Monday, September 1, 2014

apothecary cabinet facelift + some valuable lessons about home decor (and life).

You know when you have an abstract vision of something, a mental image with blurry edges, but you think I'll know it when I see it? That was me with our room. Our whole house, if I'm honest.

Because, at the ripe old age of 33, I'm finally figuring out what my style is, how it translates to our current home (and future homes, I hope); meanwhile casting away those old tenancies to hold back. I held back for a variety of reasons, too many to list individually, but I've been rather amazed at what it is my ideal home actually looks like. (Hint: nothing like I thought it would.) And although the carpet in this house isn't what I'd have chosen, and the walls are a little too white for my taste, I've learned that is possible to make it very much our own.

In this whole process, I have come to realize that I have overlapping tastes in home decor: shabby chic meets rustic farmhouse in the dining room; light, bright and ethereal in the master bedroom and my desk area; modern and sleek with black and white elements in the living room.

You know what? It works! I wish I could go back and give 24-year-old me permission to explore all these different vibes rather than feeling boxed in by the need to just choose one style already!.

If I could sum up this whole process of self-discovery, because that seems to be what your thirties are for, I've decided, it would come down to three words: trust your instincts. If there is one thing I've learned, it's that things fall into place. Sometimes the improbable pieces, seeming so opposite on the surface, can work together quite nicely.

And if at first you don't succeed, try, try again. That zany but oh so charming shabby chic jackalope art I just had to have? It went from room to room trying out various walls until it found it's perfect home in the unlikeliest place: our downstairs half bathroom.

In the event it simply can't be made to work, or we don't love it after all, we return it or sell it. It's okay to admit defeat. (Whaaat?! A revelation, I tell you.) Life is too short to live with things that don't make you happy. The minutia and inconveniences that accompany the day-to-day is something that must be endured; not so for unlovable things.

Fortunately, came to said revelations soon after our move and just in time to find this beauty. I was on the hunt for a shelf or cabinet of some sort to replace a piece we left behind; something to add storage whilst filling an empty wall in our bedroom.

About a week after we moved in, Mario suggested we take an afternoon drive to Aurora, Oregon, a quaint village known for its antique stores. It was just twenty minutes shy of closing time when I spied an awesome apothecary cabinet in the back of a store. It was filled with do dads for sale and looked very much a fixture... but! upon closer inspection lay a price tag.

It's no secret that I carry a deep-seeded love for old apothecary items. Pyrex beakers and flasks, glass-front cabinets... I attribute it to the biologist side of my personality. And so, after forking over a mere $126, it was ours.

Our house was barely unpacked, and there were a million projects that lay ahead of this one on my to-do list, like, for instance, finding my underthings, but this piece inspired me.

I shook the post-move cobwebs from my brain and set to work. I think the rest of the house has this cabinet to thank for for getting me out of a long-standing home-decor rut. 

So, in the end, this is the rather long retelling of how Sarah got her groove back. How she envisioned wallpapering a cabinet with wrapping paper and made it so. (As the great Captain Jean-Luc Picard would say.)

It's also the story of how she dared to place an apothecary cabinet, perhaps better suited elsewhere, in a bedroom and shocked both her and her husband by making it work. Which was the beginning of great things, in hindsight, and the push she needed to change the way she thought of her home, and herself.

(Dramatic, no? You might think it is the portal to Narnia rather than being a mere cabinet. But sometimes the littlest things prompt change, and this project was no exception.)

Green on the inside, white on the outside. A little roughed up and in need of some TLC. But the bones are quite beautiful.
Painting on carpet is risky. In a rental no less. I'm setting a terrible example. But it is about 6' tall and made of solid wood and thick glass, so lugging it back downstairs and out to the garage seemed like a lot of work for a quick paint job. I was careful and our security deposit was left unscathed.
It took three 19.5" x 27" sheets of paper to cover the back. I'll admit, my inner-perfectionist freaked out a few times along the way. Wrinkles! Oh, the wrinkles (see above photo). Fortunately, most faded away once the Mod Podge dried and the rest go unnoticed with the shelves in place. The best method was to work in sections from right to left, smoothing as I went. Also, work quickly. Because I used decorative paper as opposed to wall paper, the Mod Podge made it soft. If I waited too long, it didn't cut well with the knife, instead tearing. I debated using spray adhesive instead, but was unsure about its long-term staying power and how it would grip the uneven areas in the old wood backing.
My husband wisely stayed away during this part of the project.

Now I have place to stow favorite books (or those high on my must-read list), Kiddo's art projects made for me throughout the years, jewelry, and other tchotchkes in need of a place to rest.


