Thursday, December 11, 2014

DIY Chandelier Overhaul

Ok. I am so excited about this.
We recently purchased a house and it's wonderfully, beautifully old with tons of character.
But some of that character is not exactly something we want in our home.
This is really evident when it comes to light fixtures. We absolutely HATED the wall sconces in the house (which we can't get rid of, but have refashioned and will feature later) and the chandelier which was front and center as soon as guests walked through the door.
However, changing out the light fixtures were really last priority since so many other things in the old house needed money thrown at them first. On a whim- as a result of the makeover to our sconces- I decided to try helping out our chandelier and I am SO STINKING GLAD. While we still may put a new chandelier in down the road, this updated version helps make the interim so much more bearable. If you've got a super ugly chandelier like the above in your house- never fear! We updated ours for $11 and it looks like a completely different beast.
So much ugly.
After cleaning it, I painted the fixture with Rustoleum's UltraCover ($3.99- Meijer).  The name is legit. It seriously covers everything. For solid color, you'll need three coats. If you want a little of the original metal peeking through, just one or two. We went with three coats in most areas and two in others, some gold showing through was nice since we do have a lot of gold in the room. Make sure to let the paint dry between coats (it goes quickly) and really lay the coat on heavily for great coverage.
Ta da! I took the covers off the chandelier to replace them (Lowes, Home Depot, Menards... they all sell replacement glass), but liked it better without anything, so we opted to let the bulbs shine out! You can always trade the bulbs out for something frosted to keep the light from burning your retinas. Also,  John had to paint that top part for me because it was too high up... so... it's black in the final shots :)
It already looked a million times better, but I wanted it to look more complete, so I ordered some beads from AMAZON. These were $6.99 for 6 feet. I may go back and add more later, too. Separate the strands into the desired length (they have rings similar to key rings, so it's easily done by hand without tools). Mine were 13 inches each, but play with the length and see how deeply you want your strands to dip. Also, you will have to separate a couple of extra rings off of excess beads to use for attaching. Each strand needs a ring on both ends.
Attach the strands to your chandelier. Mine had holes at the top and base pieces- perhaps it had already contained beading before. If not, you'll have to use a soldering gun or E6000 glue.
The end! I need to take photos in daylight, but... soooo much better than the original, and it blends in with the rest of the black and white decor. And for practically nothing! It feels great to check that off my list (or happily put in on the back burner) with so many other projects that need attention.
P.S.- the entire  project took less than an hour,  and I didn't even need to take the chandelier down from the ceiling.
A lazy girl's dream.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

DIY Doggy Bowtie

We recently purchased a house and I've been busy DIY-ing my heart out with projects. I built a ballet studio, my own closet, redid the kitchen... all kinds of crazy stuff that I fully intend to share when the house is complete.
But of course- it's Christmas and that means a slew of other fun projects to share as well! Along with the house we adopted a dog. Not together of course, but our marriage deal was always that when we bought a house I could get a dog.
So seriously- I had a dog within the week.
Anyway- his name is Winston and he's obviously adorable and distinguished but also a little uncivilized. To help with his doggy manners, we sought out the help of a professional trainer who called him "dapper" and I do believe that he most certainly is.
Especially in his doggy bowtie.
I personally think dressing dogs up is basically the cutest thing ever but John strongly disagrees. So the other day at Target when I sniped out the cutest collar bowties, he said no. Absolutely not, there would be no money-spending on dog accessories.
So I made one.
Bowties are super easy to make, you can follow my tutorial HERE using the exact same Christmas ribbon to create one.  I obviously wanted my Christmas hair bow to match Winston. (PS- it's technically 'bow tie' but I prefer it as one word. So here I am. All rebellious and whatnot.)
This tutorial picks up from there, but if I can make one suggestion- don't use wired ribbon. Dogs aren't very neat animals, and the wire gets messy (as you can see on his). Standard ribbon will actually hold a bow tie shape better.
 Ok so you have your finished bowtie and an old hair tie or piece of elastic. You can also use a piece of ribbon as well, but you will need to be precise in measuring.
 Turn your bowtie over. Cut the hair tie down to size. Determine your size by wrapping it around the collar. You want it to be snug, but remember to leave room for attaching it to the bow tie.  If you're using ribbon it needs to be really precise since you won't have any stretch.
 Hot glue the hair tie/elastic/ribbon to the backside of the bow tie.
Glue again and cover with another small piece of ribbon for extra security.
Slide it on to your dogs collar and you're done! Excessively easy and excessively cute.
If you want to create a more professional bow tie (like the one I made for a friend, pictured below) then definitely use elastic. Also, I sewed this from regular fabric instead of using ribbon. I can create a separate tutorial if necessary :)

