoons of lemon juice. The original recipe called for Granny Smith apples, but I don't really like those, unless there's salt to combat their tanginess. 

I then baked the apples in the oven for a bit (15 minutes at 350, to be precise), because I felt that mostly following the recipe that day. 

I made the bread with this recipe, which I've done a few times before to great success. I'm not going to repeat the recipe here again. Just know that it's time consuming. It's the only bread I've ever made, so it may be quick, but to me, a solid two-hours does not qualify as super fast. 

I then split the bread in half (one to make a rosemary loaf, one for the apples), sprinkled some cornstarch down on the counter, and rolled out the dough into a rectangle.

I then took a knife and cut slits in the dough, leaving a middle rectangle space in the center for the apples.

The apples fit perfect in the middle rectangle.

I could have dug into it right there. I then braided the slits that I had cut over the apples in the middle, tucking in the edges. I had to call in assistance in moving the apple bread onto the cooking stone. I would recommend flopping the sliced-up dough onto the cooking pan before adding the apples and braiding. It would be much simpler. 

Ready for the oven! I popped it in for about 30 minutes at 350, until it was golden brown on the top.

Then I popped it out and cut it open immediately. Like burn my tongue because I needed a taste right then and there. Worth it. 

A close-up shot of the glaze spooned on top. I made a powdered sugar, milk and vanilla paste and spooned it on. I was over the recipe thing at that time and just making it work. Another pun, likely intended. 

So although I was thwarted on my apple picking, the fall treat parade much continue. Well, at least for my Pinterest curiosities. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Beautiful Brushes.

I know I've eluded to it before, but I'm not sure if I've ever said it plainly: my job makes me incredibly busy in October and November. The can't-eat, can't-sleep reach for the stars status. Not in a hopeless romantic way. In a hopeless sleep-deprivation, barely functioning zombie way.

So in September, and the off normal hours I get in October, I have to push out my productivity and fight the comfort of the couch. I'm a Christmas-shopping, birthday-shopping, crafting machine, especially for the November birthdays that fall in here.

So I started my roommate's birthday presents. And I can share because she's also too busy to know that the world's still spinning. I pulled inspiration from something I'm sure everyone's seen on Pinterest: the makeup brush holder, for which I unfortunately am unable to find the source link.

To start, I pulled two jars from my empty and cleaned-out Yankee Candle stash and ribbon. I eye-balled the placement and hot glued it down to the jar, making sure to pull the ribbon nice and tight.


Then I hopped on Amazon and over the course of three orders, acquired four hundred clear glass marbles to fill the jars.

I might start referring to everything as a grand reveal. Though this project literally took under twenty minutes, assuming you cut out my ordering - waiting - returning - waiting - finally finding the right marbles process, it sounds so much more majestic and seal-clap worthy under the title grand reveal.

I also scooped up a white tray in the midst of my Amazon trolling and a candle from Marshall's. I have a few other beauty-related bobbles to adorn the  tray in its birthday celebration, but I haven't decided on them all yet. They have to coordinate with her black-and-white color scheme, which will also help for things to look less chaotic once all of her bright make-up is layered in on top.

For now, I'm excited for this classy coordination to organize and turn my make-up obsessive roommate's collection into a decoration all her own. That, and it was a quick and easy project to make me feel accomplished. High fives! 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Freezing fall foliage.

I had to bust out good ol' thesaurus.com to get a synonym for 'preserving.' That's how bad this alliteration addiction with the letter f, strictly related to fall themes, has become. Really, "preserving fall leaves" could never have worked, though.

Shutting up.

A couple weekends ago, I collected some fall leaves. Getting them back to DC from Ohio proved to be slightly more challenging than anticipated, but I managed. Well, this is really my fault. My poor packing and general shady looks at TSA. That came out wrong. I don't think I look shady. I always wear tight clothes (ie yoga pants) so as to show that I have nothing to hide, nor anywhere to hide. For some reason, they always want to search my hair, though. It's odd because I have thin hair. Thiiiin hair. Thanks, Dad. One day, I want to pop out the line, "It's where I keep my secrets" but I have a feeling they won't pick up so much on Mean Girls as probably just take me away. Anyway. Sunday. Cleveland airport. I'm getting my head searched, per usual, then wait for my stuff to come through the machine. The belt stops. Bad sign. I arrived at the airport with more than twenty minutes to takeoff, which is an improvement for me and something I need to do more often, so I'm not freaking out. Then the agent grabs my bag. Now I'm freaking out and running through the list of things in there in my head.

I did buy a candle at Marshall's. And a mascara and eyeliner combo at Wal-Mart. Are those things allowed? Is a candle a solid or a liquid? It's sort of in between because it can be both. Did I take out my mace? Yeah, I definitely left that at home. I did find this awesome driftwood stick that I crammed in there. That's weird. Hm. 

The agent pulls me aside and asks if there's anything breakable or fragile. I give her the go ahead. She said they're just going to run some tests, run it back through the x-ray, and I should be good. As she's unzipping my bag, I start to cringe. The leaves. Before I left, I just tossed the leaves in on top. And yup, She unzips the bag, and it's just leaves. It looks like I just packed leaves, except that you can see my underwear peeking out the top and my stick at the bottom. I look like some weird woodland creature. The agent takes a wipe, swabs around my bag, tries to keep the leaves inside, then zips it back up. 

