Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Amy's "Sewing" Shower

As you may recall I have a chemical engineering PhD buddy named Amy. She loves to sew and crochet and all those things that I would also label as "crafty". So when her other bridesmaids and I started thinking about a bridal shower, I knew we should make it related to that. She came home this weekend for the big fiesta, and it was nearly perfect. In my opinion, it was too hot, but living in Atlanta, I'm sure she is accustomed to that by now.

Here's how it all turned out:

I oiled up and brought in my very old sewing machine for the full effect. As you can see, Irene also made it to the party. On the sewing machine we had my Mom's infamous red velvet cupcakes, and some sugar cookies I made.
I made this button monogram (her new last name will be Ethier) and found these old spools at the Mansfield Flea Market
The shower was held at Amy's parents house in our hometown. Her parents have been doing a lot of updating in their house to prepare for the wedding (which will take place in the yard under a tent) and I just couldn't get over how beautiful the fireplace looks! The flowers were brought by another bridesmaid, Lauren.
Along with the flowers, Lauren also brought a ridiculous amount of gorgeous milk-glass vases and serving dishes. She and Emily (another bridesmaid) made the stunning arrangements. You can see a yellow tissue paper pom sticking his head out from behind the vase. Amanda and I made a bunch of those for the shower as well.
I made these embroidery hoop letters by using some fusible paper and pink seersucker fabric. After the letters were ironed on, I embroidered a simple stitch around the outside of each letter. 
You can't see everything, but here is some of the food on the lovely milk-glass pieces. My white chocolate shortbread cookies are hiding behind my chocolate cake (which melted like crazy). Not pictured here is the goat cheese log that was rolled in cranberries, pistachios and walnuts, which was my personal favorite of the entire party. Bridesmaid Giulie was responsible for that item, and said the recipe came from pinterest. 
In the back you can see my cookies popping their heads out. The recipe was one that Amy and Emily had tried in the past. Front and Center are the tags that Amanda made to label the food (which was extremely helpful for the variety of sandwiches that were available). Each tag was placed on a lollipop stick set inside a spool, all tying back to the sewing theme.
For drinks, there was sweet tea, lemonade and peachy white wine sangria. All were fabulous. The paper straws were a deal I got on pick-your-plum!
Lauren brought the bunting, a great addition that was reused from her sister's bridal shower.
I made these cute little dress form sugar cookies... do they look like Irene?
We were very lucky to have two non-wedding party helpers, my mother-in-law (left) and my Mom (middle) who did a great job with the hot appetizers, which were a big hit - even in the sweltering heat!
It was quite the full house!
and Amy received lots of gorgeous gifts!
All of the guests left with a little something: three sugar cookies that I made to look like buttons, in some very cute packaging, if I do say so myself. I made the labels on PicMonkey (my new favorite now that Picnik is gone). I used the pink seersucker again to tie the glassine bags (left over from my wedding) and hot-glued a button on for added charm.

The best surprise of all, was that Corey (Amy's sister and maid of honor) was able to come. She surprised us all by taking a weekend "leave" from the Army and flying in Friday night around 2:00 a.m.! From left to right: Giulie, Amanda, Corey, Amy, me, Lauren and Emily. One big happy wedding party!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Just keeping things real

I want you to know that my life is nearly always a disaster. I think that its because I find so much amusement in the things that go wrong that I am tempted to write a book every time I do a "project". For example, let me tell you about my adventures in dog bed making.

First things first: Aero and Bruno had both recently pooped in their beds. This is not the kind of thing I have any real urge to clean, so when something like that happens, I just throw everything away. Why yes, that is extremely wasteful, thank you for noticing. I throw away the fleece "blankets" (read: 1.5 yards of fabric completely unaltered) and toss out the nice covers that I made for their beds. I am left with a big crate that needs to be taken outside and hosed down, and a 2 x 3 ft piece of foam that is about 4 inches thick. Long ago I decided to cover the foam in heavy duty plastic/vinyl so that if anything happened, the foam would be safe and I could just use a clorox wipe to clean the plastic.

