2020’s 20 Holiday Crafts: Modern Wintery Alps (1/20)

In an attempt to entertain myself during the much-slower-than-normal 2020 holidays, I decided to clear out my burgeoning Pinterest boards. Many of the craft ideas have been hanging around for a number of years so why not choose 2020 for some anti-COVID creating.

I’m starting with this set of Swiss Alp mountains. They would be cute on a bookshelf or as a table winterscape. I’m not sure where these will land, but I had fun turning one 4 ft piece of 1×10 pine wood into something modern and wintery. It’s nice when ‘Christmas decorations’ can be spread out to include all of winter. And these Swedish babes fit that bill.

Here’s how we did it…

Scott bought one piece of pine wood and cut out the mountains to 4 different heights: 10.5″, 8.5″, 6.5″ and 4.5″ tall. He set his miter saw at 24 degrees and after cutting both sides of the mountain, the peak ends up at a 48 degree angle. Yeah, yeah…that’s a lot of math. The exact angle isn’t as important as the consistency for each mountain so that they each end up with the same angle but with different heights. All those mountains out of one board!

I then used some Provincial wood stain (that we had on hand) to stain a few of the mountains. You could use any stain color you desire. As I was painting the others I was imagining doing another set of mountains that were all stained with just painted tops. That would look great too.

All you need are those cheap little bottles of paint from your craft store. Again…trying to use a lot of what I already had on hand…I used some black and white wall paint. It was definitely overkill to use gallons of paint – but it’s what I had!

When I have a project that requires multiple layers of paint with drying in between, I cut off a bit of Saran Wrap, fold it in half and just tuck my wet brushes inside. It’s a temporary hold so they don’t dry out.

This is an optional step and, honestly, one I skipped after the first mountain. Drawing out the snowcap seemed like a good idea, but you don’t really stick to the lines anyway so I skipped this step for the rest.

For the dotted mountain I used an old pencil I keep around for this reason. It has a few coats of paint on it already so the tip is even rounder.

I took a quick video showing the differently sized dots. The more paint on your pencil, obviously, the bigger the dot. The longer you hold the pencil down, the bigger the dot…

This was a pretty simple project at a low cost. Always a good thing! The colors and size are completely up to you. I realize it might be a little frustrating for some of you reading this if you don’t have access to a miter saw. If you’re really interested in completing this project, let’s talk. We can cut some wood for you and ship it at a fairly low price, I’m sure. Let’s talk.

I added some faux snow (that’s just a really enjoyable phrase to say!). The faux snow will make an appearance in a different project that’s coming up soon.

So what do you think??? Project 1 of 20 complete. Not sure I’ll get through them all between Thanksgiving week and Christmas week but I plan on having fun while trying!

Thanks for reading this far! If you decide to complete this project, please please please tag me on social media or send me a picture. I want to enjoy it with you!

Now… I need a cup of Swiss hot chocolate. How about you?

I bought a thing. I did a thing.

As a plant seller on FB Marketplace, I have not been much of a buyer until recently. I have picked up a couple of cool things during Quarantine. Inexpensive items but nice additions for our home. The added bonus: thrifting is better for the environment!

I saw this cute round table for $25. Low investment = low risk. I feel freer to experiment with stuff when I haven’t invested a lot of money into them.

The original color of the table was gray, I believe. But the bottom had been painted black (which was still in pretty good shape) then the top was spray painted white.

When I picked it up she mentioned there was also a leaf to expand it so that was a nice little surprise bonus.

We have a small kitchen nook area that I enjoy reading in because the natural light is so fantastic. I’ve recently painted the room (…which I’m not sure I ever blogged the results.) I wanted a round table where I could sit and read, journal, etc. I also decided I wanted to do a ‘tone-on-tone’ by painting the top of the table the same color as the walls. Since the room is small, I didn’t want to feel like the table was cluttering the space. Painting it the same color as the walls gave it continuity for the eye.

After a few coats of paint I then topped it with a glossy polyurethane finish.

It’s the perfect size. I’m so happy with it. A cup of chai and the London Book Review magazine and I am in complete relaxation mode.

A room of blue-ish silver-ish plants, walls and now tabletop. A pretty good $25 investment.

Sidenote: the table leaf storage is kind of ingenious. Maybe you have a table like this but I’ve never seen a fold-in leaf. So I made a dorky video for you to see…

What great finds have you fallen into lately?

just a tweak

We have the world’s smallest hall bathroom. When my family came to visit us last year I told them to be sure to use the bathroom on the airplane before they got off because it’s the biggest bathroom they’d see in the next week.

The truth is though, it’s perfectly okay for us. We have a second bathroom in the main bedroom so this hall bathroom serves its purpose just fine. No walls needing to be knocked out.

But I did want to do a bit of tweaking recently. Change it up a bit. In the ‘tweaking’ process we found The Greatest Spray Paint Known to Humanity (primer and paint in one.)

Hyperbole, perhaps, but not by much.

(Quick note: this is NOT a paid endorsement or sponsorship. I’m merely passing along some things we’ve used and liked.)

Here’s a quick picture of our bathroom when we moved in:

Not long after moving in we put up a different mirror and light fixture. We took off the shower doors in lieu of a shower curtain. Small, simple changes.

But then I fell in love with a faucet and we tweaked things again a few weeks ago. In the process we took the perfectly fine, brushed-silver knobs off the vanity as well as the bronzed door knobs on the bathroom door and sprayed them with The Greatest Spray Paint Known to Humanity (… there should be Stars Wars-level music that occurs every time I write that *only slightly* exaggerated phrase…) It’s been about a month now and the finish is still looking solid.

Scott installed the new faucet. I am DEEPLY thankful Scott is so handy around the house (the project doer to my project dreamer) and I also find it fun to learn new cuss words every time he gets knee-deep into the process. 

And voila!, some small changes for a small tweak-of-a-look in the world’s smallest bathroom.

Truth be told, I have a number of these wooden pegs around the house – I love them! And they’re very easy for Scott to make. I also love these amber pump bottles. I have one in the kitchen too.

