Friday, March 30, 2012

Mailboxes of the World

I've been meaning to go to the post office to mail a package to my parents for over a week now, but instead I discovered this mail-themed post on a blog I follow daily.  File this in the "I wish I'd thought of this first" category - isn't it awesome?! 

I love my own little built-in mailbox most of all,


but check out these mailboxes from all over the world: The Art of Doing Stuff.

April Favorites

It's another week without time to create new things, so instead I'm turning to my magazines for inspiration I can share.

I don't think I need a blue and white rug, but This Old House made me wish I did.  Isn't this gorgeous?  It immediately evokes visions of beachside relaxation.  And I never thought I'd say this, but the price isn't awful either.

I'm constantly on the lookout for things to make lawns easier, and this is just awesome.  Perhaps the most useful yard tool I've ever seen. 


This was just a small picture in a great article about how to make a small yard seem bigger, but I am now obsessed with that fountain and must find one.  Doesn't it remind you of one of my favorite landmarks in Rome?


Sunset was a little boring this month, except for this amazing article about how to save a fortune at Farmers' Markets.  My only complaint with the amazing Phoenix market is that I always spend too much money...I cut out this list and menu plan so next time I go, that won't be true.

 
I don't know if these grow in Phoenix but I want some!

And once again, Phoenix Home and Gardens magazine frustrates me with all its predictable advertisements for overpriced furniture and plastic surgeons, then redeems itself with a gorgeous page of photographs of things that actually grow in Phoenix.  Yay!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Honey, I Shrunk the Maps

I'm proud to announce that this project was terrible enough to be featured on Hating Martha! To those of you visiting because of my celebrated failure, welcome - I'm glad you stopped by.


As those of you who put up with my whims on Pinterest know, I'm on a constant quest to find The Perfect DIY Art Idea. "Perfect," of course, means a final product that's a masterpiece but that's easy enough that even I can do it. Then I have a whole list of other criteria: it has to have the right colors, shapes (I have a lot of circles and squares in my decor...it's perfect but the wrong rectangle or triangle could throw the whole thing totally out of balance), and it has to fit onto the three canvases I bought months ago when I innocently thought "hey wouldn't it be fun and easy to create my own living room art?".
(I bought three of the 24x36" ones.)

There are lots of painting ideas that I like, such as these...
{Available here}

But until I have time to do something as permanent as painting, I love the idea of wrapping maps around the canvases. I originally fell in love with the map art idea because of these expensive beauties from Ballard Designs ($299 each):



I was sure I could find a cheaper way.  Now a normal person would just go buy maps and staple them to the canvas, but I like the texture of the canvas so got the bright idea of using thin paper maps or fabric maps. Great idea, but finding anything big enough has been a challenge. These Cavellini wrapping paper maps make me swoon (thank you, Michelle!) but they don't come in a size quite big enough to cover the whole canvas.

So I turned to an interesting idea from the Mapmakers Themselves: Fabmaps from Rand McNally. I couldn't tell how big they were on the website but since they were on sale for half off, I decided to take the risk. I bought three maps of places I love: D.C., Seattle and Balboa Park in San Diego. Then I impatiently waited until they arrived yesterday.



The good news: fabmaps are a really cool idea. They're microfiber so you can clean glasses and computer screens with them, and they can get all mushed up in the bottom of my purse (which all maps do anyway) without being crumpled beyond repair.

The bad news: yeahhhhh they're really, really small.


Back to the drawing board! (And by that, of course I mean Pinterest.) I wonder if I'm artist enough to draw maps with watercolor pencils? Look how amazing this canvas came out with those pencils and a little bit of time...


In order to make this painful experience more valuable, I'm proud to announce that my failure allows me to connect with Hating Martha's "Stinky Linky" blog party.  Happy Friday!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

How Etching

I originally came up with a clever title about Etch-A-Sketch when I started this post earlier this week, but decided to avoid those references since my political friends appreciate how the term has been...er...overused lately. ;)

I'm so excited about this project - I've wanted to try glass etching cream for months, but never made it a priority.  I drool over gorgeous creations like these (via Pinterest, of course):



Those blogs make it sound quite simple, so I decided to give it a try in order to create a personalized birthday gift for a dear friend.  (Dear friends are the ones who stick around even if your handmade birthday gift turns out terribly so it's safe!)  I had this lovely bowl from IKEA...


