Thursday, April 24, 2014

Song of the South

My sister and I took our annual lady trip last week and headed south of the border Mason-Dixon line and into Savannah. I will cut right to the chase here: Savannah is the most beautiful city I've ever seen and I had some MAJOR architecture envy going on. Behold:

You don't see a lot of Italianate mansions in Chicago, which means I creeped around the outside for five minutes like a weirdo. At first I was half-expecting somebody to wander onto the porch and tell me to move along, but then we realized it wasn't a residence anymore.


So many antiques were jammed in there that you couldn't move around very well (I kind of wonder how they ever get anything out when somebody purchases?) but I was Having A Moment with the house itself anyway. It's the Noble Hardee mansion, which is apparently the last unrestored grand home in the city. As you can see, the walls and ceiling are in rough shape, but you can tell what a beauty it was in its heyday. I hope somebody can get in there to fix it up eventually.

Some lovely row houses along one of the squares:

The river was beautiful, too. I didn't know that Savannah was a shipping hub until our first morning there when we saw a freight barge sail through. There were assorted boats cruising along all day, which was fun for somebody who lives 30 miles away from the nearest large body of water--and my sister from land-locked Indianapolis. (Also, shout-out to the sky for being so cooperative in this picture.)

Obviously, Forsyth Park was stunning.


There were a lot of independent businesses in the downtown area, including this adorable fabric shop that wins my award for most creative use of hoops to lure in potential customers. (It worked.)

We have a tradition of taking what we call sister-selfies, so there were about 10 pictures that looked exactly like this.

My favorite meal of the trip was from a place called 22 Square. We honestly chose it because it was raining buckets our last day there and we were just looking for the closest thing. It's inside a hotel and not really advertised outside the building (we found it on Yelp, I think?) so had the weather been nicer we wouldn't have ended up there. It's one of those farm-to-table places, which is a concept you NEED to try if you haven't yet. Here, drool over our cheese and crudite plates:

We spent a lot of time in the car (which, sadly, my back didn't appreciate) which meant we got to see a lot of new geography. Both of us typically fly when we travel, so we've been OVER hills and mountains, but never really driven through them. Illinois is extra boring now. Hills: they make a difference.

Our main destination was Savannah, but we stopped in Nashville for a night on the way down and on the way back. We hit up a couple of honky tonk bars with live music--one played rockabilly and one was more like a night club, but in a good way--and had a face-melting good time. I'd heard that all of the bar musicians would be really good since they're trying to break into the record industry, and it was so true. There was no cover either, so we basically got to go to concerts for the price of our beers.

And then we went to Greece! Just kidding, that's the Parthenon replica in Nashville. It's also a museum, but we didn't have time to pop inside. We'll have to do that when we go back, which we totally are.

So that was our trip! It was my first time really experiencing the South, so it was fun to note the little differences between there and here. Like all of the dress-wearing! All the time, everywhere. (And all of the dudes wore plaid button-down shirts.) Everyone was also extremely polite and well-mannered, which, I will admit, is something we could be better about up here. Not that yankees are RUDE, but a cashier said, "Good morning, how are you?" to us our first day there and we were both surprised. It seemed like she was trying not to laugh at us after that, so at least we're a good for a giggle. Haha.

Have you been to Savannah or Nashville? What did you do/see? Are these places on your travel list? What trips do you have coming up this summer?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Eco-Friendly Decor Is Your Friend

I'm baaaaaaack! And I meant to have this post up yesterday, since that was actually Earth Day, but MAN do things get backlogged when you're out of town for a few days. I'm going through my pictures today and will have a post about the trip for you tomorrow. Spoiler: Savannah is gorgeous.

Anyway, I feel like this post is still fine for today, since there's not really a bad time to think about the environment. I actually wrote something similar last year when I was taking my green design class at school, but I liked it a lot and wanted to do it again. There are a lot of ways to go green when you decorate, so this is far from a comprehensive list, but these are my favorites at the moment. If I missed something you like to do, feel free to share it in the comments.


Buy antique/vintage furniture. Not only is it pretty, but it's hecka sturdy. Back in the day, there wasn't the abundance of cheap-o furniture we have now, which means fewer things were tossed in the landfill after a leg fell off. (You know I love me some IKEA, but let's be real: that stuff isn't intended to last the rest of your life.) Antique furniture is higher quality than most of the stuff made today, so buying it means you probably won't have to replace it. A subset of this is to buy secondhand furniture on Craigslist/at Goodwill/whatevs, but since I just came back from the East coast where the antiques are EPIC and so much older than what we have in Chicago, I'm all googly-eyed about the real thing.


Make it work. Try to do a Tim Gunn on your existing furniture and accessories before you run out and buy something new. The Power of Paint goes a long way, but depending on the specific item you could also change the hardware, recover the seat, or sand and re-stain--which I'm terrible at, but maybe your relationship with stain is better than mine. For extra green points, you can try to use materials you already have around the house.


