Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tackling the Post -Christmas Beast

The Christmas carols and festive lights have slowly faded away. The piles of wrapping paper and bows have been tossed. The only lasting presence of Christmas now are our snug waistbands and a house that looks like a top notch qualifier for an episode of "Buried Alive." I try to convince myself that the mayhem is a result of my daughter's indulgent Christmas spoils, but that hardly is the case. I don't recall her getting a mound of dirty dishes and laundry from Santa.
My daughter Lola, looking at the tree lights. (Although it looks like she was eaten my the Christmas tree, which is exactly how I feel about our house after Christmas- swallowed whole by a Christmas tornado!)

I always enter the month of January feeling the need to purge, organize, and regain a sense of normality in my home and in my personal life. Sometimes this can be a daunting task, so I remind myself that baby steps are better than no steps at all. Its very easy for me to get distracted by the big picture and run myself ragged performing petty tasks like picking up toys, restacking piles of mail and magazines, and rehanging clothes that seem to mysteriously pile up on my bathroom vanity. Two days later the evidence of my efforts are once again nonexistent. These tasks provide me with the instant gratification I am seeking, but in no way take care of the much bigger problem, which is too much stuff haphazardly crammed into our tiny house.

The first room I cautiously decided to tackle was our kitchen. (stinky dishes and sticky counters took precedence over scattered toys!) Somehow I always end up making a bigger mess before things start to look better, but the end result is well worth the pain! Here are a few cleaning tips I compiled while fighting our beast of a kitchen yesterday:

The permanently grungy dishwasher...
 Run your EMPTY dishwasher through a normal cycle and put citric acid or even powdered orange/lemon drink mix in the detergent cup of the dishwasher. If you don't have these acidic products handy, set a cup of bleach in a bowl on the bottom rack and run the WASH cycle only. Do not dry! Run the washer a second time with one cup of vinegar in the bowl and let it run through the ENTIRE cycle. This will help remove any mystery odors and help your dishwasher run more efficiently!

The stinky garbage disposal...

Freeze white vinegar in ice cube trays and run a few through your disposal. It will wake the dead and freshen your disposal at the same time!
Or for a fresh little pick-me-up here and there, run a few citrus peels through the disposal (sometimes I drop a few ice cubes in with them too; it helps clean the blades.)

Baked-on oven mess...
Mix baking soda with just enough water to make a thick paste. Spread the past over oven surfaces with a paper towel, avoiding the heating elements/coils. You can even spread this paste on the glass! Let the paste sit for 15 to 30 minutes. (This is a heat free cleaning method; do not turn on the oven!) Wipe clean with a damp cloth. Voila! Spotless oven with no harsh chemicals. 

I hope you can use these helpful cleaning tips to get a jump start on your deep cleaning! Coming up next: you've got the gunk under control, now its time to organize that messy kitchen!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Get Real, Martha...

Martha, Martha....
While thumbing through the Christmas edition of Martha Stewart Living, my brain churning away like The Little Engine that Could, I squealed with delight at all of the glorious Christmas crafts and decorating ideas. My joy was short lived...Hand made felt house shoes. Precious! Felt for one pair (as pictured) $18.99 per 18x18 inch square. Glittered PAPER star. Spectacular. Its paper for Pete's sake! Paper for one star (as pictured) $26.00. That doesn't include the $15.00 glitter fee.

And my favorite- Tartan plaid stockings. Plaid-tastic. At $53.00 per yard, that Morlich tartan wool better come in a box with Gerard Bulter straight from Scotland. I'd tap that, I mean craft that.

Now, nobody adores Martha Stewart more than I do. What she lacks in personality, she more than compensates for in creativity. But doesn't Martha know that us crafters be po' folks? If we could afford to spend $41.00 plus tax and shipping on supplies to make a paper star, we wouldn't be making it ourselves, lady! We would be haulin our botoxed booties down to Green Hills Malls in our Lexus' and buying one of everything they have at Restoration Hardware. Darn you, Martha Stewart. Darn you....