 ...but I couldn't find the etching cream at Michael's, despite repeated visits in search of it.  That's when I made a wonderful discovery: Arizona Art Supply.  I've driven by this store countless times - it's next door to the all-important Goodwill!  I've never gone inside until this week, though, and I'm thrilled to have found an alternative to Michael's.  I try to keep my complaints to a minimum on this blog (no, seriously, I do!) so I will just state that Michael's is always a hassle.  The parking is a nightmare, employees are rarely friendly even when I can find them in the store, and about 30% of the time I can't find what I need.  So there.  Arizona Art Supply, on the other hand, was filled with wonderful employees who were helpful not not hovering, and they had the glass etching cream I sought.  I considered the small bottle for $10 and went with this ambitious size for $20.95...I had such confidence in my still-to-be-done project that I was already planning for more.


Since I didn't have adhesive vinyl necessary to do etched letters like this,


I opted for the etched-around-the-letters approach like the cute "dill" planter I showed you earlier.  It seemed easy until I realized this meant creating perfect straight lines on a sloped surface - this turned out to be more difficult than those stripes I painted in the hallway!  Eventually, with the use of a ruler, fabric measuring tape and level, I had tape and letters in place - add my trusty foam brush, and I was ready to etch!


Why am I etching "mess" into a bowl, you ask?  My goal was to personalize it to my friend's cooking blog, Tales of A Messy Cook, which is one of the few blogs that inspires me to actually cook.  The etching cream was easy to use, though the warning label wasn't kidding when it said you needed good ventilation - wow, it's strong.


I did two coats because I was concerned about the bottle's warning that it might not be even...because of that concern, I also ignored the advice to dilute the cream with water.  I'm glad I didn't.  The etching came out pretty even and I'm not sure how water would have changed the outcome.

I was horribly disappointed when I first peeled off the letters (with gloves - those warnings on the label made me take them seriously!) because it didn't appear to have turned white at all.  Within 30 seconds, though, it had darkened into the perfect white, with the clear glass letters shining through just like I'd hoped they would.  My camera failed me when I tried to show how nice this is, so you'll have to take my word for it: it looks a lot like the "dill" one I tried to copy!


I added some fun kitchen supplies, including these personalized wooden spoons...another Pinterest inspiration!  I used stick-on letters and black craft paint, then sprayed them with Bullseye Shellac - it's food-safe and non-toxic.  I loved the way the shellac made the wood darker and shiny!


Happy (belated) birthday to my favorite messy chef!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

How Many Ounces in A Cup?

Thurday night I was in a bad mood.  Months ago, I'd bought tickets to my favorite NPR show (Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me, for those who are curious); that might not mean much to you, but for me it's the equivalent of how most people would feel about going to the Oscars.  But a bad cold meant I was grounded.  As if missing the show weren't bad enough, I was also missing out on a meal at Maynard's. This is not just A Favorite Restaurant, folks, this is an amazing restaurant.  Their potato pizza alone is divine...mixed with outdoor dining next to a train stop with all the perfect restaurant details, it's unforgettable.


Fortunately, I'm terrible at being grouchy for too long.  So I decided to tackle another Pinterest Challenge and attempt the impossible: recreating a part of the Maynard's experience. The first step was to find a potato pizza recipe - and of course, that was easy.  I narrowed it down to these two:



The second step was to improvise, because I was too lazy to go to the grocery store.  Not an easy feat, when your kitchen is as ill-prepared for spontaneity as mine is.  Fortunately, I'd had great intentions of baking bread a few weeks ago...didn't happen, of course, but it meant there was yeast in neat little packets buried in the spice cabinet.

I immediately got stuck...there was math involved.  This recipe didn't follow my cups-and-teaspoons version of measurement.  Gasp.


So I did something I'm not proud of...I turned to Google.


The fact that there were countless people who had done the same thing didn't make me feel any better, but at least I got the answer...but not in dry measurements.  (Do you think the cooking gods designed things to be this difficult in order to keep out weaklings like me?)  Back to the internet, where I found http://www.reluctantgourmet.com's/ "cooking conversion calculator."  Thank you, cooking gods.


After conquering that could-be-done-by-my-two-year-old-nephew mathematical challenge, I was on a roll - there was no stopping me.  The dough was kneaded (I forgot how therapeutic it is to knead dough...not to mention the benefit of a forearm workout!) and I was on to the potato prep.  I turned to another recipe since it was more complicated - and I assume that in cooking, complicated is good.  (Yes, I'm sure that does have something to do with my general hatred of all things kitchen-related.)  Rather than slice the potato, I copied my mom's/sister's practice of using a potato peeler to get super-thin slices.  They're not as perfectly round or pretty, but I went with the theory that skinny was better than beautiful (oh good grief, now I sound like Hollywood).  I obediently covered them with salt, threw in some dried Italian spices for good measure, drizzled on water and put them in the fridge.  They looked like jellyfish or something equally as unappetizing.