As a side note, I felt so weird when I bought the vinyl, because it's what a old lady would buy to cover her table cloth. You can picture it, can't you? So I felt the need to explain to the saleswoman at Joann's that I wasn't going to do that. 

Anyway I walked into my craft room after cleaning off the vinyl covered foam. This is what I saw:

Dear Lord! Who snuck into my craft room while I was sleeping and forgot to put everything back into its place? "A place for everything and everything in its place" right Mom? I know that's how I usually live my life... nice and clean and organized.

Ok, so obviously, I had to clean this disaster area before I could sew anything. Because honestly, my sewing machine was buried. Quite literally.

Once this room was finally cleaned up (about an hour and a half later) I gathered all of the supplies for my dog beds... I had the foam, I had the fabric, I had the right color thread... but where was the damn velcro? I know I had some.... Needless to say, I never found it. Instead I went to Target to buy more.

Only, target doesn't sell Velcro. So then I had to go Joanns. They wanted $15.99 for the 6 ft section of iron of velcro that I wanted. I found that to be outrageous, so instead, I bought industrial zippers. I didn't really know what length I needed, so I bought a bunch and brought them all home.

At that point it was like 9:00 and there was no way I was going to start sewing at that point. So I went to bed. That was last Tuesday. have I made the dog beds since then? No, obviously not. Why am I telling you this? Like I said in the title, I'm just keeping things real. One day I will do the dog beds, and I promise to post photos when I am done. In the meantime, just stare and be mesmerized by the awful mess I made and return to your own house tonight thinking, "whew... this place looks pretty damn good in comparison!"

Monday, May 21, 2012

Suitcase Strike Out

Good news everyone, I found another trend that I really like... just not in my house. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way - which seems to be my experience with most things. I have been collecting vintage suitcases in shades of blue for a few months now, and I was finally able to buy a luggage rack to display them on. I really loved the idea of the suitcases being a side table, so that's the look I went for below:

But I really wasn't that big of a fan. The light is too high, the suitcases too tall. So I kept trying other variations:

But none of this works... It's too high, there isn't enough light and it all just felt odd... like the frames above the couch. Like the color of the room. I could go on for days, but at this point, with a move highly likely in the next 6 months, I'm not going to start changing things that will create more work for me later (like making more holes in the wall). 

At one point, I had stacked the lamp and the birch pottery dish inside a giant tray that I got as a bridal shower gift from my MIL. It looked cute. No.. it looked great! So I plopped the tray on top of the luggage rack and viola!

I know that the photo above makes it look kind of weird, but with the space available, it's actually perfect to scale. The white built in to the left needs to have open access because that is where I keep the wine glasses and margarita making devices.

The couch on the left is the dog couch, just so you know. They never bother to fluff the pillows and make it look nice. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Pinterest Pursuits, Edition 4

I'm sure you've all been wondering what I've been up to lately... after all, doesn't everyone want to know what I am doing at all times? No, I guess you're right.

But, for you dear readers who have invested so much time and energy by reading my rantings, I wanted to give you a little update. Remember my new lab-style cabinet in the craft room? I thought that having the fabric on display might urge me to sew a bit more, and it turns out, it did! Although oddly enough the fabric I used for this project was stored in a bin in the attic.

A few months ago, I saw this adorable bow clutch on Pinterest. I LOVE the internet, did I ever mention that? Specifically, I love pinterest. It might be borderline unhealthy.

I digress.

The pin was a working one (thank God) and I clicked on through to Elm Street Life where I found detailed, easy to follow instructions on how to make this adorable little purse. So I followed the directions (GASP) and look what I made:

It's actually a very decent size, in fact... it can hold 2 apples, no problem! You know, if you get hungry from time to time:

Do you love the Navy Blue lining? Because I am a big fan. All in all I would say this project took about an hour and a half. But I spent a lot of time hemming and hawing over whether to use an off-white zipper or navy blue.