Antique apothecary cabinet // $126
Olympic One Interior Latex Paint (eggshell finish) in Babbling Brook //  $15
Paper Source Mint Floral Wrapping paper (3 sheets) // $17.85

Total: $158.85*

(*Note: I already had the Mod Podge, paint brush, and X-Acto knife on hand, so I didn't incur any additional costs with those items. They certainly weren't free, but I didn't count them in the final cost of this project.)

In the end I'm left with a really beautiful, solidly made piece I will probably have forever.

But, perhaps more importantly, I'm left with valuable lessons learned, some added bravery, and a whole lot more courage when it comes to my home.

(Not to mention proof that one can snowball debt and decorate a home with a few items not purchased at Ikea.)

{Linking up with Molly and Carly}

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

No-sew fabric garland.

You know when you've decorated a room, and you're pretty sure it's finished, yet you can't shake the nagging feeling that something is missing? That's not quite up to snuff?

I couldn't put my finger on it at first, but soon came to realize the windows in the kitchen and upstairs loft area weren't aesthetically pleasing, unlike the rest of the room. They are large, brighten the rooms, and serve to usher in cool breezes on even the hottest days, so I didn't want to do anything that would distract from those features. So, traditional curtains were out. Still, something needed to break up the monotony of the wood window frames and big panes of glass.

In this case, I settled on window valences. Though, admittedly, I'm not a fan. There's just something about them that is too... rustic? fussy? country kitchen? I'm not sure.

Then, then I had a bonafide Who is this crafty, clever woman and what did she do with Sarah? moment. I'm not sure who I have to thank for this sudden stroke of genius, but I imagine it was the love child of Pinterest, Martha Stewart and some fellow bloggers.

Garland! A. It wouldn't take away from the function of the windows (natural light! must have natural light!), and B. Would serve to distract from their starkness.

And because the genius just wouldn't quit, I remembered the gigantic stash of fabric housed in totes in the garage. I'm nothing if not honest, so I must admit that I haven't attempted a sewing project in no less than 5 years. In fact, I sold my portable sewing machine before we moved. I can't even run the bobbin correctly through the machine and my husband had to come to my rescue every time. Aaand the chance of me becoming a seamstress in the next 5 years is nil. So the fact that I have totes, plural, chock full of fabric is a bit ridiculous. 

Except! Wait for it... fabric garland! No-sew fabric garland, no less. A beautiful brain child indeed. 

It went something like this:

Simply snip the fabric at desired intervals, then swiftly rip along the cuts in the fabric. Depending on the type of fabric, there may be a lot of loose strings (see above photo) which I grabbed by the handful and discarded.

Decide how long you want the garland to be, and cut a length of twine accordingly. Make loops on both ends of the twine by which it will hang.

There are two primary ways to attach the fabric to the twine: simply tie a knot in the middle of the fabric (like this), or create loops along the length of the twine. I tried both, but decided on the latter method. I liked the more streamline look; it's simply a matter of preference.

I started in the middle of the twine and worked one way, then the other. That way I could scoot the loops of fabric closer together or spread them out a bit if I didn't like the spacing. 

It seems like it will take a long time and a ton of fabric, but it goes surprisingly fast. Settle in and catch up on your DVR.

Easy. Peasy. Lemon. Squeezy.

I made a second garland, this time with longer strips of fabric, for the kitchen window. I thought a red and white theme might be nice and add a touch of color, plus I had a lot of fabric that fit the scheme. 

However, I had a This is sooo not my style! moment towards the end of its construction. I'll admit, it felt a little too country kitchen for my taste.

In the end I decided to hang it up anyway and give it a few days. If I didn't like it after the trial period was up, I could just take it down. No harm, no foul. But, as luck would have it, it grew on me. And now I adore having it there. It just goes to show... I don't know what.

(I also had a moment where, during the making of the second garland, I looked up at Mario and he burst into raucous laughter. I mean, I was crafting like a fiend and probably looked like I'd lost my mind. Paper wreaths, miss-matched chairs, hot glue, chalk paint, picture frames up the wazoo, and then ripping fabric for hours so I could tie it around twine... he maaay have thought I'd lost my mind. That the move had pushed me right over the edge. That sort of frenetic behavior isn't characteristic of my personality. I looked down at what I was doing and had a similar realization. And we laughed some more.)

I have one more pile of fabric strips lingering at the end of our bed, with the intention of making just one more garland to fill the space between our headboard and a set of three small windows. (It's not possible to center the bed under the windows and still be able to get around both sides, so it's a little awkward-looking.)

So there you have it. The easiest darn DIY project there ever was.