Do we need new flooring? Sure. Am I DYING for it? Nah. Sometime…eventually. Maybe. Meanwhile, I am loving the Navajo-looking towel peg, jet black sink faucet with a ‘raining’ water spout, the vase of dried weeds that I snagged from the WELCOME TO NAPA VALLEY sign off the road when family was here last year, and mostly, the discovery of a new spray paint that, if you’re sitting still too long I will give you a once over too. It’s my new go-to paint!

The toilet paper holder has a shelf on top for your phone. (ewwwww…but yay!) I wonder if President Trump has one of these??? 

I mean just LOOK at that handle?! Gorgeous, no??!

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That water spout. I feel like it’s a small bathroom in a Tibetan monastery in a remote, hillside jungle where monks say their morning prayers while…wait. Surely monks don’t do that second part. The number two part.

This has suddenly gotten super weird.

 

A bright, sunny little bathroom. Making a home wherever you are. Being finished would be too boring; it’s the tweaking and settling in that’s the fun part.

These Are Puzzling Times…

I am not a jigsaw puzzle doer. Oh sure – I’ve paused at the table a few moments to work out a piece or two when someone else was doing one nearby, but I know my patience level and I know it doesn’t have the endurance for a tedious project like puzzle hobbying.

But quarantine takes us to a whole new level, no?

I’ve had this puzzle in our game closet for over a year and thought it was time to take a crack at it.

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After only 8,273 hours, I had the edge pieces in place. (Was I insane for doing this??) Turns out the answer was yes. It wasn’t until much later that I noticed the ‘Challenge Series’ notation on the front of the box. CHALLENGE?? I haven’t done a jigsaw puzzle in years. Was this really where I should start?

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I ordered a different puzzle and was much more pleased with the design. Before I started, I looked up some puzzle tips to see if I could work a little smarter.

Here are some things I’ve learned as a novice puzzle gamer

You need a colander, ziploc bags and foam board.

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Before dumping all the pieces out onto the table, first pour them into a colander over the sink. This will get rid of all the puzzle dust and it won’t get all over your workspace.

Speaking of workspace – if you don’t have a dedicated table for the puzzle, work it on a large piece of foam board. The foam board is very lightweight and easy to move out of the way when you’re not working on the puzzle.

We all pull out the edge pieces first, right? And that’s cool cause they’re the easiest to work. But then try to group all of the same colors together. Even if the reds don’t all go in the same place, you’ll have a stockpile of them when you need them. For the puzzle I was working on, the colors were very segregated so I put the individual color piles into separate ziploc bags.

After I’ve worked on a section for a while and started to feel ‘stuck’, I then grouped my puzzle pieces into ‘like sizes’. I put all the horizontal pieces together and all the wide pieces together. It’s not always easy to tell which is which but a lot of the time it is. Again, it just gives you a stockpile of similar sizes when it’s obvious the next piece HAS to be an up and down piece.

Many people suggested turning your puzzle occasionally to give you a different perspective, but that seemed to work against me so I didn’t use this tip very much.

It still took me quite a few days to complete since I was working on it in between other projects. Poor Scott asked me if he could help when I was nearing the end. I said “Sure!”, and handed him the ziploc of black pieces – the hardest section!

As with most things in life, the color is relatively easy. It’s the shadows that take the most time and care…

Once we finished we were faced with the universal puzzle-making decision: Do I break it all up and put it back in the box to do again at another time? (which we probably never would) or do I try to preserve it?

I liked the colors and the topic of books so I decided to hang it in my home library/office.

If you decide to break up your puzzle and save it for another time, I read a couple of tips I thought were helpful.

  • Break off all the edging pieces first and put them in a separate bag. It will save you time the next time you do the puzzle. If you want to separate and bag all the separate color pieces you can also do that – but don’t make your puzzle-making toooooo easy for the next time! Where’s the fun in that?!
  • If you own a number of puzzles, make sure you bag all the puzzle pieces in each of their boxes to avoid a catastrophe of toppling them all over and pieces getting mixed up together.

But I had decided to preserve our finished puzzle.

There are many puzzle products that can help you save your puzzle, but since we are in Quarantime, I wanted to use things I already had at home.

I placed a large piece of wood over the puzzle so I could flip it over to the backside. I then Mod Podged the back of the puzzle. Many people suggested Mod Podging both the front and the back to make it sturdier, but I wanted to try to maintain that authentic puzzle look on front so I just did the back and then laid newspaper over the glue as a ‘webbing’ of sorts to hold it all together. (Extra bonus points if you can glue Tom Brady’s head to the back of a puzzle!)

I let that all dry overnight. If there was any newspaper showing, I trimmed the edges.

So far so good! I was liking the way it was all turning out. I then asked Scott if he could make a frame for me. I just wanted a simple black frame.

He backed the whole puzzle with a piece of thin plywood. He made the frame and put a groove in the wood so the puzzle would slide right in. I wanted it to be in the front of the frame and not against the wall.

I’m not sure this is the final spot for it, but I like the way it works with my books and bookshelf!

This puzzle will forever and always remind me of the sequestered days of Corona 2020. In the midst of the scary and unknowable, it was nice to work on something kinetic together to occupy our minds for a few hours.

While he was making me a frame, Scott also made a book rest for me. No bookmarks or dog-ears needed – simply lay down your book where you left off and pick it up when you’re ready for it again. Cute, huh??

I’m not chopping at the bit to start a new jigsaw soon, but I’m glad I learned a few ‘pro tips’ for the next time I tackle one.

The Colors of Quarantine

One of the smaller home projects I’ve been meaning to get to (thank you, COVID-19 for forcing my hand) is to refresh my home office/library/blog-writing room.

I am firmly in the neutral camp when it comes to the rest of my home but I wanted to add in some color to a room filled with books.

This homemade table is what I use as a desk. I don’t think you could offer me a free $6,000 desk to replace it – it’s the perfect size for me and I love its sturdiness and size. However, I wanted to amp it up a bit.

