Friday, June 29, 2012

Quieting the Librarian

It's been awhile since I came across a decorating quiz, but this one is fun (even for you, dad - no questions about girls' nights out or handbags!).  Better Homes and Gardens helps us answer the question: "What's your organization personality?"

There aren't many questions and they're fun...though I am always stumped by the ones that ask what others would say about you.

They didn't offer the "obsessed and likely to blog about things" option so I just picked "detail oriented" instead.

And then I got a rather unflattering summary:

"The librarian?!" I ask.  Surely that's a little harsh given the fact that I did not even pick the most organized option on the majority of the questions.  But then I read through the recommendations and ideas provided for librarian types, which included this movie storage for alphabetizing DVDs. 

Friends, at the top of my weekend to-do list is this: "alphabetize movies."


So there you have it, I'm the organized librarian who occasionally gets creative with book categorizing.  Guess I'll have to embrace the inner librarian, though if you could see the disorganized state of my house right now you'd think the librarian had been locked in an alphabetized movie box somewhere.

Click here to take the test for yourself - which organizing personality are you?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Fitting Tribute

My obsession with beautiful things has increased with homeownership.  It's fed by hours with Pinterest, nature, other people's great interior decorating, unusual flowers in a front is everywhere.  But when I really needed a comfort setting, for much of my life I have turned to Nora Ephron films.  I like many of them - I would argue Julie & Julia is one of the greatest biographical stories I've ever seen - but the favorite is without a doubt You've Got Mail.  It's the video version of chicken soup for my soul...and yes, I use "video" appropriately, since I still watch it on my VHS that is somehow intact after countless viewings.

So imagine my sadness when I learned that the creative, wonderful woman who made my favorite movie people come to life had moved on from her own life due to a fight with leukemia.  I'm will miss her though I never met her.

Julia over at Hooked on Houses did the best tribute I could imagine: a view of homes from Nora Ephron films.  The shots of Meg Ryan's house on You've Got Mail are wonderful...check them out here if you'd like to join me in a moment of gratitude for the great Nora Ephron.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

We Now Return to Your Previously-Scheduled Programming

When I bought my house, my biggest fear was that being a homeowner would interfere with my ability to travel.  While I've come to accept that I have neither the temperament nor the funds for the truly nomadic lifestyle I used to think I wanted, I really do value every opportunity to experience different places and seek new adventures.  Though it seems I put every spare penny into making my house a home, I do work hard to stash away a little in the "escape fund" so I don't lose sight of that little part of me that wants to hop on an airplane with little to no advance notice.

Travel writing was how I was introduced to blogging - I first started openly pouring my heart out to random strangers online during my solo trip to Italy in 2010.  Since then, however, all my time and effort has been centered on this wonderful place I call home.

In an unpredicted but very welcome turn of events, it's time to get the travel blog up and running again.  Nothing will replace the joys of house projects, failures, and victories...but for days like today when all I want to talk about or dream of is past, present and future travel adventures, I'll turn to my alter ego of the blogging world. 

I kicked off my first "grand re-opening" travel blog post with a trip here to join me.

(Another bonus of travel: it gives me more inspiration and material for that travel-themed guest room/office I'm still determined to get done this summer!)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Putting A Stop to The Doors

Sunday afternoon house projects always start grander than they end up in reality.  Yesterday morning, for example, I planned to hang shelves in my bathroom.  Then I decided I should probably paint the bathroom before I put up the shelves, so I wouldn't have to paint around them later.  By the time the afternoon actually ended, the bathroom was exactly the way it has looked for months.  I settled for a much simpler but even more necessary project: door stoppers.

The doors have threatened the safety of the walls since I moved in...

But now that they're threatening my beloved baseboards, it was a whole different ballgame.  I wasn't sure if I should put the stopper on the door or the baseboard but decided to go with the door.  This was partly because the baseboard in the bathroom is out of tile and therefore not hospitable to the stopper...

but also partly because I just couldn't bear to put holes in the baseboards.  Since my back still hasn't healed from doing that project, I reserve the right to protect the silly things.

I've never put in door stoppers but managed to pop them on without any problems.  Easy Sunday afternoon project complete!

I also had a victory in my ongoing battle with The Great Swiffer Splurge.

 I love my Swiffer mop and don't even feel guilty about paying almost $1 for each of the replacement mop sponges (that's the generic version, of course...I never could pay the ridiculous price for actual Swiffer replacements).  I never could bring myself to buy a replacement cleaning solution, though - $4 for each bottle means up to $20 a month I could spend just to make my floors smell good!  I tried to unscrew the top of the bottle to make my own, but of course they thought of that and it was stuck on. So I did what great minds of my generation do.