As I mentioned, we adopted Winston as a fully grown adult so he isn't extremely well behaved yet. Getting him to sit for these pictures required two people, an obscene amount of treats and about 100 attempts. But we tried!
I posted a lot of stuff to Facebook this week, but nothing came close to getting the amount of attention that Winston in his bowtie received. So for real, make sure your furry BFF is looking good for the holidays!
All the best and as always, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Night Sky Shower Inspiration

Over the weekend my mom + aunts threw a baby shower for my cousin Kimberly. I'm sure I've mentioned Kimberly before- she's an incredibly talented woman, but also possesses a lot of style (both fashion and home-wise, as she is an interior designer) who I draw a lot of inspiration from.
Kimberly gave birth to a GORGEOUS baby boy two weeks ago, so the shower actually happened after he was born! He was apparently very eager to make an early arrival and since he is doing  so well and seems to be quite healthy- we were all very happy to see him.
I can't describe how cute he is.
Back to the shower: the theme was based on my grandma's favorite book. Since she passed away last year my mom wanted to honor her in the theme. The book was really a rhyme that my grandma read to her daughters- Wynken, Blynken and Nod. I absolutely love it, and if you haven't read it before you really should. It isn't a common theme, so I called this Night Sky instead since it's applicable.
As usual, everything was to theme. She drew color inspiration from the night sky, making everything pale yellow (stars) and shades of blue and purple. She served a trio of flavored butters at the party (lemon herb, blueberry and cinnamon honey) to be used on buttermilk muffins and then sent them home as favors as well. They're amazing. The two sweet flavors are a bit like a substitute for cream cheese and the lemon herb is really delicious for savory dishes. My mom used it recently in a chicken recipe. I can't even.
She also used children's books as part of the decor and then sent them home with Kimberly for the baby's library. Of course, they're all night/bedtime themed. The illustrations in "Time to Sleep, My Love" are gorgeous.
This display includes a backdrop with the complete rhyme of Wynken, Blynken and Nod. It also housed the gift bags and a little treat. At the end of the party, she used it to hold the favors.
Kimberly didn't want to have many games at her shower, so we had the standard low key shower fun. Decorate a baby diaper and + bib cookie.
These cupcakes were my favorite part of the shower. Seriously. My mouth is watering. The cupcake itself was almond with an almond filling and my mom piped a blueberry buttercream frosting on top. Then she made white chocolate stars and moons to adorn them and sprinkled with little sparkling sugar shavings. She also made a blueberry cheesecake, but I didn't get a photograph.
You may have noticed the cookie on the coffee cup. She bought star-shaped mug cookie cutters and used them with a sugar cookie recipe. She painted the tops of the cookies in edible gold + sprinkles. She also molded star and moon sugar cubes to use in the coffee. So cute! For non coffee drinkers, she wrapped water bottles in a "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" graphic + poem that was customized with the baby's name.
There was so much more at the party that I wasn't able to photograph- I was too busy celebrating my beautiful cousin and her stunning little boy. Many little details were nods to our grandma, such as serving her favorite sandwich (ruben - the woman was obsessed).
We are really getting close to our move date and I am so eager to start a whole new world of DIY house projects. I hope you're having the best end of summer/beginning of fall. All the best and as always, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Lakehouse Reflections