Because I have a thing for primary colors, I think I will make another blue, with some red stitching for emphasis. What do you think?

So you see world, I don't just use Pinterest to redesign homes I will never live in... I also find useful things to recreate! Oh Pinterest, how I do love thee.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Street Treasure!

And finally, good old Part 3 of my 3-parter on old stuff turned new:

About two years ago, I found a dresser down the street and wheeled it home. Nothing better than a street treasure that doesn't even require a truck!

This particular treasure sat in the basement for a long time, even after I painted it. But finally, one day I decided to bring it upstairs into the craft room and so I did. Yes, it was one of those comical episodes where I tried to bring something upstairs by myself. I'll spare you the details. Here is what it looks like now:

Sunday, May 6, 2012

A Fun Activity, Part II

As you proabably have figured out, "tomorrow" on this blog, could mean almost anything. So here is my "tomorrow" post about what else I would do to that cookie cutter house.

After all of the work in the kitchen building that half wall into a full wall, we've isolated the "family room". Good,  because I'm going to make it a library. So crack open the new french door, and walk on in.

In a library, there are no giant TVs, in giant entertainment centers. Just books. Mountains of books and nice soft places to read them. So the first thing we need to do is add some serious shelving.. and a sliding ladder, of course, right where that hideous entertainment center is now, picture this instead:

Then, since this is a virtual world where things are cheap, let's build out the fireplace a bit more, so that it's not hiding behind the shelves. 

Yes, this works! While we are making things cozy with our fireplace, let's add some extra loungey seating in front of the big window for perfect light:

We're on a roll now! Don't forget that we closed up that wall, so when you'e in the library sitting and reading, you don't have to worry about hearing your husband clanging pots while he makes dinner... hey, we're still using our imaginations, aren't we?

The dining room is actually fine as is. Maybe I would add some crown molding and wainscoting, but really, it's in good shape as is, minus the pink paint.

Beyond the dining room is the living room, which I would make a true living room, complete with over-sized television. Take a step in there for a minute, no need to duck, the ceilings are tall enough.

Here is what I know about this living room so far: the fireplace needs to make more of a statement. I'm thinking of something a little bit more like this:

Seems like a good idea, right? Plus, since the mason already came to build out the fireplace in the other living room, he would likely give us a good deal. Or maybe the Mr. and I could just figure out how to do it on our own... Ok, fine it's a little unreasonable. But what if instead of stone all the way to the ceiling, we stopped at the mantel and did some wainscoting instead, would that be better? Then I suppose would could put the TV on the mantel, or build it into a cabinet or something...

Better? Ok, good. Now, since the TV is on the mantel, we need to add some squishy seating options. Typically, I'm not a fan of seeing the back of a couch. But if the Tv is on the mantel, then the couch must face in that general direction. We could flank the fireplace with chairs (like 2 photos up) and then turn them around when we need extra seating. But the couch, and the table behind it would have to look like this.

Something that looks like it is on-purpose because when you walk through the front door, you can see into the living room.

While we are moving into the entry... YIKES.

I was never a fan of a two-story foyer. It seems like a monumental waste of space. plus, where do you hang things? What do you hang? Such awkward heights! But, there is where pinterest comes in:

A little trim goes a long way, doesn't it? The line created breaks up the space and forces your eye to look in certain places. Oh yah, obviously we would be tossing he teal carpet to the curb. I will never figure out why people carpet perfectly good wood stairs. Is it because they are slippery? The people who say that obviously don't have dogs to grit up their stairs with some nice paw dirt. 

Well, together we have re-done the entire first floor of this house. What do you think? Do you want to hug pinterest as much as I do for being able to turn something so blah into a fantastically character-rich house? Ok, maybe it's just me. But next time you go on a house search, keep your mind open... pinterest will do the rest (and maybe a couple of contractors too...)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Fun Activity, Part I

In 1993, someone decided to build this house in Granby.