These Mildliner markers are a daily supply for me. I love them! I use them on various lists, etc. They aren’t an intense marker that will soak through your page and I absolutely love their color sequence. So honestly…I think I based a lot of the room on their presence.

sidenote: I just checked on Amazon and they are about $40. There’s no way I paid $40 for them so maybe it’s just the crazy times we’re in at the moment. I’m sure they sell for less at other times and also at craft stores – so I’m not linking anything here. Just Google them for a better price.

Before I started painting, Scott offered to ‘shore up’ the warped edges, etc. “Nah…I think that’s what I like about it. It’s wonky and imperfect.

Earbuds in. Audiobook on. Paintbrush in hand. By the way…when you’re working on a project while listening to an audiobook, do you ever get back into the aura of the storyline when you see the finished project even months later? Or like…craft projects I’ve worked on while watching the World Series will always remind me of the World Series when I see it.

No? Just me? (Surely not.)

I wanted to paint the desk a combination of blues and greens to go with the plants I have in this space. In the back of our house we have some fantastic windows that get a strong, bright light. Then in this room we have this big window that gets fantastic filtered light. It’s bright – but not quite so harsh as the southern exposure of the backyard. Therefore, my plants are pretty much divided into two sections: those that like it hot and those (…like me…) that like it bright but let’s not go overboard on the sunbeams.

I really like the way it turned out…

The top row of my bookshelves are my fiction books. Those books and only those books are in rainbow order. (The rest are all in genre order…nothing cutesy.) Eventually I think I’d like that back wall to be a bright fuchsia or something. We’ll see…

Can’t stop won’t stop with the rainbows 🌈

Scott built this ‘plant altar’ (I jokingly call it) last year to hold a bunch of my plants. It’s been moved around the house numerous times – but I mostly like it right here under the window, soaking up the sun.

This airplane plant is a lot of fun – it has SOOOO many pups!

This room is impossible to take a picture of and get all its sides, but I think you get the idea. I like the burst of color the desk brings without it being TOO colorful or childlike. It’s calming and cool and it’s forever linked to Corona Quarantine Survival time.

And in the evening when the twinkle lights turn on… it’s a perfectly cozy spot.

What projects are you working on while you’re hunkered down??

Welcome!

Our home project this week was to tackle our home’s entryway. I struggled all last year to figure out what would work best in our ‘entry room’.

The front porch is a covered area that has been challenging to decide between plants or furniture. Plus there is a fairly wide ‘wall’ that was screaming for something, but I wasn’t sure what.

And also..the color. This wouldn’t have been my primary choice, but since we rent, painting the outside of the house pushes even me over the limit. I am an avid painter (and re-painter!) inside the house, but I have to draw the line at exterior painting. And that’s okay! The bigger the challenge – the more fun! And I don’t hate this blue-grey color. Not at all. It’s just not a color I’m used to working with.

Let me pull back and give you a wider view…

Here’s our little California 1970’s ranch. We have done VERY little to the front of the house since we do all of our outside living in the backyard. But I wanted to do something with the entry area.

I grabbed a few pots and succulents and went to work.

As an aside: If you are doing a big succulent project, opt for these ‘decorator’ pots filled with succulents that someone else has put together for a grocery store, etc. I bought these at Home Depot or Lowe’s. You don’t have to keep them as is (I didn’t), but buying individual succulents cost about $4-5 each plant. Each of these pots cost $12! Obviously, that’s a MUCH better deal! You can take them apart and arrange them to your taste.

Since these were big pots (a size needed for the entry space) and I was planting succulents with small roots, I threw some nursery pots into the larger pot to take up some space. Why waste the potting soil filling the whole thing?!

Arranging the pots was 99% of the fun. Since these weren’t going to be seen from all sides, I gave them a tall back and worked the succulents from there.

Can you see that gorgeous variegated succulent below?? I put in an agave cactus in the middle and some fun sanseviera cylindrica (variegated ‘snake plants’) in the back…

I moved some of my prayer plant varieties, peperomia and calathea from inside the house to one of the pots. These are somewhat picky plants but like a frustrated mother, I needed them to go play outside for awhile! They’ll like this area because it’s very bright and has a good view of the sky but has no direct sun. Ultimately they will like the humidity this space gets in the summer.

I was going for a big impact with the large double doors, but needed to use plants that didn’t need direct sun, like a tree or ornamental grasses would.

Stage One of this project was going well.

But the open ‘wall’ was still glaring at me.

I found a similar project on a midcentury site online and liked the idea of a) Scott building something to fit the specific dimensions and b) something we could also use for climbing plants.

Stage Two: Scott and I worked over designs and he built this awesome ‘trellis’ / ‘artwork’.

I picked some Sansevieria zeylanica (commonly called Bowstring Hemp) to plant in the white rocks. I love their blue-gray color next to the house. They are a cousin to the Snake Plant (we always called them Mother-in-Law Tongue plants.) And I added a new aloe vera plant.

While it’s definitely shaping up, there are a few other things I want to tick off including (*but not limited to) painting the front doors and frame a magnificent mustard yellow.

The below Kangaroo Paw Fern has been a dreamboat of a plant. I highly recommend them. And ever-so-slowly, the Japanese Aralia – is starting to expand.

I love a fun, unusual, exotic plant. But you really can’t beat a reliable ol’ airplane plant, can you? As soon as it produces a baby, I put them directly back in the pot to fill out the top and keep it full.

Two super awkward situations about this entry way. Imagine, if you will, standing at your kitchen sink, making coffee, staring blankly out the window when suddenly (…I should write that SUDDENLY!…because that’s how quickly it happens…) the postal worker (…ours is a man, so can I say ‘mailman’??…) comes around the corner to drop the mail in the box. An awkward grin is the least of my worries as I pray he didn’t see anything untoward as we stood facing each other through the glass pane. -ha!

Secondly – is that a laundry vent behind your azaleas, Greta?, you ask. Why yes, yes it is. Welcome to our home. We smell like fresh laundry. Meh. There could be worse things, right??

I think my Swiss Cheese Plant (Monstera obliqua) will enjoy dancing up this trellis.

Besides the succulents, all of the plants on the porch love humidity. Watering the white rocks adds humidity to the air. The fact that this is a somewhat enclosed area, the humidity in the air and the heat of California hovers in this small place – making these tropical plants extremely happy. And they get to enjoy it all without the harsh sun rays beating down on them all summer long.