Every once in a while I'm compelled to just write.  Nothing DIY-ish, just life. La vie. Today is one of those days.
I haven't been blogging lately. It seems as though if inspiration isn't coming, there's no reason to force it. That's my blogging rule. We've been in the process of trying to buy a house for about a year so that we can move forward with our dream of ADOPTION and foster care. Hopefully (prayerfully) that day is coming, as we have a closing on a home scheduled and have been moving steadily towards that day. But the in-between has been really difficult, and I haven't felt inspired to create at all. Thankfully, I can feel the inspiration finally coming back, and it started over the weekend.
This past weekend we went to visit my family cottage "up north" (ahhh, Michigan). It's always a very inspiring place, but it's becoming more so each year. The cottage was built by my great-grandparents and passed down to their three daughters. Eventually my grandma bought her sisters out and it belonged to our family. Now that both of my grandparents have passed away, the question of how much longer we will keep the cottage becomes stronger and harder to ignore each passing year. Yesterday, it was extremely difficult to tear myself from the lake when it was time to leave. My brain was full of thoughts and memories and history.
My favorite book, 'Le Petit Prince' kept coming to mind. It really is one of the most beautifully written pieces of literature and can be found in English (The Little Prince) or German (Der Kleine Prinz)  or basically any language you may read. While the book was in theory written for children, there is so much application intended for adults. One of the major reoccurring themes is about the sacred ordinary. He speaks about various persons, places and things which would seem standard and completely usual to a stranger, but are special because of some not readily seen element. Something hidden inside. Something a passerby couldn't expect. "L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux" he says (the essential is invisible for the eyes). There's an old house, a nothing exciting house... but rumors swirl around that it contains hidden treasure. There's a dirty, dusty, plain desert- but deep within that desert is a delicious well of water. I can't even speak of the rose- you'll have to read about her- but she is unlike any other rose as well. They all may seem typical and humdrum- but they are far from it. That's how I feel about our little cottage and the lake it sits on.
It's just a very small lake (in Michigan, where lakes are plentiful) in a very small village (the population is less than my graduating class!)... and the actual cottage is quite tiny and old. I can't imagine that it would seem very special to an outsider.
But to me? It is so, so lovely. The clearest, freshest lake. The most charming, ivy-riddled cottage.
Because it holds so many secrets.
The cottage is home to four generations of family memories. My family. Our history.
And the lake? My grandfather lost his wedding ring at the bottom of that lake as a newly-wed. He never replaced it. Somewhere, in the center of that lake... my grandpa's wedding ring is hiding. And that makes it so much more special in my heart than I could ever convey with words.
With each generation coming and going, knowing that we have shared that lake, that cottage, those rooms, that water- it makes me feel like we are all still tied together. It is tangible heritage.
I don't know how much longer our time with this cottage will last. Maybe there will be one more summer of remembrance, perhaps another decade. But I'm really grateful. I'm grateful for those who have gone before me, and those who are coming alongside and afterwards. I'm grateful to be surrounded by so much sacred ordinary. I'm grateful for the invisible essential.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