In 2012, someone else decided to sell this house, and it just so happened to come to live in my real estate "portfolio". You're surprised aren't you? I know, it's a fairly plain house, cookie-cutter if you will. And yes, I know the 3 garage doors staring you square in the face are absolutely hideous. But still, it's in my portfolio - and do you want to know why? Because I like to play on pinterest.

When the unofficial housing search began last month, I realized pretty quickly that it is going to be damn near impossible to find what I want, where I want it, and for what the Mr. will agree to pay for it. Then the Mr. sent me the world's ugliest house, and I balked at him.

Then I went on pinterest and turned it into the world's most beautiful house. And a monster was born. It has become a favorite activity of mine to find a house for sale that has the right square footage and acreage but a very unsuitable interior, and use pinterest to make it more Mandy.

So back to my latest focus:

First things first, that garage needs love because it smacks you right in the eyeballs when you pull into the driveway. So I would change the doors to something with a bit more character. Then, I would build a trellis, like so, to add beauty and softness to the very harsh 3 metal doors all in a row.

Obviously there would be some small amount of landscaping with window boxes for the window behind the tree on the right, and hanging over the small front porch area.

Inside, we would start in the kitchen. First I would remove the dual ceiling fans because that seems a bit excessive in my opinion.

Obviously the counters would be replaced with a walnutty stained wood. I am a fan of wood counters. And we would go ahead and paint the cabinets white and change out the hardware to something akin to what you see below.

At some point in time, people who were creating house plans decided it was a wonderful idea to have the kitchen open to the "family room".

But it seems that they didn't realize how annoying that would be in terms of acoustics (right, Mom?). So to rectify that problem in this kitchen, I would build that half wall all the way to the ceiling and add some texture and visual interest with bead board. And then, I would use the new wall to be the back of a bench or nook that I would slide the table up to (as for the baseboard that is currently in the way... the house has central air already, so I would use those ducts for forced hot air instead of baseboards, because I hate them... no, I don't know know if you can actually do that or not).

It's starting to look pretty good in this place, isn't it? Don't worry, we have a lot left to do in this kitchen. I am about to blow your mind... or minimally, a wall. I'd get rid of the upper cabinets to the left of the sink and put in a bigger window.

"DEAR GOD, NO! NOT THE STORAGE MANDY!" Relax  readers, I'm not getting rid of them forever, I'm just moving them. You see, there is a "desk" on the right side of the kitchen next to the fridge. In my opinion there is nothing worse than a "desk" like that in a kitchen. Know why?

Well for one thing, it is a monumental waste of space. For another thing, all that happens with that "desk" is that it becomes a magnet for clutter. Things like mail, keys, magazines, dirty dishes and socks (hey you never know). So instead of that stupid desk, I would build out a wall of cabinets, floor to ceiling, to be flush with the place where the wall juts out on the other side of the fridge.

Finally, I'd add a little charm to the island with some more bead board and adorable brackets (corbels? I know there is another, far more interesting word than brackets, but I don't know what it is at the moment).

I don't know what to do about the wet bar, it's a cool feature, but it seems silly to have such a tiny sink so close to your regular sink. Maybe I just don't know any better. I think I would leave it for a while, maybe eventually replacing it with a hutch of sorts.

Aside from all of that, the kitchen needs a coat of paint and new lighting. I mean seriously, red walls and green counters? Good God! My current kitchen is Valspar's "Luna" and I gotta tell you, I seriously love it. I might repeat. It's a very nice greenish gray.

Don't get me started with lighting. All I can tell you is that I have no problem spending a small fortune on lighting because it has such an impact. Check out this example:

Without that fixture, you just have a simple table with some colorful chairs. Lighting makes a difference folks, and in my next house, you will see some unique choices because I wont hold back.

What do you think? Are you having fun so far? Probably not as much fun as me... but that's OK because I don't get paid to make this blog fun for you. That is the beauty of being unknown. I do however realize that it is possible to overload you, so for today, I will stop here. We've done a ton of work in this house so far and it has cost us a virtual fortune. So catch your breath, I'll be back with Part II tomorrow.