I think we might have a winning combination.

Thank you, again, Scott. Although this project looks relatively easy, there was math involved which is where I get off the boat and leave Scott to figure out the angles on his own.

Another week, another fun project checked off our list!

Build Me a Valentine (or three!)

Last year, Scott made us a trashcan box since our kitchen trash has to sit out in the open. We have put it through the workouts since then and it’s held up fabulously. Sooooo (…of course…) I wanted more!

I wanted something similar to the trashcan for our laundry hamper. (By the way, I don’t know why I hate the word ‘hamper’ so much, but I really really do. -ha! No getting around it, though, it’s the best way to describe it for this post. Just know I would never use it in real life.)

We recently rearranged a big closet in our spare bedroom so I wanted to locate the hamper somewhere else. We have a hall area in between our bedrooms but I didn’t want an open hamper out there. Oh what to do, what to do?! (#firstworldproblems) So a trashcan revision was made into a hamper box. (For the record – both the trashcan and the hamper have open backs for plenty of ventilation.)

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You know how you get something in your head and it quickly becomes a random obsession? (Oh come on – that can’t just be me…) I now want to fill this glass canister jar with beautifully wrapped soaps. (World Market – I’m looking at you! They have the BEST soaps that are gorgeously wrapped.)

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Okay…back to the hamper sitch.

The trashcan box opens at an angle. The actual trashcan inside the box sits on a hinged platform that opens outward. It’s easier to dump trash and makes for an easy emptying of the trashcan too.

But the hamper has a simple door that opens with plenty of headroom for tossing clothes inside. It closes with a magnetic attachment at the door and inside face of the hamper.

I am so happy with it! As with most households, it’s also a nice landing spot for the things that need to be taken to other parts of the house. (Temporary landing spot. – wink, wink)

Hamper box: SUCCESS!

During Scott’s week off last week he finished up the hamper project than started working on a raised garden for my cut flowers.

Last spring he made some raised garden boxes that I used for a pretty display of flowers – similar to a window box. We eventually moved it to the side of the house and this past fall grew vegetables in it. This year, however, I wanted to grow cut flowers as if growing vegetables. In rows – nothing fancy – only used for cutting and bringing inside (or gifting to neighbors!) So I wanted it pretty simple, rustic even. The main thing is that it’s at my height which makes pruning and cutting so much easier. (I’m game for that!)

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Using cedar fencing posts he constructed a box, lined it with weed barrier liner, then ran a sprinkler system to it.

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This particular spot at the back of the house is BRUTAL in the summertime. It gets some pretty harsh southern exposure. But if last year is any guide, the flowers did well in it until the end of May. (We started in February last year too.) My plan is to make this a year-round raised garden, replacing the spring flowers with summertime plants and eventually a fall harvest.

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Time for one more project: a potting bench!

We mulled this one over numerous times. It took on various different forms until we finally combined two plans into one.

For the past 3 years we have slowly added to our outdoor furniture from IKEA. It’s all from the same line: APPLARO. (IKEA and their Swedish-named products -ha!)

The below picture shows two ‘wall units’ that you can add shelves to or a fold-out table, etc. It’s a very useful, modular patio system.

We decided to use two of the panels as a backdrop to a potting bench. I use whatever surface I can get to when I repot plants, propagate plants for sale, and general yard gardening. So I was VERY excited about this project! (Not that I wasn’t excited about the others too!)

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Scott found some workbench plans online that he liked as a guide but then he tweaked them to fit our specific wants.

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(Don’t judge the messy garage. Or please…DO shame us into getting this ‘secret’ part of our house FINALLY organized and cleared out!! A definite spring project!) Meanwhile, the potting bench project was coming along nicely.

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The next decision was staining. (WHYYYYYYY do I make things SO complicated by over-thinking such small decisions.) Basically, I want it to look like I found an old, abandoned warehouse where this decades old potting bench was covered with a huge dust cloth and VOILA’!, I find a perfectly useable, vintage potting bench.

But alas…… instead, I have to let nature do its dirty work on freshly made furniture. (Impatience is a noose around my neck! -ha!)

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After a few trial spots with different stains: gray, light brown, should-I-just-paint-it-white, etc., we decided to go with a dark stain to seal in the wood from the elements but that would (hopefully) get a little beat up over time until it’s the perfect “old” looking potting bench I envision.

Meanwhile – look how fantastically it turned out! I’m so happy with it!! Scott did an excellent job.

Let me assure you, however…

…even though I zhuzhed it up…

…that’s only for the picture. I plan on using this thing AS a potting bench – not a photoshoot opportunity!

But for now…I mean…I had to do a little bit of prop useage.

WHAT A WEEK!! Lots of projects envisioned, executed and finished! Scott has a lot of fun with the building part of the creative process (and he gets VERY creative with it. He usually takes plans several steps further to make sure things are SUPER safe and will withstand heavy usage. And many times he makes up the plans himself.) And I certainly love the dreaming up part of the process. But I think the BEST fun of all is sitting down together beforehand and hashing out all the details. There is a lot of “…like this?” and “no…that won’t work” and the occasional “just MAKE it work!“comments. Of course all of these items can be purchased somewhere. But making it fit exactly what we want is so much more fun for us at this point in our lives. There is plenty of frustration to be sure, but the fun of it is beyond measure. Each project is a true joint effort. And that, I believe, is what Scott and I do best.

Low-key Organization

Okay, so California Closets it’s not. It’s not even a cool, interlinking IKEA closet. But for me, it’s exactly what I needed.

Not to be a pollyanna, but buying this many plastic tubs made me a little sick. And yes I know…your organization isn’t the problem, your STUFF is. Yes, yes. Joy sparked, etc. etc.

But the truth of the matter is that I have greatly culled my stuff. It’s an ongoing process (so don’t let anyone ever lead you to believe you’ll ‘get there’ someday.) But I am a creative being and with creativity comes stuff. Since moving to California in September 2018, I have had my creative life tucked into various closets and garage storage. I’ve been perfectly happy doing other things and keeping busy with all that life has been for us this past year. But for 2020 I have promised myself that I would get back to some artfully creative projects.