Now of course I am being a bit extreme. Of course you can always modify these crafts to accommodate a true crafter's budget. But of course Martha gets to use fabulous supplies from fabulous vendors to make her projects look "truly special". Even Baby Jude is jealous. Gag! If you are a Craft Diva on a budget, there is still hope my friend. I want to share some of my favorite holiday crafts using simple, affordable materials, and today we will use canvas!

Canvas Pillow Covers:
Forget the fabric store! I just bought a MASSIVE dropcloth at Lowe's for less than $10.00 and it has provided me with enough canvas to make 8 pillows. Canvas has great texture and color, and at that price you can afford to make a few oopsies along the way.

Click here for a step by step tutorial! These particular pillows were made with glittered spray paint and the letters were cut out on a Cricut machine. However, you can use an $.89 tube of acrylic craft paint and cut our your own words or designs on cardstock to make your stencils. For added simplicity, make your pillow covers with an envelope closure in back. No zippers to sew in, and you can easily slip them over existing pillows!
Don't want to fool with paint? Use Sharpies!
These pillows were also embellished with paint. If you don't have a Cricut, here is a tutorial on making stencils using freezer paper. I also love the idea of snow flakes because they can be used all winter long!
Use craps of fabric to make simple silhouettes. Back your fabric with Heat N Bond for a "no sew" quickie. Or stitch around the edge of your silhouettes. Did you know you can cut fabric out on your Cricut machine??? Just apply the Heat N Bond to the back of your fabric (do not remove the paper backing yet) Then place the fabric on your Cricut as you would with regular paper. Cut the design or words of your choice! No more hand tracing and cutting appliques!  
Canvas Stockings:
Durable and timeless! Follow this tutorial for step by step instructions to make your very own stockings.  
Save on canvas, splurge on velvet for the cuff!
Make the kiddos a Santa Sack. For a sentimental touch, have the kids stamp their handprints on the bag every year so you can see how much they grow from year to year. Sniffle, too fast....
Here's the "How To"
Canvas Tree Skirt:
DROOL! Follow this NO SEW tutorial from HGTV. Yes, I said NO SEW!!!
Not feeling crafty today? Here's a little cheat- buy this one on Etsy!
One product, endless possibilities. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Martha. ( I talk a big game, but don't look at my DVR. I have like 10 episodes of monotone, crafting pleasure to catch up on tonight while I wrap presents!) Tune in to future posts for more multipurpose craft inspirations!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Christmas Time Is Here!

It's time once again, folks! The house smells like a forest of pines, our belts are getting tighter by the minute, and there's not a parking spot to be found within a 2 mile radius of any mall in town. Christmas time is here, my friends!

Before you can transform your house into a winter wonderland, there are a few rules I like to follow to keep myself cool, calm, and festively collected while decorating for the holidays.

Rule 1- Give your accessories the ol' switcheroo. For every Christmas decoration you set out (like tabletop decor) be sure to store something else away. Piling Christmas decor on top of your already existing accessories can clutter up your space very quickly. You are going for Christmas Wonderland, not Hoarders Paradise. I don't know about you, but when my house is messy and cluttered, I feel overwhelmed and definitely not relaxed. In this case, less is more. Showcase your beautiful Christmas decor by giving it the spotlight. Before you even THINK about pulling down that attic ladder to retrieve your coveted snow village collection, you better be creating a "stash away" pile of knick knacks that get the holiday boot. Yes, your dusty bowl of potpourri goes in the "stash" pile to make room for your nativity scene...I think a tablescape depicting the birth of Baby Jesus deserves a designated space free of dusty potpourri, don't you? But Laura, I don't have room in my closets to store all of that stuff! I call your bluff! You just dumped out 23 rubbermaid tubs of tinsel and garland onto your living room floor! Fill up those empty tubs and "stash away, stash away, stash away all!" Utilize your now empty totes to store your decor that is not in use. When you get the tubs back out of the attic to pack away your Christmas cheer (sniffle...its a little hard for me to think about) you have your every day knick knacks ready to put back out.