I Googled it.

I can't find the video again but if you search any combination of "Swiffer+make your own cleaning solution" you'll find similar solutions.  (Extra credit if you use search terms like "how to outsmart the greedy cleaning powers that be.")  I dipped the top of the cleaning bottle in boiling water for about 30 seconds and it unscrewed as if it were designed to.  I bought a huge bottle of lavendar-scented Pine Sol at Target for $3 and using the just-add-water measurements on the bottle, it will last me about 100+ refills for my Swiffer mop.  Cheers for DIY savings!  (Especially the kind that doesn't require me to break copyright laws...)

Friday, June 22, 2012

This Old House: July Edition

This month's This Old House didn't do anything to eliminate the guilt associated with not accomplishing any big house projects in a couple of weeks...the whole thing is a celebration of the amazing DIY projects of the magazine's readers.  Bah humbug.  Still, there were some amazing successes so I will choose to be inspired rather than begrudging!

Check out this amazing fountain - I'm in love with it even though it doesn't really go with my home style.

The rest of her yard is just ridiculously amazing, too - check it out here.

These geniuses created the greatest cork backplash I've ever seen by slicing the corks. I've always thought the whole cork backsplashes would get dusty, but this...this is brilliant.

And as if those projects weren't enough to make me want to jump off the couch in a fit of DIY inspiration, check this out: this family turned the most disgusting house I've ever seen into their dream home.  It's amazing - I love my house, but they have vision and devotion that I can't even imagine.  It's total insanity, really, but it turned this:

Into this:

Click here for more pictures.

And on a different topic, in the "things I absolutely must have" category, there are three pages of old-fashioned doorbells!  I love all of them, though most are too wide for the tiny space by my front door.  I'm thinking this one might join my entryway soon:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Yellow Raft in Blue Water

As you know, my chance to host my book club has served as inspiration for tackling all sorts of projects I might otherwise never have finished.  Because of the looming excitement/threat of actual humans seeing my home (instead of the bits of my home I choose to share on this blog!), I tackled baseboards, bookshelves, touch-up paint, art, and - worst of all - cleaning!

Most impressively, however, playing hostess actually inspired me to COOK.  As in, pots and pans and real dishes.  I even turned on the oven.  THREE TIMES.  (That likely shows my inefficiency rather than my skills but just go with it.)  I took photos to prove I really did make things, since those who know me best probably wouldn't believe it without evidence.

The book we read was A Yellow Raft in Blue Water, by Michael Dorris.

I mention this not because I suggest you read it (I wasn't a fan) but because the title allowed me to tackle a truly inspired food theme.  Since all my dishes are blue, I sent in search of yellow foods.  I avoided the ones that fail the work time/eating time ratio (deviled eggs) and skipped the ones that required another oven round (cornbread muffins) but still ended up with a fun menu:

Mango salsa with blue corn tortilla chips

Yellow bell pepper dip holders (on blue plates, of course!)

Lemon bars (with blue "rivers" of gel frosting)

I threw in shishkebob-style meat on skewers since man cannot live on bell peppers alone.  And for good measure, I made braided bread (braids play a symbolic role in the book, for those who can stick with it until the end of the depressing story).

It was really, really fun to have people over and I hope to do it again soon...I still have that cornbread muffin mix, after all! 

And for those who are dedicated enough to wonder what I did with the bare wall behind the couch after the map art fail, fear not: dad came through with an outstanding suggestion.  I moved the big Paris art from the guest room!  I kind of like it least until I get to implement the great suggestions my friends have sent my way for reviving the maps.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Treasure Maps

I ignored the blog all week because I was on a road trip - pictures coming soon!

The last time I discussed living room art with you, I'd had a terrible failure with fabric mapsSpoiler alert: this is a story of failure, as well.  I really don't know why this is so hard - people across the Interworld brag about their easy map art projects as if there's nothing to it.  I found several wonderful success stories on Pinterest, and they added another layer of genius: straight pins into the canvas map to show where I've been (and maybe another color for where I want to go?).

I couldn't find a map big enough for the three 24x36-inch canvases I'd already purchased for the living room, but fell in love with the maps printed on Cavellini wrapping paper.