And thus – The Creative Closet Clean-up of 2020 (enter triumphant music.)

We dragged all the various boxes and bags out into the living room. I organized and threw away stuff while Scott built shelving in a back closet we aren’t usefully using.

I thought it would make me feel a little shameful – all the disparate supplies being left unused. But instead, it made me feel excited for 2020 and spending a little bit of time creating again.

All projects should include an old-school label maker. You can have the newly automated printing ones. A person’s hand should ache at the end of a labeling project. -hee

Yes, a box of broken dishes. As favorite dishes have broken over the years (…I swear it’s never my fault…), I have been tucking them away into a box for a mosaic piece someday.

Do you know how to mosaic??, you ask. Why no. No I don’t. But I’d really like to learn someday. And when I do, I’ll have some starter broken dishes with which to start!

I’ve used these IKEA storage tubs quite a bit in the past. I like that they’re modular and stack nicely. They’re very sturdy and easy to move around.

The fact that I put the label on the right side on my old bins and on the left side on my new bins is not something I’m ready to talk about yet.

(GULP! Why didn’t I double check?!)

Let it go… Let it go… (Someday I’ll re-label them on the same side. For now, I’m calling it done.)

Each bin is now labeled and containing alllll the creative things.

The shelves were built to accommodate two bins high plus the extra wiggle room to lift them. I have plenty of room on both sides of this closet for more goodies in the future.

(An interesting 21st century consideration: when we installed the lower shelf, I wanted to make sure the Roomba could get underneath it. -hahahaha!)

Sewing machine, odds and ends – it’s all now contained in one closet and easily marked so I can go straight to the project I’m looking for. Macrame’, weaving, painting, watercolors, yarn, cross-stitching, card-making…you name it. I’m ready for it!

(The IKEA containers also have the option of an insert that fits at the top. Very useful!)

This closet has ’70s-style sliding mirrored doors and I am so oooooookay with it.

Of course in the process of cleaning out one thing, six other clean-up projects pop up. It felt good to get rid of some things through donation or just plain ol’ trash. We’ve lived here a little over a year and it was time to clean out. I can’t imagine what living in one house for 50 years would be like. (aka: my parents!) There are a lot of ups and downs with moving – but gutting out unwanted/unused things is definitely a plus!

Hoping you are also nesting into 2020 in a big way.

Rethinking Small Bedrooms

If you follow me on Instagram you may have noticed I’ve been moving around my ‘library’ and reading corner recently. I’ve tried it in a couple of different areas (always built around natural light options), but I had a little bit of an aha moment (aka: DUH! moment) and wanted to share it with you – definitely still a work in progress.

We live in a smallish house in northern California. We love our little spot of the world, but there are challenges with space sometimes. If you have a large home, this post won’t click for you much, I would suppose. But if you are a small-home-dweller, maybe something like this will help you too.

Enter our three bedrooms. They are smalllll bedrooms. What would be considered the Master Bedroom is only a few feet larger than the others so I came to a conclusion: Since the rooms weren’t vastly different, why was I giving the largest of them all the ‘time of day’, if you will, but only sleeping in it at night?? Who says this has to be the main bedroom for sleeping?!

So we pulled everything out of the ‘Master Bedroom’ and swapped it with a smaller room across the hall where ‘The Office’ once was.

I’m pretty minimalistic anyway with bedroom furniture and decor.

We didn’t finish painting before completing the move, but it’s just going to have to wait until we get back from vacation next week. Besides, you can see how the bedroom is evolving from a nice gray (which was too dark for this room) to a bright white that plays nicely off the very sunny window.

Scott built us these floating shelves a few months ago and I can’t recommend them enough! Easy cleaning and forced simplicity. Win win!

These mirrored closet doors are soooo seventies. Initially I wanted to take them out and do something different with the space, but I do really like the way they double the natural light in the room. I think they’re staying put for now. I lay in bed in the mornings and watch the palm trees swaying and the birds coming and going – all through the view of the mirror. I’m kind of digging it.

Some black and white decor via 1967. You’ve gotta love the arts and crafts that stand the test of time! 🙂

We’ve got our air-purifying snake plant next to the bed for all the extra good juju breathing we can get.

I don’t know what i’ll do with the shelf in the room yet (something clean and simple though) but for now, this calathea is enjoying her spot in the bright but indirect sun.

And now what was originally the master bedroom is the library/reading and writing room.

A quick word about this majesty palm… I had it in the wrong place last summer and it got dried out. I was ready to get rid of it but decided to make some drastic cuts to it. There was one new palm growing in so I cut off ALL the older palms. In the past few months two more new palms have grown in. I put a humidifier on it a few times a week and make sure it doesn’t get dried out (but not too wet either.) It seems to like it’s new lease on life. My PSA is to try drastic measures if you’re going to be throwing a plant away anyway. Similar to ctrl-alt-del, sometimes cutting a plant down to nothing and letting it start over again is a viable solution. We all kind of desire that fresh start, don’t we??

This big window is where all the cool plants wanna hang out. It doesn’t get the harsh sun from our backyard but is bright and cheery with big views of the sky. It’s also a wonderful place to sit and write to you from my laptop…

So what happened to my cozy reading corner? Scott and I are jokingly referring to it as our ‘Mud Room’. I set up a desk in there that holds essentials. It’s where we throw our canvas bags after using them before they go back to the car. Our car keys, sunglasses, you get the idea. The door to the right goes out to the laundry room and then the garage and with all the winter rains we are getting, it’s the perfect place to take off shoes, etc. I’m looking for just the right durable rug to go here as well.

Lots of room switching around (per usual for me) but we’re both happy with the results. Now for the Big Painting Project of 2020 where all the house will change from gray to WHITE! I love the blank canvas that white affords.

Are you working on any last minute home improvement projects before the decade begins? I can’t guarantee it, but I would bet my first project of the decade was painting something white. -ha! I guess I don’t deviate from a good thing, do I?