Monday, August 25, 2014

A lovely, lazy Sunday; a case of the Mondays.

Saturday was one of those days where you feel like the world is your oyster. Up and at 'em nice and early and ready to seize the day. That was us. Armed with a school supply list and Kiddo's clothing needs discussed and documented, we headed out.

Living in the country had its advantages, but swift school supply shopping wasn't one of them. Big city life is suiting us just fine at this juncture.

Things came screeching to a halt, however, upon our endeavor to hook our kid up with some new school duds. Picking out a folder is a breeze compared to choosing the right shade of blue for a t-shirt. Apparently.

A little bit of our souls left us as we ventured from one store to the next. Just look at my poor husband. The life was sucked from his body in the Gap fitting room. An empty shell of a man right there.

On a whim we stopped at one of those stores. The ones with dim lighting, loud music, and the pungent smell of teen spirit, having been over-sprayed by the young and impressionable over the course of the day. But! But! It is apparently less expensive to be cool than I was at that age. Or my parents had less? I ponder such things in those kinds of places. Regardless, shirts and jeans were purchased and we can still pay our gas bill.

Also, I care about my kid being cool far more than he does. He doesn't give a rat's ass about the logo on the left shirt breast, just the fact that they are impossibly soft. But do we ever really abandon our high school selves completely? So isn't it natural that it seeps out onto our children? Also, is it cool to still say "cool"? Or are we back to rad? I prefer awesome in case you were wondering.

The day's saving grace was a sunset dinner on a floating restaurant. And alcoholic beverages. Oh! And watching The Grand Budapest Hotel (finally!) with the Hubster. (What did I just call him? Ick.)

We have decided, and so I shall declare, that we like Wes Anderson movies. They are weird and quirky and odd and wonderful. Says we. Moonrise Kingdom was the last one we saw, and it a pretty momentous occasion. We still quote that movie regularly. I mean, the lines in his movies! Hilarious.

Our house is mostly done, with the exception of a manageable-ish list that requires the help of a husband. Require may be slightly inaccurate, admittedly, but these tasks involve anchoring things to the wall. And, well, such things make me nervous. I'm the kind of gal who hangs something wonky, takes it down and tries again. Another attempt, another tiny nail hole. This practice is not wise with wall anchors. And so, I believe he must help me get it right. And also so I have someone to share the blame when we do our final walk-through one day and the walls are full of anchor holes.

And also because, shucks, my husband looks dead sexy holding a power tool. He drilled holes in the bottom of some decorative pots for me yesterday and I got all farklempt.

Still, Sunday was perfectly lazy and involved potting succulents and the new season of Doctor Who and, you know, lazing. My legs got shaved and therefore I consider the day productive.

Also, if you want to try something amazing, buy lemon meringue marshmallows. Just do it.

Also! Half-Caff K-Cups are saving my life. Because breaking up with coffee right now is out of the question but I'm a Nervous Nellie when it comes to my child morphing into a young man which has made me all sensitive and jittery when I drink the hard stuff. Now, dare I say, I can have two cups should the mood strike. I'm a rebel that way. Aren't you glad you know that about me?

P.S. Martha is all things good and wonderful. (Except her decision to terminate Everyday Food. Devastating.)

This morning came around, and there I was riding high off my lazy but not too lazy Sunday, then BAM! my kid started cross country. High school cross country. Sometimes the realization that time marches to its own (universally accepted) beat, whether you want it to or not, hits a mom in the chest. Knocks the wind right out of her.

I dropped Kiddo off at his first practice and left him surrounded by high school boys—a few smaller but most much bigger (mustaches! what? how?)—and thought He doesn't belong here!.

I don't know if you remember, but high school is a minefield. My goodness, the social aspect alone. If you had a smooth, fuss-free high school experience, can you help a mom out? How does the shy, quiet high school girl teach her son how to flourish in the social trenches of secondary school?

And then, as always, I come to my senses and realize I can't. It's his minefield to navigate. But I'll be here, pb&j in hand, when he needs me. We'll figure it out together. But never since graduation have I felt so close to my high school days. It's not an easy feeling. Hold me.

Much to my relief, I picked up a sweaty but smiling kiddo. He met people! He ran like the wind! All was well! And we get to go through the same routine six days a week for the next three months!

I think I'm going to write and submit an essay to Huffington Post about mothering a high schooler and the emotional labyrinth that creates. It will be my crowning achievement.

Instead of sitting around bemoaning Father Time's unfairness, I ventured out into the world. Distraction is key in such circumstances. Lump in throat and fist clutching my heart be damned!