Rule 2- Label your tubs! Don't just put "Christmas" on the tote, be specific! I don't want 3 tubs of outdoor lights and animated reindeer lying in my foyer for 2 weeks because I had to open 6 tubs before I found my ornaments. Easy, Trigger...tackle one project at a time! When you are putting your dusty potpouri in a vacant Christmas tub, be sure to put it in the tub that held the decor used to replace the dusty potpouri. Make sense? Detailed labels are especially handy if you have multiple Christmas trees in your house. Clean up after Christmas will be swift and painless if you are methodical each year.

Rule 3- Break free from the Red and Green! Pick Christmas decor that coordinates with your permanent design elements. Example: If you have room with pale blue walls and yellow accents, pick Christmas decor that coordinates with those colors. Afraid your room will be lacking that traditional Christmasy feel without the red and green? Take a look at these pics for some soft encouragement!
Definitely not green and red. However, definitely Christmas! For high impact, pick one predominant color and stick with it.  sallyleebythesea.com
The traditional red and green scheme would clash big time in this room. Sticking with colors that are already present, will make your Christmas decor look like it was meant to be there and not like you reached into a Christmas grab bag with a blind fold on. 
If this yellow lady can make her den feel festive, then there is hope for all of us! Who would have thought yellow could be such a nice Christmas color scheme! 
Like green but aren't a huge fan of red? No worries! They aren't joined at the hip, you know. Again, one primary accent color (green) has been paired with a neutral (silver) for a cohesive, relaxing theme. countryliving.com
Rule 4- Don't underestimate the power of neutrals. Whether its on your walls, or on your Christmas tree, a little dose of neutral is always a good thing. Neutrals are like the breaks on a sportscar. The car is flashy and fun, but I sure wouldn't wanna take a joy ride without the brakes! There's nothing wrong with color. Color is good. But you also need neutrals in a room to keep it grounded. Think about how you want to feel in the room you are in. Do you want to feel energized, calm, playful, serene? If its a room with alot of activity and energy, go for the bold statements. If you want the room to feel peaceful stick with a more muted palette.
Calming, yet chic, this room layers neutrals upon neutrals but still has loads of interest by incorporating sparkle and textures.  google.com
This all neutral tree of silvers is sophisticated without being stuffy. Soft shades of green and yellow don't scream "Jingle All the Way" until they are paired with this Silver Tannenbaum. Now suddenly, it all makes sense! If you don't feel like changing out your pillows and colorful accessories to accommodate a stereotypical Christmas palette, go with neutral Christmas decor, like silvers, golds, whites, creams, linens and burlaps. Your whole space will instantly feel connected and festive. chriskauffman.blogspot.com
Wow wee! Chances are, if you have pink walls in your living room, you have a bold energetic personality. Naturally, you would want a white tree with hot pink sock monkeys, right? Hey, to each his own, and this tree definitely stayed true to the character of the room. And that's why it works! http://www.houzz.com/photos/kids/start=272
White tree make all of your treasured ornaments POP! If you want bright, cheery, explosions of color, go with a solid white tree. http://www.flickr.com/photos/14047312@N07/5274076147/
Rule 5- Keep it consistent! I currently have 3 tress in my house, and I would love to add more. As with your decorative staples, keep your "style" consistent throughout the whole house if achieving a sense of flow is important to you. Make sure your Christmas decor fits the overall style of your home. Here's where I have to practice a great deal of restraint! I love every single Christmas scheme that I have featured on this post. However, I constantly have to remind myself that a white tree with modern, yellow decor does not fit the style of my home. Kinda like clothes, ladies; how many of us have ever said "it looks good on you, but I just feel silly in it." Now that's not to say you can't mix up your theme's and colors from room to room. Here's an example: Let's say you have a living room with neutral walls and your Christmas decor is fairly rustic with burlap ribbons, wood ornaments, and red berry accents. Your adjoining dining room is painted red and you want to add some Christmas cheer there as well. Carry over a common element like the burlap perhaps, but now pair it with mercury glass in the dining room. You will have a new look but it will still make sense with the rest of your decor.
Come on...even Buddy the Elf gets it! Note how Buddy kept his overall look consistent by sticking with one, neutral theme. You make me proud, Buddy.