Be careful with trends. Wallpaper, for example, is a double-edged sword. It can look SO COOL, buuuuut the trouble with going really trendy is that you might not like it in a few years... and will then want to rip it all down and start over. I like the idea of doing a bold area rug instead, because if you do get sick of it, it's way easier to pass on to somebody else than a pile of shredded wallpaper.


Downsize. This one is OBVIOUSLY the most extreme and people can't just move at the drop of a hat, but if you ARE in the market for new living quarters, going smaller is a plus for all sorts of reasons. Little homes use less energy (which makes them cheaper to heat and cool!), there's less space to keep clean, and having less storage space means a hoard won't sneak up on you. Not that you need to shack up in a tiny house, but even going 25% smaller will make a difference.

BONUS: Add some indoor plants. This was something I didn't think about until I took my green design class last year, but the indoor air quality in your house might be kind of iffy. Adding a couple of air-purifying plants will help cut down on the VOCs floating around. I need to find one that will be impossible to kill. Too bad cacti weren't on that list...

So what do you do to be green around the house? There are also non-decorating things like composting, recycling, growing a garden without killing all of the vegetables, using natural cleaning supplies... Tons of options! What's on your list? Did you do anything cool for Earth Day?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The All-Etsy Mother's Day Gift Guide

Greetings from the passenger seat of a Prius! My sister and I are on the road to Nashville and Savannah, which means this will be my last post for the week. You can still find me on Instagram, though, sharing up a storm, and I'll be back here on Tuesday with Real Camera pictures and stories.

I might be a former Etsy seller now (R.I.P. jewelry shops!) but I don't think I'll ever forget how irritating it is when people order last-minute before a holiday. One guy got all up in my business once because he waited until the eleventh hour to order something for his wife's birthday, and then blamed me when first class shipping didn't get it there in time... because he didn't want to upgrade.

Don't be that guy.

I've always liked planning ahead when gifts are involved, so it's not weird to me at all that Mother's Day is still three-and-a-half weeks out and I'm telling you to go shopping. If ol' Crabbypants McJerk had followed the same school of thought, it would've been a better transaction for everybody.

Anyway, I'm not here to dredge up old Etsy stories (though I do enjoy those). Let's see some gift ideas:

spa set  //  clutch  //  earrings  //  botanical print  //  marshmallows  //  soaps  //  acrylic tray  //  necklace

I'll own it: some of these are things I kind of want for myself, BUT I figure at last one mom in the world has the same taste as me, so it's fine. I'm going through a big dangly earring phase right now, so I think those are my favorites, followed by the acrylic tray. What about you? And what are you thinking about for your mom this year? Anybody have their gifts already?

Monday, April 14, 2014

DIY Washi Tape Magnets

I was in the dining room a few weeks ago, taking this picture of my washi tape collection for Instagram, and Hubsey was like, "Oh, you bought more! What's the plan for this?"

And I was all, "Uh..." My little washi tape buying spree happened because I got distracted by how cute the patterns were and not so much enticed by the idea of using it, but obviously, I SHOULD use adorable craft supplies if I have them. So here's the plan! (Part 1 of many, because now I have 7 rolls to use. Ahem.)

Like I mentioned last week, after I do a big project I'm only interested in easy stuff for a while. You really only need, like, 5% of your brain for this one, so feel free to do it while you catch up on Mad Men. (Did you watch last night? I grow tired of Don and his self-sabotage.) You probably have most of this stuff at home already, except maybe the magnets which you can get at JoAnn or Michaels:

>> washi tape
>> round magnets
>> white paint
>> paint brush
>> scissors (not pictured)
>> a heavy book (not pictured)

First I painted the tops of the magnets white. This step might not be necessary depending on what patterns you have on your tape, but since all of mine have white on them, I've found that they show up best on a white background. So I did that, and when they were dry I started taping.

My magnets were slightly wider than my tape, so I had to use two strips and line up the edges. It wasn't as tricky as I feared it would be, and in person the seam isn't noticeable. I pressed down really well and then snipped off the excess with my scissors.

To be extra sure the tape wasn't going anywhere, I had the magnets sit under a heavy book for a few hours. Then I tossed them up on the fridge and they were adorable!

Sorry about the weird angle, the window is behind me and we all know how helpful that is.

They are pretty small, but because I used the thicker magnets, they're strong. If you aren't the type to stick a lot of papers to the front of your fridge, using the thinner version would be totally fine.

Now I need to think of other tape-related ideas! This stuff is so ridiculously easy to work with I wish I'd jumped on the bandwagon a couple of years ago with everybody else. Whoops. But I guess the upside is that I don't have a giant collection to store, so there we go.

What have you been making lately? Anything with washi tape? Have you ever bought crafty materials without having a plan first? Sometimes they just know your siren song and you can't help yourself. I used to be really bad with fabric remnants...