Good news: my favorite art store carries a selected (i.e., too small but very welcome) collection of this wrapping paper so I spent a ridiculous $8 on the most beautiful paper I've ever owned.

Following the expert advice of my friend and style advisor Michelle, I immediately carted my purchases to Kinko's.  Michelle found other bloggers who had Kinko's resize paper to 3'x3': a much closer fit than the wrapping paper's current size!  Looking back, I should have known the copyright on the paper would be a problem...but I was too excited about my progress to be bothered with details like international law.  The Kinko's employee was quick to remind me.

This image has been altered to protect the gender and identity of the actual Kinko's employee who very kindly put up with my many questions...meaning, I stole this funny picture from the Internet.

I asked what he would do if I came back a few minutes later with the tiny little copyright cut off the bottom (I was, after all, a desperate criminal at this point).  In a response that I've laughed about for days now, he calmly said that of course he couldn't stop me if I wanted to break international copyright law but he wasn't willing to do it for me.  Bravo for your humor and law enforcement, Kinko's man!

I came home until I could wait for a new employee who wouldn't know that I'd remove the copyright come up with a new idea.

My new idea led me home...literally.  I went to The Book Nook in Prescott, AZ - a claustrophobia-inducing, cluttered mess of a bookstore that I have adored for years.  It has solutions to absolutely any print need I've ever had.

Aisles are even narrower than they appear.

Sure enough, there were two boxes of maps for me to browse.  I picked out a few with possibilities...then discovered that they wer 50 CENTS EACH and found a total of 40 maps I couldn't live without.   (It's amazing what a bargain does to my sense of need.)  The maps accompanied me on the next leg of my road trip, where I discovered how really amazing they were: when I showed them to dad, he pointed out that they're very old maps.  As in, I am now the awestruck owner of maps from the 1940s-1960s.  My favorite is a map of the U.S. from 1933.

As if that weren't amazing enough, it's personalized - the person who owned it very lightly pencilled in the national parks they visited.  This just made it to the list of Things I Have To Get Out Of The House If (God Forbid) My House Ever Burns Down.

Anyway, back to the failure part of my story.

None of the maps fit the canvases I own.  Most are too small, and the ones that are big enough to fit over one canvas aren't big enough to be divided across two.  So I scrapped the existing canvases sizes and taped a few of my favorite smaller maps to the wall, to see how it would look.

So here's where you get to weigh in on my doomed project.  I think canvases won't work because the maps don't have enough contrast to the wall.  So do I get nice poster frames for them instead?  Wait for another map find that allows me to use the bigger canvases? Or scrap the idea and search for a whole new art idea - perhaps from my trip to Cuba next month?

Note: be aware that I am authorized to ignore any and all comments in pursuit of my own ideas - miserable failures though they may be.  But I would love any feedback on this messy, unfinished challenge.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Sunny Side Up

I created a mood board for my sophisticated bedroom decor months ago, but have done absolutely nothing to make it happen.  I've been focused on parts of the house that visitors see...and since I'm so tired from working on things like baseboards and bookshelves that I just collapse into sleep, making the bedroom restful doesn't seem like a priority.  I did splurge on gorgeous grey and yellow linens at Target, though, and am quite proud of myself. 

I started with this.  Boring, boring, boring.  The white duvet from IKEA without a cover on it is so lame that not even pretty accent pillows could make it better.

Not to mention the fact that it's not quite long enough...and I'm not someone who appreciates daily viewings of both the box spring and the duvet tag.

The new and improved bedding is much more soothing!  After months of coveting this duvet cover from West Elm,

I opted for this one from Target instead:

The pintuck duvet got mixed reviews about how long it endures before the pintucks come undone, and I liked the sleek look of the Target option.  I paired it with the yellow sheet set I've ogled for months (once it got the Young House Love stamp of approval I knew I really and truly had to have it).

Now I have my dream color combination of grey and yellow to lull me into sleep and greet me in the morning.   Hopefully it's enough to keep me from noticing the paint splotches on the wall and all the work that remains before that room is finished.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Summer Challenge

I keep adding to my blog obsessions/inspirations (check them out on the right side of my blog, if you haven't already - there's great variety in there!), and the lastest addition is a fellow heat-enduring Arizonan over at The Junk House.  Sam introduced me to a great before and after "party," and I can't wait to join up with my own challenge so I can turn it into something great to share at the end of the summer.

My guest room/office continues to be the catch-all room for clutter and chaos, but thanks to The Great Baseboard Project it got much, much worse.