Then came the fun part - I got to pick herbs from my garden!  Remember the rosemary Christmas tree?  It's still mostly alive, and seemed happy to contribute to my meal.  The basil doesn't look so happy but there were a few leaves that haven't turned into flowers yet, so I gathered those for the second pizza.


While the pizza parts were getting ready, the oven was steaming away.  I was nervous about the recipe's orders that I preheat the pizza stone at the oven's highest setting, but I did it anyway.


And it turns out, those recipe gurus were right: the hot pizza stone made a huge difference!  The dough started baking as soon as I put it on the stone (somehow without burning myself), so I quickly layered on pasta sauce and Monterey Jack cheese (kind of gross for a pizza, but there was no mozzarella in the fridge).  Only five minutes later, I added basil leaves and had this ready-to-eat beauty!


And then more sizzling, drizzling and baking...and voila!


I added salad and club soda in a wine glass for extra Maynards-like effect, and devoured my yummy creations.  It definitely wasn't like Maynard's pizza but it was much closer than I'd expected.  I need to use better cheese - Monterey Jack didn't do the trick - and I need green onions.  But not bad for a first try with what was on hand in the fridge!


If you haven't already, check out the success of the Pinterest Challenge hosts - it's inspiring!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Most Wonderful Time(s) of the Year


If you've read my blog for awhile, you'll know that I'm addicted to the Pinterest Challenges that are hosted by some of my favorite bloggers. It's that time again, and after hours of contemplation (ok, so it was hours of pinning ideas and five minutes of deciding on one to actually do) I created a new masterpiece.

I fell in love with this ticket-stub art from the awesomely-titled blog Urbane Jane.


A lot of the most memorable, meaningful experiences of my life revolve around ticket stubs (travel, girls' nights, great dates, bad dates...), and I have hoarded almost all of those stubs in order to remind me of the experiences. (They also are useful when I am forced to confess/remember how many times I've seen My Fair Lady. There is no such thing as "too many.") They're stashed in "memory boxes" around the house (those memory boxes need to undergo one of the organization ideas I've pinned - maybe the project for the next Pinterest Challenge?), and after a few hours of digging through a chaotic mix of my past, I narrowed down all these stubs...


Down to this more manageable pile:


I had two IKEA shadowbox-style frames already, so I started taping the tickets to cardstock. The small space (a 4.5" square) made it necessary to narrow down the tickets even further, so now I have these collections of moments that are really highlights of my life.

1) I'm pretty sure my addiction to Josh Groban concerts has helped fund his nice new life in New York City - this is the one from the first concert I attended. Can't get enough of that guy.
2) I have many tickets from the Phoenix Symphony now, but this one was the first - it was a date with my sister for my 20th birthday. It represents an amazing memory, great concert and a reminder of how cool it is that I'm a big-city gal now.
3) Carole King+James Taylor+my mom+my aunt = one of the best nights of my life. I felt the earth move under my feet.
4) Ok so a ticket to a Fenway Park tour isn't as great as a ticket stub to a game would be, but I take what I can get. I loved every rainy, cold minute of it.
5) This Winnie the Pooh play is the first live theater I ever remember seeing. It was a great play (how could it NOT be, with Eeyore there?!) and I remember it was snowing when my family left the theater.

1) Toy Story on Ice: my first hot date with my nephew...I'm pretty sure I had even more fun than he did!
2) This was the day I fell madly in love with Les Miserables - and I've never gotten over it. I still cry every time I hear "On My Own."
3) I can't remember how many times I've seen Phantom of the Opera, but I've enjoyed all of them!
4) Sad but true: college football is always fun but never as much as it was in the student section. Those were good times, and though I have a lot of tickets from ASU games I picked this one because it's the only time I was cheering against my school...OSU's a family thing!
5) This may be the most meaningful ticket stub I own. Not only is it one of the best plays/movies of all time, but it's the first play I ever saw in Phoenix and I saw it with my Grammie and the girls of our family. It was such a wonderful birthday gift, and I'm pretty sure it was this experience that led me get most of the other tickets to events as an adult!

I'll hang the frames eventually, but for now they're joining my half-finished travel corner in the guest room.