DIY C.O. Bigelow Inspired Rose Water Tonic

I've been meaning to write this very simple tutorial for...evvv...errrr (Sandlot, anyone?). Probably a year or two.
I used to love this stuff when I was a teenager. I loved C.O. Bigelow in general and it inspired many a trip to Bath and Body Works (especially during sales!). Their peppermint infused lip gloss made a gobby, sticky mess out of me... but I reached for those tubes *every time*.
Anyway, a quick glance at the ingredient list inspired two thoughts, a) ew... I don't love that being on my skin and b) I could totally make this.
Based on those two reactions, this recipe is altered a bit to include some more friendly ingredients and leave out the harmful ones. That being said, you'll need to keep it refrigerated and make small batches, I don't know how long it will last. Probably not more than a few weeks.
Start off with rose water. This is a very simple way of doing it, and there are more detailed versions on the internet. If you're committed to purity, google a version for distilled rose water and then come back when you've got your rose water. If you're looking for a the fast route, read on!
 Start with some roses! My cousin gave me these GORGEOUS roses for my birthday last weekend. I absolutely loved them, and once they were bloomed and starting to wilt, I wanted them to live on as rose water. These were a little too bloomed, you probably want the roses to be more fresh, they're more fragrant then. Also, if you can use wild (read: chemical free) roses, that is much better. If you have a friend or family member with a rose bush, perfect!
 Remove the petals from the stems.
 Rinse the petals under cool water to remove any chemicals, dirt, buggies... whatever.
 Crush up the petals, I used a combo of hand torture and a potato smasher to do the job. You need them to be bruised up and damaged to release their goodness.
Add just enough water to barely cover the petals, you don't want to dilute the rose water.
 Simmer the petals just until they lose their color, not any longer.
Strain out the petals and place in the jar (or spray bottle!) of your choice.
Once the rose water is done, the rest is super easy. Add in 1 tablespoon of high quality witch hazel for each 1/2 cup of rose water produced.
5 drops of chamomile essential oil for each 1/2 cup will keep this recipe close to the original, which also includes chamomile. To round it out, remove the added perfume in the original which does nothing for the skin and add in some great essential oils instead. They will add lovely scent and provide other benefits. I recommend a few drops of lemon + grapefruit if you have oily skin. To punch up the rose scent, you can add rose oil. All skin types generally benefit from rose hip oil, too. A few drops per 1/2 cup is sufficient, but you're welcome to add more as long as it doesn't irritate your skin. Remember to always use high grade essential oil, too!
That's it! To use, apply with a cotton ball or pad. Remember again to store it in the fridge and discard after a few weeks.
I've been field testing some different ways to wash hair naturally without store bought shampoo OR baking soda. I used to be a big fan of washing hair with baking soda, but I'm reading that it's a bad idea long term. If you're interested or have any suggestions- let me know!
All the best, and as always, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Very Gatsby Anniversary Party