Family Al Fresco

It’s that time of year. School is finished (or soon to be), the temperature is rising and sleeping in is on every teens agenda. If you have kids at home, a common summertime question is ‘What’s there to eat?’ I might be able to help with that last question with some simple summer meal items.

I recently posted on social media about a family meal we had outside (al fresco: in the open air). I was contacted by a few people asking me to post a more detailed explanation. I promised a blog post about some DIY tablescape hacks that made the evening a little easier and the simple summertime recipes we used to make our family meal a success.

My extended family came to visit us in California. The enormous sacrifice they made – financially and most importantly, timing and scheduling – meant a lot to me. Scott and I wanted to have one evening where we all sat down together around a family table and simply relaxed into an evening of conversation and California weather.

For those of you that are fans of the tv series, Parenthood, you’ll understand my desire to have a Parenthood-style dinner together in our backyard, under the lights and California setting sun.

First of all, I needed a long table.

We took our dining room table out to the patio plus used another dining table we have in the garage that Scott uses as a work table. The work table was a few inches shorter than our dining table so we used wooden blocks to prop it up to be an equal height.

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I was tempted to do a charcuterie board down the center of the ‘long table’ but ultimately decided it was too fussy and one more thing for me to plan out. My goal was for all of us to feel comfortable and laid-back so I nixed the cheese board idea.

Instead, Scott cut me a long piece of 2×4 board, sanded all the edges round and stained it. He coated it in coconut oil to seal in the stain.

I cut rosemary from our large rosemary bush and lavender from the three Spanish lavender bushes we bought in the Fall. They were three small bushes when we purchased them but they have grown SO BIG over the past six months! As an aside – I knew the rosemary would last a long time but I wasn’t sure of the lavender. I cut it all just a few hours before our meal. For awhile, it was sitting in the hot afternoon sun. The rosemary held up great but the lavender got a little wilty looking. By the next day it was shriveled. So make sure to cut the lavender fairly close to the event. This served as a nice centerpiece but also held off any flying insects that don’t particularly care for the smell of the rosemary. Win-win! At the last minute, I grabbed some clementines in our kitchen and haphazardly placed them among the rosemary and lavender for a pop of color. I also cut a small sprig of rosemary to place on the napkin at each place setting. Super easy way to put a finishing touch on the appearance of each setting. If you don’t have a rosemary bush in the backyard, rosemary plants are easy to find at grocery stores and gardening centers. (We use ours for cooking all the time!)

I wanted the table to be somewhat minimal in decoration. Casual and welcoming. Here are a few ways I hacked the table decor…

I am a big fan of this set of three candlesticks from IKEA. I have two sets and use them in different spots in our home. Their stark black added just the right amount of drama to the setting without being fussy or overwhelming.

I am a big fan of linen. I love its look and universal appeal. It’s not faddish or decade-specific, which is just the kind of decor I adore! But if we’re all honest, linen can be expensive, right??

A good rule of thumb for just about every decor situation (and more!) is to mix and match real with fake. I went to Harbor Freight and bought two canvas paint dropcloths. They resemble linen and cost about $15 each. Spilled wine? No problem. Dropped food? It will either wash out or, I have a new dropcloth to use! No fuss. No problem.

I even used another dropcloth I had to sew a basketful of coasters for the table (instructions here.) The trick to using dropcloth for your projects is to wash them first. I generally wash them 2-3 times to soften them up and get the distinctive smell out of them. Once they’re softer, the possibilities are limitless.

I mixed the canvas tablecloths with actual linen napkins from World Market. I used 4 different neutral colors to tie everything together without looking too matchy.

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I have really enjoyed my ‘wonky’ dishes from Magnolia. It seems like not that long ago that we lined up outside Target, waiting for the doors to open on the new Magnolia line, Hearth and Hand. I elbowed and crowded in with other Joanna Gaines style followers. I think I grabbed a 4-plate setting the first day and have been picking up more bowls and serving trays ever since. They’re a little harder to find these days but they pair well with a line of dishes from World Market. Again, mixing and matching takes the exactness out of any task (my biggest design hint.) I love the uneven edges of both lines. They look like they’ve just come off a potter’s wheel. Love it.

The table was set with a mixture of items but they all fell into a neutral palette, therefore pulling them all together cohesively. The neutral foundation allowed the colorful food to stand out and shine.

And speaking of the food…

I had to constantly put before myself the goal of the evening: easy, laid-back, casual. I didn’t want Scott and I to have to spend all our time in the kitchen and not sitting with our family enjoying the evening. The following were some of the recipes we used. Many can be put together in advance.

This Avocado Corn salad is de.li.cious. It tastes like summer. It killed Scott a little to have to buy tomatoes since his aren’t ready yet -ha. (All the recipes are at the end of this post.) I’m of the opinion that putting an avocado with just about anything makes it better. You can use fresh corn on the cob but we opted for frozen sweet corn from Trader Joe’s. The very smell of cucumbers makes me want to rush outside. It is such a fresh summer smell.

I’m sure I will receive a lot of crap for this (probably deservedly so), but……..I don’t care for fresh onions. There. I’ve said it. The color of purple onions would round out this salad nicely and 99.9% of the world will put it in.

This Pecan Apple Slaw is a constant in our refrigerator this season. It’s light and easy to keep in the fridge for those quick food cravings. The juicy Craisins make it almost snack-like.

My sweet 21-year-old niece sent me a thank you text after they left to go back to Kansas City. She ended the text with “…and I neeeeeeed that zucchini boat recipe!” -ha! Again, these are easy to make and a great addition to just about any meal. The recipe came from Ina Garten so you know it’s trustworthy! We’ve made them several times and are always happy with the results. Crunchy and salty – my favorite combination.

The main dish was Caprese Chicken. For an easily prepared dish, it packed a lot of flavor. The key is fresh mozzarella and the balsamic glaze.

To be honest, we were introduced to balsamic glaze by a friend just last year. We’ve been ardent fans ever since. There are soooo many things you can use it on! It’s thicker than regular balsamic and adds the perfect tangy-sweet flavor to side dishes as well as many meats.