It's not always quite that bad, of course...when things aren't shoved to the center of the room it can be a nice place to sit.

But the fact still remains that this room needs to get beautified.  The walls need work.  They have big cracks...

And remnants of sticky squares that held an ill-fated earlier project to the wall (but not for long, obviously).

So by the time the summer is over, I plan to be able to show ShineYourLight's before and after party that I turned this mess...

...into a travel-themed masterpiece.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Turning Entertainment Upside Down

Once I finished organizing my bookshelves, my TV stand looked even worse by comparison.  It's a great shelf (which I can't find on the IKEA website anymore!) that holds a lot of things in a small space...but since I moved it it had gotten cluttered and never quite looked "settled." 

Clutter always bugs me a little but in this location it was really annoying because this is what I would look at in those rare occasions when I actually sit on the couch to relax and read or watch a movie.  (And, of course, when I sit on the couch to stare adoringly at those new baseboards...)  So I got to work.

Step one: empty the shelves. It's amazing how much mess one empty shelf can make!  I should have taken a picture of the pile but am glad I didn't - it was a mess.

Step two: flip over the shelf.  The variety in shelf shapes and sizes makes it useful for holding all sorts of things, but it ended up flipped over when I moved in.  There's no "right" way to put it but the taller shelves on the top made it too easy to see all the wires and cords that inevitably accompany an entertainment center.  So I flipped it over.

Not that anyone would look at the cords, with our fun picture in front...

Step three: Clutter it up again.  There's still a lot of stuff on this shelf but it's much more organized.  (No, seriously, it is!)  The boxes are holding more movies and photos, and the smaller shelves gave me a space to put the nice-but-breakable tangerine accent pieces that had not found the right home before now.  Those magazine holders on the bottom had ended up stashed in various locations around the house - I'm hoping that keeping them all in one spot will mean the magazines actually stay organized (fingers crossed).

I still am searching for the perfect decorating solution on the top of the shelf.  I can't find shelves narrow enough to place alongside the TV to turn it into more of an entertainment center look.  I don't want to put too many things up there to make it cluttered again, but it looks a little bare as it is. ..the project will continue.  Isn't this artwork great, though?  It has the added benefit of being meaningful: I received it as a gift from the first interview I did - I got to write about a local artist who does this amazing engraved metal art.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Back to Base-ics, Part 3 (Or, Thank God That's Finally Over)

It went a week over schedule, created more headaches (and backaches) than I could have ever imagined, and led to some serious bad attitudes and grumpiness on my part, but Operation Baseboard is successfully completed.  If I'd known how much work it was going to be (more details on that here and here!) I honestly don't know if I would have done it...perhaps I could have started a save-the-trees campaign against wasting particle board on floors?  Or maybe I could have just painted a white stripe along the bottom of all the walls in the house.  Become a hoarder and cover all the walls with stuff so no one noticed there weren't baseboards?  So many options...but now I'll never know since I did do the project.  And now that they're done, I'm glad I did.

When I last whined posted, the boards were installed and the caulking had begun.  I lost track of the hours I spent sealing the boards and making everything look neat for painting - it brought out every horrible OCD perfectionist trait in me, but it paid off.  By the time the paintbrushes came out, there was a great foundation for gorgeousness...including this oh-so-lovely primer all over the wooden corner pieces:

First coat went well...second coat was a little more aggressively applied since the aforementioned Seriously Bad Attitude had infected my outlook.  But finally all coats were done and the tape wadded up into two (two?!) trash bags.  After about three hours with a 1/2" artist's paintbrush touching up the color paint (I did mention that I'm OCD, right?), it was DONE.  The furniture in the main rooms is back in place...I've convinced myself that having the bed in the middle of my room is a super-cool trendy thing to do and who knows when I'll work up energy to put the back rooms together again.  But just look at the perfect baseboards!  (After all those days of work, it had better be obvious that the "before" photos are on the left.)


In the process of putting things back together, I even got to fix a couple of decorating details that have been bugging me.  This picture frame moved from just-off-center to actually-in-the-middle of the dining room wall...

And somehow when I moved the living room furniture back to where it's supposed to live, I found room to put this side table in between the chairs - it never fit before!

Now I'm going to sit on the couch with an ice pack for my abused back and gaze happily at the white perfection at the bottom of all the walls. 

This guy is happy with his improved life now that things are back to normal, too.

P.S. I think this is the first time I've had a truly house-altering "before and after" to share on Thrifty Decor Chick - I'm so excited!