Friday, August 31, 2012

My Suitcase Ate My Housework

At the beginning of the summer I set a clear and attainable goal: finish decorating the guest room/office space where I spent much of my time when I'm at home.  The room was a disaster area but I had great plans for a travel-themed room that would allow me to surround myself with reminders of my favorite places without being overwhelming for guests when they stayed with me.

The good news: the room no longer looks like this:

The bad news: I definitely didn't finish the project as I'd pledged to do by the end of August.  I have really, really good excuses, however, since I was distracted by my travel decor by actual travel.  Amazing opportunities for life-changing trips fell into my lap (you can read about them here) so for once, this perfectionist is comfortable getting an almost-failing grade on a project.  I didn't work hard enough to get an "A" but I am proud of the progress that I made so far, including:

The beginnings of a gallery wall where I can hang that ticket art I love

A side table made from old suitcases, which also provide valuable storage for items that aren't used frequently

There are only a few more projects before I reach guest room perfection:

My super-secret plan to make this routine white dresser into an awesome, unique storage spot

Organization for my messy desk

Either a new ceiling fan or - more likely - a fun light, and a nice new cover for that old evaporative fan vent.

I guess this post serves as both an "almost completed" summary and a challenge to myself for the next couple of months!

I'm sharing my partway-there project with Thrifty Decor Chick's September Before and After Party!

TDC Before and After

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Buddies, Bruschetta, and A Burial

Last night was The Big Game.  Most people in Arizona didn't even play in it, much less stay up to watch it, but I'm blessed to have friends who share my on-the-edge-of-your-seat impatience to vote and analyze every statistic we can find about the election results as they come in.  Events like this make me a little sappy, because I'm so blessed to have found people who share my pride in being a nerd. 
As with all big game nights, pizza saved the day.  I did get slightly adventurous, however, and pulled off a mini Pinterest challenge: goat cheese and tomato bruschetta.
I've developed a minor addiction to both smoked gouda and goat cheese...a habit that gets expensive when I shop at Safeway, but is much more affordable if I can work up the energy to brave Costco.  In 20 minutes and for less than $6, I made a huge tray of these delicious snacks!

The tomatoes were a part of the ridiculous amount of food I brought home last weekend from my food co-op, Bountiful Baskets.  I only buy a basket about once a month because I hate wasting food, but it's the most amazing value for fruits and veggies I've found, and it's fun to not know what I'll get every month.  Some of it require cooking, like the fresh kale I got in my basket Saturday...other items just need to be washed and displayed like these gorgeous cherries:

I bet you had no idea how I'd tie in the burial reference, did you?  This morning when I emerged in a sleep-deprived state to water my plants, I discovered a dove that had died behind one of the sage bushes.  I felt a totally unfounded and unreasonable sense of flattery that the bird had chosen my yard as his final resting place so I got out the shovel and gave him a proper burial in the backyard.  It's depressing and irrelevant to this post, of course, but it's part of the unexpectedness of being a homeowner that I want to remember when I look back on these summaries after I'm old and settled...though something tells me even then the house will still be in some sort of transition between wall colors or furniture arrangements.  It was odd timing, too, since it's been a year since my cat left me.
So maybe it does all tie together in some poetic reference to the passing of time and the futility of worrying about election results.  What matters is the company and experiences that surround those events...and the bruschetta, of course.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Follow Me!

I had great dreams of super-human progress on my guest room decorating today, but was sidelined by the worst headache I've had in ages.  It hurt just to move, so I turned to less a less noteworthy but important task: joining the world of Facebook.

People don't believe me, but I'm an introvert.  Facebook sounds like the end of the world to me: a place where everyone who has ever met me can call themselves my friend, and exert social pressure and guilt to convince me to allow them to track my every thought and action.  And then I realized...I have a blog.  That can be seen by anyone, whether or not they've ever met me and whether or not I'd like them if I did meet them.  Compared to that realization, Facebook seemed like a cinch.

And it was, until I had to find a way to tell those who read my blog that they can now find me on Facebook.  Everyone makes it looks so easy...including my personal favorite, those little Social Circles on The Junk House:

I turned to Google to tell me how to create my own, and the first website I discovered told me excruciating, step-by-step detail that involved opening and amending the HTML code of my blog design.  Gulp.

I gave up before I could totally ruin the entire site design...and that's when I found this oh-so-simple tutorial from Her New Leaf.  Life.Saver.