Maybe it’s just me, but drinks for a dinner can get a little stressful. Do you offer a million options or do you limit it to just a few? My answer for this very flavor-packed meal was to simply serve water. I used some inexpensive water decanters and placed mint leaves in milk white jars on the table. My neighbor gifted me with a starter lemon mint bush and wowzers has it grown! I can’t use enough mint to keep up. So even if it was just decoration and no one used it, it was worth trimming back my container and it added another natural element to the table.

We ended the evening with a HAPPY BIRTHDUATION cake for the people having birthdays and graduating high school. Had it not been for that, I would have gone with a simple Peanut Butter Pie. It’s another easy recipe you make ahead and is always a crowd pleaser.

And because we’re in California, the evenings can get a little chilly if the conversation lingers long enough. I rolled up some favorite throw blankets, put them into a basket and took it outside. When people started getting cool, they grabbed a blanket and the conversation never even paused. No searching for or asking about a blanket – it was right there at the ready when they needed it. (And bonus: it looked cute while it was waiting to serve!)

I hope these suggestions sparked a few ideas of your own. Gathering family and friends together (no dreaded ‘kids table’ separation!) is always my idea of a perfect evening. Multiple conversations interrupted only slightly by the ‘Could you please pass me the…’ requests is pure joy to me.

Before sharing the recipes with you at the bottom, will you indulge me in a few family shots from our Family Al Fresco evening??

Wishing you a season of good food, simple pleasures and all the bent-in-half-ugly-laughing your soul can take!

Corn Tomato Avocado Salad

INGREDIENTS
corn kernels from 1 large steamed corn on the cobb (1 cup)
5 ounces diced avocado from 1 medium avocado
1.5 cup diced Persian cucumbers (about 3 small)
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
2T diced red onion
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp kosher salt
fresh black pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS
Toss all ingredients together and serve.

Cranberry Pecan Slaw

INGREDIENTS
2) 11oz bagged cole slaw mix
1 large Gala or Honeycrisp apple – chopped
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup chopped pecan

Dressing:
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup sour cream (can substitute with yogurt)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2% honey
1/2 tsp salt

DIRECTIONS
1. Add slaw mix, apple, cranberries, pecans and onions to a large bowl. Too to mix all ingredients. Set aside.
2. In a small bowl, add mayo, sour cream, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper. Whisk together until smooth. Pour 3/4 of dressing over slaw and toss until mixed well. Add remaining dressing if desired.
3. Serve immediately. Slaw can be stored, covered in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Toss slightly.

Zucchini Boats

INGREDIENTS
3-4 smallish zucchini
2T fresh parsley
2T fresh basil
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
3/4 cup panko
3.5T olive oil

DIRECTIONS
1. Cut the ends off the zucchini
2. Cut in half lengthwise
3. Scoop out center seeds (this is what makes it watery)
4. Put on a sheet pan and brush with oil and salt
5. Turn them over (scooped side down)
6. Cook at 425 degrees for 12 minutes
7. Turn them back over
8. Fill the cavity with panko mixture
9. Put them back in the oven for 8-10 minutes until browned and crisp

Chicken Caprese

INGREDIENTS

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
1T olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp dry Italian seasoning
4 thick slices of ripe tomato
4 slices of fresh mozzarella cheese
2T balsamic glaze
2T thinly sliced basil

DIRECTIONS

1. Heat a grill over medium heat
2. Drizzle 1T of olive oil over chicken and season to taste with salt and pepper
3. Sprinkle Italian seasoning over the chicken
4. Place the chicken on the grill and cook for 3-5 minutes per side, or until done. Cook time will vary depending on the thickness of the chicken breasts
5. When chicken is done, top with a slice of cheese and cook for one more minute
6. Remove from heat and place chicken on a plate. Top each breast with a slice of tomato, thinly sliced basil and salt and pepper to taste
7. Drizzle with balsamic glaze and serve

Peanut Butter Pie

INSTRUCTIONS
1 graham cracker crust
1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream
1.5 cup creamy PB (or crunchy PB for more crunch)

DIRECTIONS

1. Soften ice cream enough to swirl in PB completely (considerably soft)
2. Mix in PB as evenly as possible
3. Pour into crust and freeze
4. Remove a few minutes before serving for easier cutting

A Neighborly Hello

(This article contains company references but is not a sponsored post. I am a dedicated customer and paid for all products myself.)

My husband and I recently drove around our new neighborhood, admiring the California spring flowers in our neighbor’s yards. I continue to be absolutely amazed at the magnitude of many plants and the vibrancy of the colors.

I had my camera with me so Scott slowed down or stopped for me to get out and snap a few pictures.

The next day I had an idea:
I sent some of the pictures to Artifact Uprising to get some of their matte-finished, 4×4 prints of my neighbor’s flowers. Artifact Uprising prints are difficult to describe. The paper is almost cardboard-level thick and the photo finish has an artistic quality to it. I have used their prints for many special occasions and this seemed like a good reason to turn to their specific printing quality.

I was excited to receive the photos in the mail this week. I made white cardstock, folded cards to support the photos (which I had printed with a white border – you can opt to not have a border at all.)

I then wrote a quick handwritten note inside, thanking the various neighbors for ‘beautifying the neighborhood’. Scott and I drove the same route, collecting their mailing addresses. I stamped a Paper Source ‘HELLO’ onto the back flap (Paper Source is my favorite stamp maker and I adore their large-flap envelopes) and voila’!, a quick little note thanking our neighbors for their hard work.

Everyone likes for their hard work to be noticed. And can you imagine receiving a card in the mail with a picture of YOUR yard on the front?!

It was such a simple way to lightly introduce ourselves to some of our neighbors – and to do it in a way that makes them feel appreciated.

This process could easily be done with neighbors you already know. I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t want an unexpected pat on the back! Planning and executing a yard design is challenging and expensive and takes a great deal of patience and a bit of trial and error. I appreciate the time they put into making a beautiful spot of land.

And when you reeeeeeally want to say you care? Don’t forget the washi tape! 🙂

Rosemary and Time

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When we first moved into our California house, there was a VERY overgrown bush tucked in between the oleander and a yet-to-be-determined hedge. It was overgrown and dead in places and clearly hadn’t been manicured or tended to for quite some time.