Christmas decor is my Kryptonite. Ornaments are like orphaned puppies- I think every single one needs to come home with me. Practicing restraint has been hard for me, but it has also kept my family from conducting a Christmas Intervention on my behalf. If you commit to a certain look/style with your Christmas decorating, it will keep you from bringing home gobs of Christmas flair that you have no use for. If you love mercury glass, commit to it! When you find an ornament or trinket that fits your style, it becomes an instant treasure, not just another thoughtless purchase. If you set a few guidelines for yourself when decorating and stick with them, your collection will maintain a sense of purpose no matter how large it grows! Now get crackin'! Just be sure to implement the "buddy system" when retrieving storage tubs from the attic.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


A little mirror story for you today: I used to work at an elementary school where I had to supervise in the cafeteria during lunch. If a child went buck wild, we sent them to the silent lunch table. After a few parents complained of the harshness of this punishment, their suggestion was to call it the "Reflection Table" as opposed to the "Silent Lunch Table"- a place where they could reflect upon their poor behavior and think of ways to improve it....gag. Soooo just to reinforce the "Reflective" concept, I glued mirrors to the wall so the deviant little punks would have to stare at themselves in shame while they sat and "reflected" on their poor choices. And that's just one more reason why I love mirrors! Hehe.

Last week we talked about how to enliven your space with mirrors. Mirrors on the wall are great, but there are other ways to bring those reflective properties into your space as well! If you are feeling lukewarm about wall mirrors consider adding some of the following decorative elements to your space to achieve that small dose of sparkle that every room needs:

1) Take mirrors to the tabletops.
This coffee table by West Elm has an antiqued top, which is perfect for higher traffic areas. The imperfect finish will help to disguise little fingerprints and smudges. The frame for this table is very light and airy which visually does not take up a ton of space making it an ideal option for a tight space. The mirrored top also helps to create the illusion of spaciousness by reflecting light. They also have matching side tables! Score!
Don't want to have a mirror custom cut to fit your table? No worries! Just use a preassembled mirror to top of a table, or in this case...a case. Well, 3 cases to be exact. Just be sure to remove any hardware from the back of the frame first. This will ensure that your new table topper lies flat and does not scratch your table.   cupcakesandcashmere.com