The tickets are just taped down but I'll likely go through with glue to make sure they all stay appropriately folded. Thanks to Urbane Jane and Pinterest for this wonderful idea!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Happy Thoughts for A Sick Day

'Tis time for another blog post, but a bad cold keeps me from conquering any yard labor or brilliant creations - sad, since I'd wanted to tackle something brilliant to share on the Winter Edition of the Pinterest Challenge. On the bright side, however, having my own home makes being sick much more pleasant than it was when I lived in an apartment. I'm not forced to listen to neighbors' arguments or celebrations through thin walls, and through the window I have much better entertainment than my second-floor apartment afforded.  Though I loved the tree outside the apartment window, from the couch in my home I can watch people walking their dogs, riding bikes with friends and otherwise enjoying life as those who are not burdened by the constant companionship of Kleenex are permitted to do. With the extra time that has been forced upon me, I tackled a lovely moodboard to share with you a list of things that make me happy to be alive.


1. Sleepytime Tea.  For as long as I can remember, this has been a source of comfort whenever I was tired or sick.  The fact that it's made by a company with the ultra-magical name "Celestial Seasonings" makes it even better.

2. Tarzan. I've never seen any of the cartoon or movie versions of the Tarzan stories, but am recently addicted to the books. Finished the first two and downloaded the next six...I don't think I'm dedicated enough to read all 24, but I'll enjoy my ridiculous obsession with this crazy strongman as long as it lasts.

3. Daffodils. I love these flowers...and since they're available for $2 a bunch right now, I don't have any guilt about buying them for myself. (That gorgeous photograph is from fineart.com.)

4. Corey Stoll as Hemingway. I'm sure I'm not the only person who had never heard of this guy before Midnight in Paris, but he so perfectly impersonated the little I know about the writer that I was totally hooked. I bought several books about Hemingway - including a great one about his boat...I'll get to them as soon as I end my love affair with Tarzan.

5. Le Grande Orange. I'm using my mug from LGO as a reminder that great food awaits me as soon as I improve. Those chicken wings...yum, I could eat them every day.

6. Breyer's fruit popsicles. They assure me I get vitamins and antioxidants and I want to believe them so I don't research their claims. These things are GOOD.

7. Loftdoors.com. Months ago, I found a gorgeous picture of an old-barn style door I wanted to recreate for my bedroom...and then today I discovered this magical website. Just THINK of the possibilities! I love the way they go with just about any decorating style.

8. HGTV. I probably don't have to explain this one. I never realized how many of their shows are online - it's enough to make sick days not so bad.

Happy Sunday!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Pull Up A Chair

Did I mention that I'm hosting a meeting of my book club in June? Now that sounds like the long-distant future, but when you consider the list of things I must do to make at least my front room look presentable, it's looming uncomfortably close. So I've been working on small details and making lists of bigger tasks. I had two major breakthroughs in the last couple of weeks. The first: the PERFECT accent pillows at Ross, for only $7 each. (I still think accent pillows are ridiculously overpriced but at $7 my complaints get less audible.) I bought all four that I could find.


And the second major breakthrough: the perfect chairs. I've been looking for the perfect chairs for about six months. I've almost fallen in love with several but never was ready to commit to them long-term. They were either too expensive:

$699 from {CB2}

Too bright:


Too monotone (though these are gorgeous and I'm madly in love with them):


Too pink:


Or too asymetrical - I love this chair but I'm just too type A for the different front and back feet:


Anyway, you get the point...I'm too picky. I found these Target chairs through Decorating Cents, and though I love them they still were just not quite The Ones.


And then I saw this:


It really was love at first sight. They were on sale for $121.49 - a splurge, definitely, but at least not a bank-breaking one. Overstock.com's $2.95 shipping offer added to the bargain. It wasn't until after I'd ordered them that I saw the small-print disclosure: These cannot be returned. WHA?!?!

Fortunately for all of you who are not interested in reading a diatribe against Overstock's suspicious return policies, I LOVE THE CHAIRS! They were relatively easy to put together (they came with an IKEA-like allen wrench but the instructions actually had words rather than weird drawings), the colors are perfect and the seat is deep enough to be very comfortable.


So here you go, together at last: the perfect accents for my living room. (Ok the pillow is too large but they're together at last for now...we'll get to smaller pillows sometime before book club in June)!


Still on the list:

- Flip over the TV stand (there's no "right" side up but it got flipped when I moved and nothing's been quite right ever since)

- Side table (an easy task, since I'm stealing one from my sister)

- ART! (I need to hang the art I have and create the art I haven't)

- Baseboards and trim (I never added the electric plates back on after painting, as those with a critical eye could see in the photo above)