Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Counting Sheep

Rhetorical question: How many projects must I destroy before I understand the importance of measurements?

On Monday, I was inspired to tackle more Christmas tree ornament creations. I'd had success with the first batch but was even more inspired by this beautiful ornament that looks like snow fell on it.

It had taken trips to Michael's AND the dollar store, but finally I'd assembled the whole cast of necessary items - including glue sticks that actually worked with my hot glue gun. These instructions of the project are thorough and easy to understand...except, apparently, the part about the diameter of the felt circles.

I was lucky enough to get the right materials at a great price. Snow-white felt was 29 cents at Michael's, and Dollar Tree four two-inch styrofoam balls for - you guessed it - $1. The ribbon is just cut from strips of red velvet ribbon I got at the dollar store...and voila! I had my pallet for creativity.

Since I didn't have anything that was a two inch circle, I instead relied on a beautiful but nearly useless dollar coin that was spewed upon me by the ticket machine in the D.C. metro.

Whether I was distracted by the beautiful gold of the dollar coin or by the West Wing episodes I had on in the background (season three, for those of you who understand or care why these particular episodes were so distracting!), I never considered the fact that small circles would be much harder to deal with in numerous ways.

After three West Wing episodes and numerous burns from the hot glue gun, I was tired and bored of dealing with teeny little felt "cones" and not even one ornament was completed.

Inspired by a little second-grade level creativity, I got out a marker and made this cute little sheep instead. It's very Nativity Scene-esque, isn't it?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Time for Thanks

I have big plans for Christmas crafts and decorations next week, so I will take this opportunity to focus on the wonderful fall festiveness I've enjoyed the last few months. I think my non-Halloween policy is great because it makes the simple fall season seem longer - I didn't dedicate any time to scary ghosts or goblins (except for my fun Halloween night!), so there was lots of time to think about pumpkins. I got a little carried away and even bought three of these straw "people" before I realized I am not in any way a straw people kind of person.

I returned them so they could go home with someone who would truly appreciate them, and instead turned my attention toward more subtle decorations like these...

These placemats were a simple find at Bed Bath and Beyond, made very special by the fact that I was with close friends during a snowstorm in DC when I bought them. I will treasure them always!

This small dish was a reward for braving a very overcrowded Ross with my sister...she has a matching one, that continues to fascinate my nephew. He likes to gently carry it to make sure everyone in the house knows it's a red leaf.

I think my pumpkins and fall-colored basket are even nicer to look at than anything on the TV screen...

And of course, I'm quite proud of my wreath that I made. I even bought the right size glue sticks so I can make sure it holds together in storage. That trooper made it through numerous dust/wind storms and a lot of rain - I'm impressed it held together at all!

I'm excited to see what treasures I can find and create for my first Christmas in my home, but I think these autumn details will always be my favorite. They remind me of my first house party, my first Halloween with kids at the door, and a birthday to transition into a new year filled with new adventures.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Just Being in the Sun Doesn't Make You Bright

When I was in high school we had friends from Australia come visit, and I was fascinated by the idea of Christmas in the summer. (I was also fascinated by mandatory participation in voting, but since I promised myself I would NOT talk about politics on this blog, I won't go into that.) The idea of "opposite seasons" seemed rather odd...but now that I live in Phoenix, I experience it for myself.

Just as it starts to get nice enough to be outside, the stores start ridding themselves of "summer stuff" and bringing in things that are much less useful. You'd think someone would send a note to Target headquarters: sales on outdoor gear are much higher when one does not fry when stepping out of doors to USE THEM. Anyway, I benefitted from The Summer Purge when I got a hammock stand for half price awhile ago.

I've had a hammock that I bought right after I put the offer on my house. I understood the nightmarish process of the short sale, so I figured purchasing a $17 hammock at Ross would be a sign of good faith - just in case God wondered if the six offers I'd put on short sale homes in the past had destroyed my belief in the real estate process. Clearly my eventual homebuying success was the result of an amazing realtor and not the hammock, but I was willing to invest however possible in this place.

Anyway, yesterday was perfect hammock weather so I tackled the assembly.

I very quickly followed the instructions, popped pipes together and voila! I had this monster.

The first lesson I learned about hammocks was that apparently there are different kinds of hooks. I'm pretty sure it's not supposed to barely rest inside the hook like this...

I really wanted to take a nap in the hammock, however, so I figured I'd take my chances and balance very carefully. I stood back to "connect" (i.e., barely connect and hope for the best) the other side. At this point, I finally realized I had a problem.