And as if the easy approach to HTML codes was not enough, the blog also directed me to these awesome color circles from Noisette Academy:

It was love at first sight - especially since I picked tangerine as my living room accent color even before They decided it was the color of the year.  It might be the one time in my entire life when I was ahead of any kind of fashion.
So thanks to blogging experts everywhere, I am now proud to say...I hope you'll follow me on Facebook!  Just click that pretty tangerine Facebook circle at the top of the website.  (Please note that there is still no Twitter circle there - I'm not that social yet.)  Or you can go directly to Facebook.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The First-Ever IKEA Fail

Armed with my inspiration from the new catalog, I drove to IKEA last night with great intentions of adding new treasures to my house and, in particular, that guest room/office space that's making very slow progress.  And for the first time in my history of spending too much money in the store, IKEA totally failed me last night.  It seems that they weren't prepared for the popularity of their new items...which makes me feel badly for the factories that make the items, because I'm sure they're under pressure to create more folded-up furniture to fill the empty shelves.  It also makes me feel badly for me, however, since I'd driven all the way down there with a plan and only found a few smaller items that were on my list. 

To be fair, some things were in stock and I just chose not to buy them.  This pillow, for example:

I do love it and for $12.99 (including the pillow insert, for which IKEA normally charges $6.99) it's a great deal for an accent pillow.  But as I tried to identify exactly what country that is on the pillow, I realized that I have a lot of burlap I bought at the bulk fabric store and even more great ideas so I put it back on the shelf and decided I'll make my own with a more personalized location on it.

I also avoided those great deals on picture frames...for now.  Since I do have a whole cabinet shelf full of various frames, I convinced myself to get a plan for my gallery wall (or maybe walls?) before I filled a cart with more shapes and sizes of my favorite IKEA frames.  They do have some beautiful new art this year, though, and if I didn't love the Paris art in my living room, I would have brought home the gorgeous new orange-accented photograph of Union Station.  (I neglected to take my camera on my shopping trip, and now I'm mad at myself since it seems I missed the chance to be the first person on earth to post a photograph of that new IKEA art!)

The furniture section was really where the frustration began, since I'd gone to buy two things: that adorable new Raskag cart and The Perfect Paintable Dresser for my guest room.

When your total work commute is four miles a day, the trek to IKEA is significant so I did what all good shoppers do before they tackle rush-hour traffic to go shopping: I checked the online records of what was in stock at the store.  The site said my new household additions were "most likely in stock" so I headed out.  And that's when I discovered that not only were they not in stock, but there was no estimated deliveries for the store at all.

For a moment I got grouchy.  Not with the nice IKEA man because it's not his fault, but I was internally grouchy.  I twirled my empty oddly-shaped little furniture cart and headed for the checkout, anxious just to get out of the store and go home with my few little purchases.  Then two things happened: first, I reminded myself that most people in Cuba are happy just to have toilet paper (that always puts everything in perspective), and second, I ran into this little guy:

I don't want to give away my plans for the guest room dresser because 1) I want the final product to be a surprise and 2) there are countless ways my plans could go wrong and if they do I don't want you to know I failed at my original goal.  But I will say that my plans for the unfinished pine dresser involved a coat of white paint, so this moved me a step closer to the desired outcome.  It was $10 more than the dresser I'd wanted but it had the big advantage of being in the store at exactly the moment I was so onto the cart it went.

Technically, I've taken a step backward by cluttering up my guest room again rather than making progress on cleaning and decorating it...but I've got high hopes for this step of the process!

And besides, I got chicken and waffles at Lo-Lo's on the way home, so the night was a big success in spite of IKEA's supply chain issues. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Recognizing the Need for A Plan

The deadline for the end of my self-imposed summer challenge is the end of August, and my guest room/office actually looks worse than it did when I started:

The process of organizing it seems daunting; making it a nice, decorated place to be seems impossible.  One thing is certain: there's too much stuff in here.  I'm finding homes for the furniture I can't use, and will donate the rest to my favorite new Phoenix discovery, the Habitat for Humanity store.

Once the extra things are removed there's still a lot of stuff, though, so I turned again to Urban Barn's Room Planner to create this streamlined plan.

I have most of the basics, minus a correctly-sized dresser and rug...but there's a long way to go still until it looks like that plan.  Getting the excess junk out of there did help move the project forward, least in half of the room.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Mapping out Success

I finally did it!  After trying again and again to get the perfect solution for map art, I finally won the battle and it's better than I'd hoped.