My parents celebrated 35 years of wedded bliss yesterday.
Their marriage and life have both been an inspiration to many. Marriage isn't easy, and as more and more end in divorce, it's astonishing and exciting to see couples that really do last for the long haul. It's even more admirable when the couple is still in love.
That is without a doubt the case for my parents. They honestly adore each other and if they had to, they would marry each other all over again. My dad wrote this to my mom yesterday...
"35 years ago, two kids (and I mean kids) affirmed their love for God and each other and set off to conquer the world, together. Well, the world is still as crazy and more so, but these two altered their world forever (she rocks mine), building a life that most only dream about. Sure there were scrapes and scratches. Any piece of art, any fine sculpture, gets many rough edges chiseled off, while the creator does his work. The end result is timeless. It endures, as has this union. Along the way, we've added kids and grandkids that anyone would be proud to call their own. I love you, Vicky and always will... And our world continues to turn.... stay tuned."
So sweet, right? 
Anyway- in celebration of their marriage, my parents had a roaring 20's anniversary party! As usual, my mom basically made and did everything herself, and so I wanted to share the DIYness with you!
But first, let's start with what I did. 
These shoes used to be forest green, but I didn't want to buy another pair of t-straps when these were already laying around and I NEVER wear them. They were leather, so the idea of spray painting them was very distressing- but it totally worked! 2 coats of outdoor metallic gold spray paint later- they were party ready. 
 My mom also asked me to make a couple of signs for her (house rules + photo booth). I designed the house rules sign and had it printed at Staples (6.99 for an 11 x 17). I wish we had gone larger, but with the schematics, we couldn't. Next, I bought some black foam core from Hobby Lobby and cut it in half.
Using mod podge, I coated the edges and then covered them in fine gunmetal glitter (also Hobby Lobby).
After the glitter dried, I used 3M spray on the backs of the posters and then stuck them to the glittered foam core. 
I also did a few props for the photo booth. My mom bought a circus set of props on clearance, but some of them didn't fit the theme. The ones that didn't work were re purposed! I traced out bow tie and cupid's bow lip shapes on to the backs and cut out the shapes. Next I mod podged glitter on and allowed it to dry. Afterwards I used 3M spray on the fine glitter (bow ties) and another coat of mod podge on the thick glitter (lips) to seal it on. Otherwise it wouldn't last the night of abuse from a photo booth! Lastly, I reattached them to the old sticks with hot glue. You can also make these from scratch with wood skewers and card stock. 
 I really didn't want to spend money on a new dress, and I had this one from my bachelorette party. It was too short for the time period, so I just added a little fringe to the bottom.
Finding a shade of pink to match would have been WAY too difficult, so I went with a nice gold that would tie my shoes in as well. Simply pin the fringe to the hem of your dress and either stitch it or hot glue in place. You can add fringe to the bottom of basically any loose or drop waist dress and make it more 20's inspired. My aunt went to Salvation Army and found a dress there, added fringe and had basically the same effect as mine!
For the rest of my costume, I hot glued a hair clip on to the back of a broken bow broach my mom found. I used used the pearls from my DOWNTON ABBEY post a while back, and some other pearls as well.
Men's fashion hasn't changed much, so for John we simply used a summer suit, bow tie and suspenders. Easy.
Makeup-wise, they wore a LOT of it then, but I couldn't bring myself to have a strong smokey eye, bright cheeks AND dark red cupid's bow lips. I went with just a really dark eye and bright cheeks paired with a raspberry lip balm. 
On to the party! We started with a nice, empty space and went to town. My mom had three card tables set up with period correct card games. She also rented 2 pool tables and bought a third pool table that was child sized for the kids. There was a silent movie set up on a giant theatre screen (which we ended up not playing) and a photo booth. I didn't get everything pictured, but it was there!
My dad is a radio guy, so he used this equipment from the 1920's . It couldn't actually provide enough sound for the space, so there's a bose system underneath playing the top 100 hits from the 20's. 
Even though it was THEIR party, they were the ones giving out the gifts! On the gift table, my mom placed a box of chocolate cigars. She made these herself with a chocolate mould and then covered them in dark foil. I believe she printed out the cigar labels and then cut them out and glued them on.
The gift bags contained candies and items from the era as well as bookmarks that you can insert photo booth pictures into. 
She had lots of the dancing silhouettes all over the room too. There was one very art deco silhouette with missing faces for guests to pose with as well. 
She brought her own props for the photo booth as well. Lots of props on sticks as well as boas, hats, masks, faux fur shawls (which she made herself), stoles and more!
She set up this little tribute to her own grandmother (who was an actual flapper!) which I found really sweet. Actual mirror, hand mirror + brush from the 20's, my great grandma's handkerchief, cloche hat, watch, perfume... all of it. And of course, a picture of the lady herself adorns it. 
The guests were awesome and totally got into the theme! Nearly everyone chose to wear a costume, and they seemed to love the chance to dress up. In the above picture, my cousin Ruby is eating a chocolate mustache. I forgot to mention that my mom made those. She also shaped a cookie cutter into a saxophone for sax cookies! There were cookies with edible images of flappers on them as well. Oh! And a bartender who mixed 5 family friendly drinks from the era. Some of them were really, really delicious! 
The happy couple! Congratulations, Mom & Dad! I pray you get *at least* another 35 beautiful years together. Thank you for your endless support, love, pride, advice, help and example. I love you to pieces and am so thankful you found each other. 
Ps- my mom made her own head piece too. It's incredible. I may do another follow up post with specific details about other things, but this is enough for now! All the best, and as always, thanks for reading!