This is one of those great opportunities for self-observation. I did not at any point question my overall skills, I simply assumed I had constructued the stand wrong. I suppose self-confidence is great, but it was quite a blow to my ego when I realized that I had NOT realized I bought a baby hammock. Seriously, this thing is TINY! And I only realized that after I'd torn the stand apart and reconstructed it while measuring every single piece to make sure I was using the right pipes in the right steps. Needless to say, there was no relaxing in the hammock yesterday.

Most people would never share this story but since I'd been crazy enough to share part of the ridiculous process with some friends yesterday, I decided to pass on my suffering in order to amuse you.

Given the total failure of logic and analytical skills I demonstrated, however, I didn't think GWU would appreciate being featured so prominently on my sweatshirt in the first photograph of this meltdown. This version's less likely to make them drop in the US News and World Report school rankings due to my insanity...

The bright side: I got some quality time with the hummingbirds while I was outside!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Things That Cause Consternation

Tonight I came home from a long day at work to discover that my home was for rent. At least, that's how it looked when I saw this:

I immediately assumed the worst. The past tenants of my home, as far as I can tell, did not have happy relationships with those who had loaned them money. I've lost count of the number of times I've written "Please Forward" on collection letters sent to my house, and after two separate conversations with repossession truck drivers I think I finally have them convinced that I'm not their target. (The truck drivers were, for the record, very nice guys.) So I'll admit that when I first saw the sign I had no idea what was going on. In fact, I just kept driving. I needed food before I could deal with the chill down my spine I experienced at the very thought of someone else ever living in my home.

When I did get closer, I discovered it was not meant for my house...the actual home for rent is several doors down AND across the street. I understand the logic behind putting the sign on the busy cross-street rather than the cul-de-sac where no one drives, but really did you have to write the house address so small?! I think even the lovely feral cats in my neighborhood didn't notice the small print.

Note: Yes, I'm terrible at Photo Shopping but my meager skills were necessary to cover the too-much-detail on the sign.

So there you have it, my first brush with being a landlord. I'm not a fan...but I am glad we'll have a new resident on the street because that means I won't be the new kid on the block anymore!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Baby's First Haircut: Success!

Who would have thought that it could be so complicated to learn what everyone else in the world already knows? Thanks to the patience, advice and comfort from friends and co-workers, I am much more educated about lawn maintenance than I was last week.

Last week, I had a half-finished yard that seemed hopeless.

And now, several days, lots of help, and two lawnmower wrestling matches later, I have this:

The checkerboard pattern makes me want to get giant chess pieces. I resisted the urge.

I'm not thrilled about the every-two-weeks repetition of this whole lawnmowing thing, but I'll worry about that when the grass starts to take over the neighborhood again. Until then, I'll check out others' lawns while I ride this wonderful bike my friend gave me!

I added this bell...for some reason, having a bell to ring makes me feel like a carefree 10-year-old rather than a clumsy homeowner trying to remember how to balance on two wheels.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Baby's First Haircut

I failed miserably at my first attempt at mowing a lawn. I should start by saying that I didn't want to mow the lawn. I loved the way-too-overgrown look that allowed the grass to wave in the wind as if it were a country field instead of just another manicured lawn in the middle of the city.

But since I really want to avoid getting another anonymous, passive-aggressive note, I decided to tackle the task. Plus, I think there are city codes about how tall grass should be. (I can actually hear Arizona legislators complaining about needless government in my head as I type that...I need to get out more.)

The good news: I learned a LOT.

The bad news: Until I learned a lot, I didn't know how important it was for the lawn to be totally dry. I'd stopped watering it a few days ago and thought it was okay to drag a big machine over it. It wasn't.

So now the edges of my lawn are a short, trampled mess, while the middle of the lawn is still long and carefree. Maybe I'll start a trend?

After shedding a few tears of frustration (it was dark, thankfully...which leads me to another lesson I learned: mow when the sun is up), I shoved the lawnmower back in the garage and watched the Country Music Awards show instead of being productive in any way. Hopefully I'll have a more optimistic outcome to report this weekend when the lawnmower test occurs again. Otherwise, I'll come up with a great argument about how I'm turning my yard into a golf course and this is the way it's supposed to look.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Picture, Picture on the Wall

While searching for projects to complete for the Pinterest Challenge, I was reminded of the numerous photo gallery instructionals that I've found through Pinterest. I loved the simplicity of this one:

It's way too "busy" for the narrow hallway in my house, however. This one has lots of options:

So I decided to get creative, and used paper to create frame-shaped models I could use to try my arrangements on the wall.