It was on the backlist of things to get around to.

Any yet, one day as we were clearing out another area of the yard, I wandered over and dug a little closer. As soon as I touched it’s branches I knew it was rosemary. Not the little rosemary we grew in clay pots back in the midwest, but a huge bush of an herb. And ohhhh, did it smell heavenly.

Scott got out his big hedge clippers and we went at it. I hesitated, thinking I should probably google when the best time was to trim back a rosemary bush, but it was in such bad shape we thought ‘what the heck’ – what could we possibly do that’s worse than how it looked now?!

As he cut and discarded, trimmed back and tossed out, I grabbed a few sprigs for myself.

And then I grabbed a few more…

An armload of the rosemary went to a new friend in California and the rest I took into the garage to let dry.

Instead of trimming it all the way down to the ground, we left a little of it to stretch out and breathe some fresh air, now that it was newly free to grow and spread with all the room we’d given it.

One evening we found ourselves in front of the tv to watch a christmas movie so I plopped down on the floor with the dried rosemary stems and stripped the herbs from each stem (insert an achy back but fingers that tingled with the aroma of fresh rosemary oils.)

I made the following recipes I want to share with you. We used our backyard rosemary but you could also use the fresh rosemary you buy at the grocery store or garden center.

  1. Lavender Rosemary Bath Salts (we even used dried lavender from the lavender bushes we planted earlier in the fall)
  2. Lemon and Rosemary Sugar Scrub
  3. Lemon Rosemary Bath Salts
  4. Williams-Sonoma Potpourri
  5. and even though I haven’t made it yet, I’m sharing a recipe for extracting rosemary oil to make essential oils and
  6. Infused-oil Rosemary

Our kitchen has been smelling fab.u.lous lately, I’ll tell you that!

First, this Lemon and Rosemary Sugar Scrub. Oh my! It smells unbelievable! Winter brings dry skin. Elbows, heels, arms and legs. They all suffer from the lack of moisture in the air. The defoliating properties in this sugar scrub are both healthy for your skin as well as a healthy aroma in the shower.

Rosemary oils are an antiseptic. They protect skin cells and are very good for your skin and hair.

Lemon and Rosemary Sugar Scrub

1C extra fine granulated sugar
1/2C grapeseed oil
2T dried rosemary leaves
1 tsp lemon essential oil
1/2 tsp rosemary essential oil
1/2 tsp lemon zest

Combine all ingredients together. If it’s too thick, add more grapeseed oil. Too thin, add more sugar.

Store in an airtight container.

Use within one month.

Williams-Sonoma Potpourri

2C water in a pot

Slice up one lemon – put in pot and bring to a boil

Add a few sprigs of rosemary

1/2 tsp vanilla

Simmer – adding water as needed

Lavender Rosemary Bath Salts

1C Himalayan sea salt
1C Epsom salt
1/2C coarse Kosher salt
10-20 drops lavender essential oil
2T crushed, dried rosemary (pulse in the food processor a few times)
2-3T dried lavender buds

Combine the salts, lavender buds and crushed rosemary

Add the essential oil and mix thoroughly

(You can add purple food coloring…I didn’t.)

Store in an airtight container.

Lavender is a go-to essential oil. It’s a stress reducer (perfect for bathtime, no?) and has anti-inflammatory properties. I usually go through my lavender oil more quickly than others because I use it a lot at night for relaxation and sleep. (Funny sidenote: Scott read somewhere that it causes men to lactate so that’s usually an ongoing joke at night too!) 

And speaking of Scott.

Another ongoing ‘joke’ between us since we first met is our ‘role reversal’ when it comes to bathing. Scott is a hard-core bath taker. (As are his parents before him.) He relaxes and enjoys it and I……well, I…….hate baths. (please don’t hate me!)

I know! I know! Everyone loves to take a bath, right? No. Not me. They make me impatient and the thought of sitting in non-moving water kind of grosses me out. Needless to say, they are NOT relaxing for me.

However! I do really really love soaking my feet in warm water with good stuff dissolved inside. Now THAT is very relaxing and rejuvenating. Plus it’s a good activity while bingeing on Mrs. Maisel.

So we will use these bath salts in different ways – but each enjoying our own version of healthy, indulgent self-care.

Lemon and Rosemary Bath Salts

By the way…we used rosemary and lavender buds from our backyard and (fingers crossed!) eventually we will be able to use the lemons off our lemon trees.)

2C Epsom salts
1/2C baking soda
2-3T fresh dried rosemary, finely chopped
8 drops lemon essential oil
2-3T lemon zest

Combine Epsom salt and baking soda

Add half the essential oil drops, mix, then add the remaining drops

Mix in chopped rosemary and lemon zest.

Store in an airtight container.

The next two rosemary recipes I plan to make next…

Rosemary Essential Oil

Fill a pot with water. Put a bowl (or use a double boiler) on top of the pot of water with 2-3 ounces of dried rosemary leaves.

Cover the leaves with 2C of grapeseed oil

Simmer on low heat for 3 hours

Seal and store in a cool, dark place

Infused Rosemary Oil

1 pint jar

Clean and dry your rosemary – make sure there’s no water on the rosemary

Warm the olive oil on low heat for a few minutes. Make sure you don’t get it hot – that destroys the healthy properties.

Put some rosemary sprigs in the pint jar.

Pour the warm olive oil over the rosemary and fill the jar. The warm oil begins the infusion process with the rosemary. Set aside to cool.

Once cooled, seal the jar and store in a dry, cool, dark place for one week to complete the infusion process. After the week, you can strain out the rosemary or leave it in until you’re ready to cook with it.

The Kitchn has a great recipe for freezing the extra herbs to use later on in cooking and other DIY rosemary projects.

I hope these give you some ideas on how to use fresh rosemary in a variety of ways. I’d love to hear how you use rosemary – or other herbs – and let me know if you use one of these recipes and how it turned out. No time to make the recipes right now? Well by all means – pin it for later, right?!

I love simple DIY projects that merely take – a little rosemary and time…
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