I drove to a neighboring town that is completely charming and has the best antique store. I came across the perfect shabby chic mirror, the one I've been hunting for for the last month, and wrangled it into my backseat. Did I mention the perfect shabby chic chandelier? I'd be remiss not to mention it. Perhaps next time, pretty girl. (Please still be there.)

I located a quaint little coffee shop, perched myself at a table, and blogged. And thought about finding a therapist to spill my guts to.

I ate a raspberry tartelette. It was pretty much the perfect remedy for a broken heart. I mean, that thing was magical.

And for the first time today, sitting in that cafe, I didn't have to avert my eyes for fear that someone would catch on to the fact that I was a faker. I smiled politely and made idle chitchat up until that point, you can be sure of that, but I was a bit terrified that someone would say something like, Oh! Did your child grow up in the blink of an eye and start high school athletics today?, causing my whole facade to crumble, leaving me a blubbering mess. Which is very likely to happen, obviously. People say those kinds of things all the time.

Then there was a solo trip to Costco which resulted in a large bag of chocolate bark and a case of local beer. One should not shop at Costco while in emotional turmoil.

And now... now I say goodnight and close the door on a momentous day. Because for my all my melodrama, know that I'm mostly happy.

That kid of mine, he's a good egg.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Weekend Links

I'm writing on a Sunday! What, what! Today is a hang around the house, cross items off the to-do list kind of Sunday. A lazy-feeling, but accomplished much kind of Sunday. If that makes sense.

It's the kind of day that invites uncharacteristic blogging practices. Though naive, newbie me used to blog 7 days a week. While going to college. She was nuts.

If you read those How to get your blog noticed! kind of articles, and I have, they often talk about posting at the "right time". A Sunday afternoon post is a waste of a post! they exclaim, No one reads on Sundays!. I do! And if I don't, I appreciate a blogroll full of interesting thoughts and ideas come Monday morning.

One thing I've come to love on a Sunday morning, coffee in hand, are "weekend link" posts. The ones where my favorite bloggers round up their favorite things discovered throughout the week and put them in one place.

So often I read a blog post or news article, or stumble upon a great Etsy find, and make a mental note to mention them. Then I randomly remember them at 3 o'clock on a Tuesday afternoon and they end up in a miscellaneous post where one thing often has little to do with the other. Then you guys think I've lost my marbles. Or worse, I forget about them altogether. Woe is me.

So! So! Without further ado (after much ado), I'm writing my first weekend link post. Because I can. And because I hope it becomes a thing.

// Thoughts on the evolution of a blogger's food photography. Do you ever look back and cringe? I do.

// Although our wall space is quickly filling up, I'm still on the hunt for fun, unique pieces of art. I am utterly smitten with these deer photographs. (Though I've had a bad experience with Society6 and their prints come in really funky sizes. Have you noticed? Fortunately, many of the artists have Etsy shops as well.)

// Remember my little meltdown about blogging the other day? Or are you trying to forget? (I don't blame you.) Jenni articulates it so well, as usual, in her post Things I Don't Miss (About Blogging). If a seasoned (and uber-successful) blogger isn't immune to comparison and other blog (and life) related emotions, well, it gives my feelings a little more validation. P.S. I miss her!

// Finding the perfect print with the perfect quote and getting it in two days.

// I'm rather obsessed with minimalist jewelry these days. Earrings in particular. These tiny bar earrings are perfect.

// I find myself gravitating toward comfort and simplicity in shoes, too. Like an old standby: the Birkibuc sandal. Mario thinks I've lost my mind and Portland's crunchy-ness has overtaken me. But really, can you beat the comfort? The Morgan Sandals from Sole + Luster are en route to my house as we speak. (The price! The price!)

// Turning your Instagram photos into mini memory books? Brilliant.

// Finding a new (to me) blog with beautiful photography and delicious recipes makes me really happy. I have two of her recipes planned for this week.

// We all have moments in life when we realize we need to quiet the noise. For me that realization means less television, more reading, home cooked meals, putting my phone away, really looking at and listening to Husband and Kiddo when they speak to me, and more time spent pondering what's affecting me rather than drowning it out with background noise.

// This article, posted earlier this summer, is what really got me thinking about the whole idea of distraction and "noise" in the first place. My original thoughts on it are here.

// Sometimes reading about a person's journey to find health, even if you've heard it before, can motivate you to make a change. For me, that means resuming CrossFit and reeling in my diet.

// I'm thinking about signing up for a Quarterly box. Anyone have a personal experience with it? Curator suggestions? How about NatureBox? I like the idea of having a happy show up in the mail that we can open as a family. (Like my Birchbox subscription... but for all three of us.)

Happy Sunday! I hope it's wonderfully lazy where you are.