Don't want custom cut mirrors? Don't have a mirror that fits your tabletop exactly? Use a mirrored tray! This would be beautiful placed bedside with a few books and small vase of flowers, or as a base for pillar candles, or even as a makeup/perfume tray in your bathroom.   dreamincream.blogspot.com
2) If your personality is a little more glam (and you are either single or have an amazingly indifferent partner) just go with mirrored furniture! Your narcissistic cat or dog will love you for it as well.
Check out this darling dresser from Anthropologie.
Here is an option that is lighter visually and lighter on the checking account as well. This is for the glam girl in training. Check it out at jossandmain.com
What girl wouldn't feel like a princess do her makeup at this vanity? Check out an array of custom vanities at horchow.com
Can't get that burly husband of yours to agree to a mirrored dresser? Maybe he will agree to this mirrored bench instead. Consider it a fair trade for his Payton Manning Fathead wall decal you begrudgingly let him display in your garage/man cave.  Ugh...Men....
3) Convert a piece of furniture you already own into a glorious "OMG where did you get that???" piece. Haha, jokes on them; they can't buy it anywhere because its a one of a kind made by yours truly! Suckers!
Old doors + glass replaced with mirrors = fabulous!
Give your kitchen, bathroom, laundry, etc a major face lift by replacing inner panels with mirrors! This will also make a cramped space feel larger, and is a nice alternative to clear glass if you have cluttered cabinets. Clear glass is gorgeous if you have perfectly organized shelves with pretty pieces to showcase, but if you have baby bottles, china plates, and waffle irons crammed into one cabinet like me, you make not want the whole world to know it! Solution- MIRRORS.  thedecorista.com
Here is an example of a DIY mirrored dresser. Its like botox for furniture! A mini face lift on a budget! Paint a dresser, buffet, or nightstand. Have a hardware store cut mirrored panels to size. Drill holes for your hardware, and attach to the drawers with mirror glue! If you have children you can also have the edges buffed so they aren't sharp. bhg.com
This armiore may have already had the mirrored inserts, but you could easily recreate this look by adding inserts to an existing piece!    myparadissi.com
4) Ok, maybe options 1,2, and 3 are a little too much for you to take on right now. Maybe your Inner Craft Diva doesn't want to come out and play today, or maybe you are pinching pennies to buy your kids yet another game system they will probably get bored with in 2 weeks for Christmas. Treat yourself to some mirrored tabletop accessories in the meantime!
Table top frames are a gender neutral enough to keep  your husband from throwing a little baby hissy fit. Purchase these at West Elm.
These antiqued mirrored bath accessories are TDF! (that's To Die For...not to be confused with DTF which is a whole other acronym) The jewelry boxes would be beautiful on a nightstand as well.   jmpiersdesigns.com
Incorporating reflective pieces helps create movement within a space and makes it feel alive. When you walk around, your movement is reflected in the mirrored pieces throughout the room and it makes the whole room feel engaged and interactive. Its like the room is dancing with you. I love the idea of your home feeling like a living, breathing thing rather than a dead space who's only purpose is to store your junk.

Anyone seen the commercial where the lady comes home and her accessories are talking to her??? I love that one! I think it might be a TJMaxx commercial. I wish my house would talk to me...it would probably just beg me to clean it more often. Anyhow, I challenge you to liven up one room of your house this week with mirrored pieces and see how different it makes you feel when you walk in the room.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall


Let's start today by listing all of the mirrors that I would never befriend on Facebook:
1. My bathroom mirror first thing in the morning (surely no explanation is needed here)
2. The tri-fold mirrors in dressing rooms (Its bad enough seeing my "muffin top" from one perspective, but three???)
3. The walls and walls of mirrors at the gym (like I really want to watch the airbrushed, perspiration free, Nike model two elipticals down from me text on her iphone while she chews gum and sips on Vitamin Water)
4. The mirror in my car visor (why do stray eyebrow hairs wait until I am at a red light to show themselves? Cowards. . .)
5. And all of the mirrors in the Pottery Barn catalogs. . .I have no sob story for this one. I just despise them the same way I despise women that are skinnier, wealthier, and prettier than me. (just kidding...kind of!)
Ever feel this way when you look in the mirror? Meeeee too! LOL

Now here's the good news: Mirrors can do wonders for your house! There is no easier way to liven up a gloomy room than adding a sparkling mirror to a lonely wall. I like to have at least one mirror in every room of my house. When placed across from windows, a mirror can double the amount of natural light in a drab space and also bring some of the outdoors inside. If you don't have a good wall for a mirror across from windows, whichever wall you hang your mirror on should reflect something beautiful or interesting in the space. For example, seeing the reflection of a fresh cut flower arrangement or lamp is much more appealing than the reflection of your television or a closet door!

Let's face it, size matters! If you are hanging a mirror above a piece of furniture, you don't want the mirror to be wider than the anchored furniture piece nor do you want it to be less than two-thirds the width. If you have smaller mirrors, consider grouping them together which creates one large scale focal point. You can even mix mirrors in with other framed art or photographs on a collage wall to add sparkle and dimension.
Ok, so there is an exception to every rule. These mirrors defy the two thirds ratio rule. But they get a pass in my book because of their sporadic placement. some of the mirrors creep out past the edges of the console table, however, other areas do not. The installments organic shape (un-square perimeter) allows it to break the above rule. Its kinda the like the class pet.