The secret? Accepting size and space limitations.  I tried to find a map that would fit over those three huge canvases I have but it doesn't exist - and map wall murals cost hundreds of dollars so that wasn't an option either.  What made me finally recognize the impossible?  Another visit to Kinko's where I learned that they could enlarge an old, copyright-free map (amazing what scissors can do!) but it would cost $150 (amazing what karma can do when you use scissors inappropriately!).  So I went in search of a legal, inexpensive solution.

In addition, I accepted the fact that the map art is better suited for the guest room/office than for the living room.  When something doesn't work repeatedly it's time to try something new, and though the placement of my Paris art was a temporary solution for the book club gathering, it grew on me and now I can't imagine that space without it.

I bought a reasonably large map (50" x 32") from Amazon and then worked from there.  I love this map - it doesn't use the bright primary colors of cheap maps so it looks more aged, but it only cost $15.

Then out came the canvases - I tried large, medium and small but nothing fit quite right except for this one huge one and three small ones.

A little black paint made the sides look less straight-from-the-crafts-store...

Some very nerve-wracking use of the scissors (in a non-copyright infringing way!) and A LOT of Mod Podge and sticky fingers later, I had my version of the world.  It's certainly not perfect and those wrinkles would drive most people crazy but I like it.  Perhaps I'll regret not smoothing it out more but a) I did try but failed to smooth it and b) I think it adds to the aged, treasure map appearance I sought.

The rest of the room is still a disaster around the map and I've begun a never-ending search for The Perfect Dresser, but at least the map art is finally in the room where it belongs!  And now I have more inspiration to get to serious work on that room.  I can't wait to add pins to show the few places I've been.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Swedish Summer Dreamin'

It's basically a biannual holiday in my world: the new IKEA catalog is out!

Sometimes the big reveal is disappointing, like when they increased the price of the mirror I wanted by 30%.  This time, however, I loved the new things they added and am preparing my wallet for a trip there soon.

Their linen selection has always been a little disappointing but not this time around - way more selection, and I love almost all of it!

This pillow immediately went on my "to buy" list:

The best new addition: IKEA sells outdoor furniture now!  This chair is pricey but gorgeous:

And this bench/pallet look like the perfect place to try a wall garden.

Of course, not everything could be perfect.  This lamp is $100, and the designer says it looks "a little like a ballet tutu."  Um, yeah just a little.  I'm sure it would be the perfect addition to some room but it won't be in any of mine.

I added some practical things to my list, as well.  These over-the-cabinet hangers aren't new but they are a needed addition to my kitchen.

This cart is going to be an addition to my kitchen, too - what a great way to transport things from the kitchen to serving in the dining room!

The catalog doesn't highlight much of the new art options, which I eagerly await every year.  I've never bought one of those wall-size photos but someday I might.  I've never seen this photo before and it's beautiful.

It reminds me of the bamboo I loved at Hemingway's house in Cuba.

What's your favorite part of the new catalog?  Happy reading!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

If They Can Do It, So Should I

I have absolutely no inspiration about my yard.  Zip. Zilch. Nada.  It's hot, things are wilty or even dead, and I can't bring myself to endure the heat long enough to do anything about it.

I'm assuming I'm not the only one in this predicament, so I brought back a few photos of perfect Cuban yards to share as inspiration.  Oh sure, they have that whole tropical, everything-grows-without-watering-it benefit, but since I have things like running water and Home Depot I think it evens the playing field.

Here are a few of my favorites from the road trips through Cuban countrysides:

The roadside store even had vinca happily blooming!

This was in Colon Cemetery, not someone's front yard, but I loved it.  I wonder what my neighbors would do if I followed their not-so-subtle suggestions about trimming the hedges and made my yard look like this?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Peek-A-Boo Picture

I'm home from my trip to Cuba, and am having a hard time settling back into my normal routine.  After seeing true poverty it's overwhelmingly humbling to worry about things like paint colors, and a full week without internet or cell phones was a nice break...but until I can get back to Cuba for another visit I'll keep on living my life here.

Since August is already flying by, I decided I'd better get to work on that guest room project I picked as my summer challengeWith the walls painted, the next step was to use some great wall art I'd bought over a year ago at Ross.  It's printed onto contact paper-like adhesive that sticks to the wall without ruining the paint, and I loved its abstract approach to mapping out the U.S.

I picked out an unexpected perfect spot for it: behind the Murphy bed.  I have big plans for the other walls in the guest room/office, so this hideaway makes it a special feature for when guests come to stay.

Hawaii seems to have slipped a little...correctly placing it was harder than it looked!

I brought home a few trinkets from Cuba to add to the travel theme of this room...hopefully it will serve as motivation to finish it before the end of the month!