Needless to say, I was embarrassed. The bag came back through the machine, at which point I snapped it up and took off. Note to self: keep the weirdness in check and don't pack the underwears on top. Also, use a plastic bag once in a while.


Good ol' Martha helped me by doing the heavy work. Get it? The heavy work? Because she's a book. And she flattened the leaves with her weight? Yeah. Killed that one.

Also, I don't know when this became the good ol' post. Must be the homecoming season and the good ol' days.

I really can't stop today.

After four days of chilling in the book, I carefully removed the leaves. Some lost their color and vibrancy in the process, and I tossed those out. I was left with ten that I loved and really hoped my preservation process didn't mess it up.

I started by ironing the leaves between two pieces of wax paper. Correction: a wax paper sandwich. I put the leaves between the wax paper then used a piece of scrap cotton fabric on each side. You don't want the iron to touch the wax paper. Unless you want wax on your iron. If you do, go wild. I didn't. I used the iron on the cotton setting and started very gently. So gently that I was barely touching the fabric. As the wax paper started to melt together in the blank spaces, I gradually increased the pressure. I made about ten passes over the leaves before holding the iron over each leaf for about five seconds.

Ironing said and done, the leaves looked like this, on super high contrast:

The wax paper is melted together in the empty spaces and there are discernable bubbles around the leaves. Bubbles isn't the word - shadows. There's a clear shape outlining each leaf.

I carefully peeled off each leaf. You'll be able to feel the wax they've soaked. They're stiffer, smoother, and the wax paper where they were lying has a different texture than the usual slipperiness of the wax paper. It'll feel like parchment paper. Then, very carefully, I used a sponge brush to coat the front of the leaves in modge podge. Homemand modge podge, at that.

The leaves looked so cool with the modge podge drying; I almost wished they stayed like that.

I left the leaves alone for the night to fully dry. In the morning, I flipped them over and carefully painted on a layer of modge podge on the back. I gave that coat a day to dry while I was at work. Once I was home, I painted the fronts again, just for good measure.

Sadly, but also luckily, the only casualty was one corner of the big maple. He did have stunning colors though, so I'm a little upset he's not perfect now. Hmph.

I scattered the leaves around my room to bring in a little of the fall feeling that's through the living room/dining room/kitchen/mass room. I popped three in a gold vase that I scooped from Home Goods over a year ago, and the yellowy goldy browns in the leaves compliment the vase and the books underneath fantastically.

I scattered the others on a white lacquer tray that sits on the bench inside my door. The tray is from West Elm, the result of a recent tray binge of sorts. I bought four trays in one order. Maybe I'll own up to them later. For now, you can see this pretty white lacquered guy holding my jar of buckeyes and pretty scattered leaves. My phone charges here at night, too. If you'd like to be more formal, his name is Stevie. This is Stevie's bed. 

Did you catch the baby maple in the buckeyes? It's like he just fell in when they fell off the tree. A pretty little red leaf swimming in the buckeyes. Is it weird to make these stories up and fall in love with baby leaves?

But the preserving. That's what you really care about. So far, it's been just under a week. Eleven days. Still going strong. When can I call it a success? What sort of luck has anyone had with other leaf preservation methods?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A thousand words.

I shouldn't have made the title something that I feel I would have to make the post live up to. That was a mistake.

So know now that I was going for the "a picture is worth" variety of a word count. And that I made a photo book. 

This is the very first upload-photos-online-and-make-page-layouts book that I've printed for myself. I've made them as gifts multiple times (I think just for my parents, I'm realizing).

I used Shutterfly to make the book, mainly because they were running a deal through Coke Rewards where if I entered five Coke points, found underneath the bottle caps, within a certain period of time, I got a free 8x8 book. Done.

I didn't add any text in the book, beyond the front page, because I can't write captions without oozing cheese. I'm happy I had lots of spaces for pictures and collages.

Besides, a picture's worth a thousand words. So it's like this book is all writing. How many times can one use the same cliche in the same post?

Each city and excursion got its own page, or set of pages, depending on the length of the trip. PS - you can read and see my trip in more detail over herehere and here

I particularly like the Derby page, which has the aftermath that Kate snapped of Cat and I after we gorged ourselves on some of the best fish and chips.

I love that photo books allow you to capture the funny moments that may not be particularly photogenic. The feast we had would never be something I would print, because my practical side would win out, but it's so necessary in the photo book.

It also allows for great comparisons. The top picture is the public's entrance of Hampton Court, where King Henry VIII lived outside of London. The bottom is the entrance through which royalty would enter. It's the same palace. It's amazing.

Again, some odes to some of the best foods were highlighted. Scotland's scones with cream and jam hold a special place in my heart.

Amsterdam reserved a few pages for flowers, and of course, us in the Dutch shoes.

I'm all nostalgic now. I'm glad I forced myself to go through my hundreds of pictures and make something I can share and enjoy. I probably feel way more accomplished about the completion of this book than I should. Small victories.

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