Here is another example of grouping small frames together for large scale impact. joannagoddard.blogspot.com

Larger mirrors can add height to a room when placed vertically. They create the illusion of expanse, as if there are more rooms leading off of the one you are in.
This mirror gets double the street cred. It incorporates natural light and the great outdoors (which creates movement and life) AND it adds the illusion of extra space by going vertical and reflecting an adjoining room! Brilliant! www.wild-and-precious.com
I love how this mirror provides a backdrop for the gorgeous bedside table. It reflects the natural elements of the flowers, and the natural light from the windows. This arrangement is great if you have a small space, because it does double duty as art and a floor length mirror for checking your outfits 20 times when you are running late in the morning. (just make sure the pile of disguarded clothing is out of reflections reach; it will make your rejected outfits look twice as daunting!) www.ruemag.com
Immediately, your eye is drawn up with this showstopper mirror. Its placement in this room connects the two windows, which would have otherwise had an awkward dead space in between them. Result: One large, vertical, drool inducing focal point. graceandivy.wordpress.com
Doesn't take up much floorspace (an otherwise unused corner) and makes the room feel so much larger. Perfect! And who couldn't look at themselves in this mirror without saying "ooo-la-la!" Save the boy stuff for the Hermit Cave, Man Cave...whatever you call it. If you feel beautiful in your bedroom, I'm sure your honey will reap the benefits! =)  etc-alltherest.blogspot.com

Now, don't get carried away and do floor to ceiling mirrored walls. Remember, your house is a beautiful space for you to relax in, not lift weights or practice your ballet routines. But DO consider hunting for interesting vintage frames at estate sales, flea markets, or garage sales. Keep an open mind. Frames that house a creepy picture of a clown, or a needle point "Home Sweet Home" may be purchased uber cheap and can modified to fit your style. Keep an eye on the clearance section at your local framing gallery as well. Frames that come in damaged or custom ordered frames that never get picked up will find their way to the clearance department very quickly. A local glass shop can cut a mirror to fit your new found treasure, and now you have an awesomely huge mirror that you would have paid HUNDREDS for in a store. (Plus you will have the personal satisfaction of creating a custom piece all by yourself. You go, girl!....or boy!) You can also ask for an "antiqued" finish at your glass shop if you want to make your treasure feel timeworn.
This may have once been a disguarded door panel. Take an ugly duckling and make it shine! Salvage yards are like gold mines for finds like this.

I betcha this was once a tacky gold mirror that survived the 60's. A little teal paint and brown glaze has given it a new life. Groovy, man.

Sigh....so dreamy. And so old world. www.tumblr.com
We've talked about ways to ADD sparkle with mirrors, but what do you do when you already have sparkle...builder grade sparkle. I'm talking about those giant, unframed eye sores in our bathrooms. We all have them; we shouldn't be ashamed. But there IS something you can do about it! Add more sparkle!!! Slap another mirror on that bad boy and show it who's boss!
Ok, so this particular bathroom is hardly builder grade, but you get the idea!  luxuryd3sign.tumblr.com
Ooooo triple threat! Mirror on mirror with mirrored sconces!
I have a fever...And the only prescription is more mirror!  www.thenester.com
Every room needs some sparkle. Whether it comes from mirrors on the wall, glass apothecary jars, shiny silver photo frames, or antiqued mirrored table toppers (just to name a few). Look for pieces that will reflect light or have a fluid, watery appearance like clear glass to create this effect. Hunt for items that can be repurposed to create special, cost effective pieces. And carefully consider placement within the room to find that perfect spot that relfects beautiful things in your space. And most importantly, SMILE! That's the prettiest reflection you will ever see!