On being 40

28 Oct

I read a biography on Coco Chanel in the spring (I’ve been pretty good at my book-a-month resolution). Chanel’s influence on current fashion–fashion forever–is pretty amazing. Both little black dress and costume jewelry came from her. She was innnovative, smart and extremely savvy. She was obviously ahead of her time and many of the things she said are still very relevant today. This was my favorite line from the book:

Chanel’s growing exasperation with her aging clientele could be heard in her remarks, given in an interview with Vogue in 1938, which strayed from her normally pithy aphorisms: “At forty women used to exchange youth for elegance, poise, and mysterious allure, an evolution that left them undamaged. Now they measure themselves against the very young with defenses that can only be described as ridiculous.”

It’s a great reminder during my 40th birthday month. Lord, help me to be more like Coco.


Can dressing be easier? Maybe.

28 Sep

Hey, remember me? I’ve changed my goals (clearly) when it comes to this blog and am going to share when I feel like sharing. No pressure. No trying to make it a job (let’s face it, I’m too social to blog full time plus I like my real job). Just archive some of the home projects I feel like archiving. And when I come across tips that I think will help my friends, I’ll share them.

With those tips in mind, I’ve made serious strides in my closet throughout 2012 and have some thoughts to share.

In January I started the spring cleaning thing and did a serious purge on my closet.

I was inspired by this ebook called “The No Brainer Wardrobe” I downloaded it at Tiny Twig. The idea of having less clothes to choose from intrigued me. I looked at my closet each morning and there were lots of choices but, like many women, I felt I had “nothing to wear.”

In the ebook, it talks about the deleting process:

I think it is easier to start with the deleting process first. First for the
No pile are items that you are keeping out of guilt. Get that guilt out
of your closet at first chance. Don’t keep it because you got it as a
gift and feel bad because you never liked it. Just let it go. Don’t keep
it because it cost a lot of money and you never wore it. You never
wore it, so I doubt you’ll start now. Guilt and shame never make you
feel good. If you need to learn something from your mistake in
order to make the guilt go away, then vow to not buy something like
it in the future. Now, put it in the No pile.

I like the way the author is no-nonsense in how she told you to delete. It helped me a lot. The other thing that helped was visualizing who would get the clothes. I donated many to a local charity that our church supports and made two other piles–one for a guy friend at work who has five kids and a stay-at-home wife who suggested she may like some of the clothes and one for a Tween-aged friend who likes my style (or at least she gives me compliments). I’m small enough in tops that I thought she may get some wear out of some of the clothes. Both gals were appreciative and, even if they never wear the stuff, it made getting rid of them much easier.

The ebook also suggested that you switch all of your hangers to wooden ones. So I did. These were like $18 at Target and since the point was to get down to a limited number of clothes, I didn’t have to buy that many.

Wooden hangers may seem excessive when most hangers are plastic and practically free, but it did make a difference in how nicely my clothes looked. And no more hanger nipples.

I’m also really fortunate to have Molly as a friend. She’s forever chic and extremely talented in recommending clothes and outfits that fit your body shape. In May she came over and we discussed my need for good-fitting pants for my hippy (my word, not Mollly’s), petite frame and skirts tailored correctly. I took three skirts to have hemmed (meaning skirts I’d been wearing too long that were too long) and have been slowly adding to my pant situation.

Molly also put together a “look book” of outfits using my existing clothes. She snapped photos and put them into a binder for my reference. In general, Molly gives me confidence in my dressing. Oh, and you don’t have to be her personal friend to have her do this for you.

Still, after all of that purging, organizing and assistance, I still was spending too much time thinking about what to wear in the morning.

Then last week I ran across an article in the recent issue of More (ps – I really like that magazine). The Deputy Editor challenged herself to wear everything in her closet, like forced herself to wear every single item, and let her co-workers help her decide if they were keepers.

That’s a lot of pressure. I definitely work with some honest (like painfully honest) people who would do that for me. Plus I’ve done all this purging and styling . . . I should be sitting pretty pretty, right?

Well, I’m only four days in and it’s actually been great. I didn’t tell many people at work what I’m up to because I don’t really want their opinions, but it has actually helped my morning routine. It’s made dressing easier and quicker. Seriously.

Instead of marking all of the items with tape and then taking it off before wearing, like the More editor, I decided to just go in a row. Start on the left side of my clothing rack and go to the right. I didn’t rearrange or anything, so things are just in order the way they happened to get hung. I am just doing tops and mixing/matching pants and skirts as I go, but I truly came up with some decent ensembles (particularly by adding scarves or necklaces). Now it’s not “what to wear” but “what could I wear with that top to make it a complete outfit?” It’s fun.

So that’s my latest. I think any little thing that helps us even just a bit is worth sharing. Don’t you?

Getting Cocky

28 Apr

I went through a French Country stage when we first moved into our house and purchased this little baby at Tuesday Morning.

Yes, it’s pretty bad, but I thought it added some whimsy and  humor to the room. It’s not like I had roosters everywhere in some ’80s country fashion. But it needed to go or it needed an update. The lampshade was particularly ugly.

I hate to admit that we have been using it all these years–in our bedroom, where all bad choices seem to end up (that sounds really bad, I mean, from a design purchase sort of way, not in any other way).