Friday, April 11, 2014

Pinterest Picks

Happy Friday! I'm heading into another busy weekend, between packing for my road trip, wrangling the wilderness outside of our house that we call a yard, and working ahead on some Room Kit stuff since I'm going to be gone for almost 6 days. Hopefully my printer and laptop are done giving each other the silent treatment so I can get some of the information onto real paper.

Anyway! I left you hanging without any Pinterest picks last week (my bad) and I wasn't about to do that again. Let's see what the internet dazzled me with this time:

Time to play What Do I Like About This Office, brought to you by the show house that Young House Love just finished. Can I get a what-what for the rug? And a high five for putting a real chair in there, since we all want a comfy bum? Also the requisite comments about all of the natural light that I make about everything, blah, blah, blah. I'd like to move in.


This cake is better than regular cake because there's no frosting on the outside! Terrible, gross frosting that takes away from the cake flavor. Give me fruit anytime.


Going back to Wednesday's post about little spring DIY projects, these faux leather pouches would be a fun way to get back in touch with my sewing machine.


Cute AND practical. Maybe next to the garage door?


I don't normally pine for a regular day job with co-workers and a cubicle, but then I come across an outfit like this and remember that the fashion aspect of it was pretty fun. It's not really the same if I dress up now, because nobody sees it except the people at the post office. (Or Target.) SIGH.


So what are you up to this weekend? Anybody else venturing outside to reclaim the land? Or trying to be a printer whisperer?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

DIY Roundup: Get Your Spring On

Now that the weather is done being ridiculous, I have ants in my pants to start more DIY projects. Something kind of small, since I did just paint another room. (Are you like that, too? After a bigger project you're only interested in easy stuff?) I have something up my sleeve already that involves a can of spray paint--whee!--but it never hurts to have other ideas floating around. Here are some tutorials that have caught my eye lately.

>> Conversation coasters. I actually tried to make a version of these as trivets before I knew this tutorial existed, and I learned the hard way, as one often does, that not all kinds of cork will play nice if you try to paint them. Getting the thin, smooth variety is important. Depending on what you wrote on them, these could be fun icebreakers for a party.

>> Succulent teacup. High-five for plants that are hard to kill! Plus, I love anything in a teacup. (This puppy is in a teacup.)

>> Gold vase. Two of my favorite things come together in this project: spray paint and things that are shiny. If you click through to the tutorial, the girl who made this did several other designs, too.

>> Bright chairs. I like the idea of putting some color outside after such a craptastic winter. These would look great indoors, too; maybe in a breakfast nook or play room?

>> Build-a-planter. If you're itching to bust out your tools, this planter is fairly easy to make and will make you feel way better about your dreary, post-snow yard. And if your flowers aren't growing yet, this would be a great place to stick some fake ones.

>> Gallery wall. Don't you just feel happy looking at this? Art is my favorite way to shake up the feeling in a room, so now's the time to switch things around if you're ready for a change. And if you're like me and SOMEHOW ended up with a hoard of artwork in your office, throw the confetti because you're about to update your space without spending any more money. Boo ya. Economic master in da house.

Are you itching to start making things, too? Or maybe you already started? What's on your list?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Painting the Kitchen

One of my goals for the year is to get some lighter paint on the walls of our main living areas. Our house is rocking some tiny windows (which is pretty typical of things built in 1970) and combined with the seven mature trees on our lot, it's a cave in here. Now that we've gotten our biggest projects out of the way--which were the basement, the leaky sunroom, and the cabinets--it's time to do something about these inherited paint colors. They're not hideous or anything, and maybe the previous owners wanted to embrace the darkness and be cozy, but I like things brighter.

So! Last week I busted out the same paint I used on the cabinets (Benjamin Moore Advance) and I went to town on the chair rail and bulkhead:

Imagine me squealing a little bit while I type. I made Hubsey look at all of the pictures I took, even though he lives in the house and can see this with his own eyeballs. I'm becoming That Parent who won't stop sharing pictures of their kids, except instead of kids it's my house. Anyway, I went with the Advance again because there was a bit left and I wanted to use it, but I also wanted everything to match the rest of the white trim. There are already enough neutrals going on down here, so keeping the whites consistent was the best move.

Let's look at some before and afters! Whee!

It's SO MUCH BRIGHTER. And without that dark brown on the bulkhead, the ceiling feels two feet higher in the cooking area. Behold:

We're thrilled with how it's coming together. For a while the basement has been the only spot in the house that feels 100% us, but now the kitchen is catching up. It's been extremely affordable to this point, too, because all we've done is paint the cabinets/chair rail/bulkhead, buy a rug, and switch the picture frames. We've only spent about $200, which is crazy because it looked like this the day we moved in:

I remember unpacking this room in the middle of the afternoon, and you can see how all of the brown just sucked the light right out of there. I'm so glad we painted those cabinets. (And everything else. Ha.)

Let's end on an after picture! You're lookin' mighty fine, kitchen. Mighty fine. Insert a saucy wink here.

Have you been wielding a paintbrush lately? Or doing other house-y projects? Anybody else doing battle with a weirdly dark room?