The best thing about my hallway is also the most problematic thing: the stripes. The frames seemed to overshadow the stripes no matter how I arranged the papers.

If I could redo it I would add more stripes, so they don't get lost behind a photo arrangement. I love this one (also someone else's success shared through Pinterest):

The stripes are absolutely not getting redone in this decade, however - it was way too much work and I like them the way they are! So I went with a very type-A, symmetrical approach to my photo display: a line.

I was on a roll with the type-A thing, so I continued the line with photos on the other corner of the hallway too.

While I will forever admire more eclectic photo gallery walls, and may even try again to create one in the guest room, I'm crazy about this more systematic approach. And thanks to a LOT of help from the cool yardstick/level that I have, they're actually even and straight. Good thing, since drilling screws into my plaster walls was a little traumatic for me.

Now comes the fun part - deciding what pictures to put in the frames! I'd previously filled them with photos of beautiful places I've been, but now I want to switch to people pictures. I already have the first one up - this is one of my favorite pictures of all time:

P.S. Kudos to you if you managed to read this post without obsessing about the horrible lights in my hallway, and the fact that I somehow put one up and one down. New lights are at the top of my projects list!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Inspiration of Cold (i.e., When It's Too Cold To Do Anything But Crafts)

In my newfound and accidental trend of going to places where it's snowing on the weekends (cheers for Snowtober!), I'm spending time at my parents' house in Payson. I've mentioned how inspired I am when I'm here...but this time it's far too cold to watch plants grow. With an entire relaxing day ahead, I tackled another Pinterest Challenge project.

I'm one of those people who loves Thanksgiving and resents the world's tendency to skip from Halloween to Christmas...but today I temporarily became one of them when I saw this idea for Christmas ornaments.

I didn't pin it directly, but found it through a pin that led to this page full of great ideas. To accomplish the project, I was forced to break yet another principle...I went to Wal-Mart. It's what you do in Payson when you need anything other than gas or groceries.

The project was fun and only took a couple of hours - and I can't wait to see them on my first Christmas tree!

Mine look less sophisticated than the original, but they're fun anyway. My parents have quite a stash of art equipment, so I got to add details like crimped cardstock. The staples were a necessity because Wal-Mart didn't have the right size eyelets - if I ever make larger ones, I'd opt for the eyelets since it makes them more streamlined. These are pretty small - the longest paper was 5".

This blog will now revert to its previously scheduled programming by hiding all reminders of Christmas until the day after Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pinterest Challenge, Round Two!

I've been looking forward to this almost as much as I am awaiting November's bulk trash week (more about that excitement here and here). It's the fall edition of Pinterest Challenge!

I'll be sharing some of the projects I've done recently with other bloggers - it's very fun, and a great way to meet new blogging inspirations (like Kristin over at Ogo's Love Nest, who I "met" through the last Pinterest Challenge). Look at some of the great ideas I've found through the Pinterest Challenge so far...

These are fun curtains...I wonder if I could do similar painted curtains using the stencil I recently won?

Given my addiction to all things Scrabble, it should come as no surprise that I love these coasters! It would be fun to create themes to make my own.

This is a project I'll be doing this week, since the bag of leaves I brought home from DC won't last forever.

And look at these pumpkins made out of old sweaters! I love them - definitely a project that I'll keep in mind on my next trip to Goodwill's 50% off day.

Check out these four blogs for hundreds more ideas:

Young House Love

Bower Power


House of Earnest

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

My Favorite Month

We've arrived at November! This is my all-time favorite month - great weather, great times with family and a great holiday atmosphere without the I-can't-believe-it's-almost-Christmas panic.

Early this summer when I was discouraged because everything seemed to be dying in my yard, my co-worker told me to aim for Halloween. No one expects things to look green in Arizona during the summer, he explained - so save your money and energy for when kids are walking around the neighborhood and everyone (including plants!) enjoys life again.

There are still countless miles to go, but I think I attained that goal! When I came home from a wonderful trip to DC this weekend (expect more pictures of fall leaves and SNOW soon!), the grass I planted only a week ago had taken on a life of its own in my front yard. I almost drove my my house because I didn't recognize it.

Not bad, considering that when I left several days ago it looked like this:

The flowers along the porch have revived, and I am proud to say I even bought candy to hand out to kids this year. (I'm the only person I know who hates Halloween...even more than I hate Valentine's Day.) My newfound enthusiasm for this horrible holiday might have something to do with this adorable fireman who showed up at my front door.

I knew I'd done okay when my noticed the lawn. "Pretty grass, and soft" - high praise from someone who had to step away from the candy to appreciate the landscaping.