One thing I really like about this lamp is the little finial. I think it’s cute. Plus the base is kinda retro-’80s, so I decided to keep that too.

I like the whole monochromatic trend that you see now, particularly in white. I thought about going white but that was too expected. I taped off everything but the base.

And put foil around the cord and harp.

And sprayed it all with this, which thankfully I had already in my really clean garage.

And it already looked pretty cool with just the primer.

But not as cool as it did when it was Valspar’s Gloss Luscious Green.

And even better back in the bedroom on my nightstand with a new shade from Target.

And that finial is still my favorite part.

Am I out?

6 Apr

Design trends fascinate me. It’s always interesting when I start liking something, and I think I’m the only one and then all of a sudden whatever-it-is is everywhere–on blogs, in magazines, at Target. I think I didn’t see this before but I guess I did. These trends must start seeping into my subconscious before I realize their influence.

That’s why this post “Are Coffee Tables Becoming Extinct?” from Hooked on Houses (one of my all-time favorite blogs) is giving me pause this week. It’s actually commenting on another blog post from Stylelist Home about 7 Decorating Trends That Are Becoming Extinct.

I’ve been thinking the same thing lately about some of my furniture–three pieces in particular.

First I’ve been wondering if I shouldn’t find a sweet fabric for this ottoman, originally meant for my Dressing Room, and move it into the living room in place of the coffee table.

I mean, I do like my coffee table.

It’s been perfect for stowing toys for the last seven years but I think we could do without it.

I’ve been also thinking I have too much wood in there lately–meaning wood-colored-wood. I got that idea from some post from someone that I can’t find now (Bad Blogger, Bad!) that warned about mixing things up with painted wood pieces. Seemed like a good idea for a room with a lot of brown wood furniture.

Anyway, the other two culprits are both in this photo.

The love seat and the armoire.

I wish the love seat were a full-size couch. When I bought them (in a rush in Ethan Allen when they were going out of business and their phones were ringing off the hook and Cathy was there and she’s a strong influence on me and I got in a frenzy and thought I needed them RIGHT NOW and I thought the price was good and looking back it really wasn’t . . . ) They are decent pieces of furniture. I still like the fabric and lines but they haven’t worn that well and they are very big and very deep. They take up a lot of room, but the love seat is an awkward size. I wish it was just another sofa and then I’d have symmetry and could mirror them in my living room, the world’s longest living room.

And as for the armoire, it seems like only yesterday my husband and I were out looking for the “perfect” armoire. It was actually 10 years ago, and I loved that thing for a long time.

It was so important to me at the time that you not see a hulking TV when you walked into our house. See, it looks pretty when it’s closed . . . but again, it’s brown and bulky. (Seems to be a theme in that room.) Right now we still need it because we’re still back in the Dark Ages with our “tubular TV” but eventually, when we get a flatscreen for that room, it won’t make sense.

Anyway, this is what I love about reading design blogs . . . not that it makes you unhappy about the things you have, but sometimes it helps to qualify your thinking. So tell me, any soon-to-be-dinosaurs that are bugging you?

A Banner Day

16 Mar

Today’s a good day! It’s Friday and 70+ degrees outside. The Jayhawks are in town playing in March Madness. And one of my favorite people in the world is moving into the neighborhood as I type.

I put together this banner this morning and put it on their new house’s front porch while they were at the closing.

I thought it was a fun way to show them our excitement, welcome them to the neighborhood, and let the rest of the neighbors get to know their family name.

I did a similar one for my 20-year reunion last summer. You can kinda see it in the background here.

And here it is later in the night.

They are so simple and kinda folksy, which I like.

Seriously, a few minutes to print out the letters at 400-point type and some time at Kinko’s (now known as FedEx Office, but I don’t agree with that so I still call it Kinko’s) to buy colored card stock and use their trimmer and glue stick, and you’re good to go. I hung them both with curling ribbon and used toe-nail clippers to make the cuts.

That bit of brilliance came from some blog that I read regularly but have done searches on all of them and can’t find the post. Grrr . . .

Anyway, I’ve been seriously giddy all day with excitement so I wanted to share. Here’s to you having a Banner Day!

A Total Money Makeover

13 Mar

This is off topic–not exactly about my house and my decorating but very much about how I live my life and why. I’m posting it because I had to speak in church on Sunday so I feel like I did my writing already this week and because it’s a great topic.

Last week our minister, Eric, spoke about the gift of being thunderstruck.  The whole time he was speaking, I was thinking about how I had been thunderstruck. It was a gift.

Eighteen months ago I picked up Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover and I was thunderstruck.

This book spoke to me right when I needed it most.

See, in our house, my husband Mike handled the big picture stuff.

He dealt with our long-term finances handling our 401-k choices, life insurance, IRAs, making decisions about mortgage re-financing and any other “bigger” investments.

I struggled to keep track of our everyday bills.

I was in charge of the checking account, paying mortgage and utilities, car payments, credit card bills, debit card spending ($4 here, $8 there) and never really balancing our checkbook (turns out few Americans do).

It overwhelmed me. Mike would ask how our finances were and I would snap. I’m a marketing director with a journalism degree. I don’t do numbers. I’m no good at math. I would try to do a home budget for us but it never seemed to stick.

And then I read this book.

It’s just a common-sense approach to personal money management and paying off debt, but it truly changed our lives

Mike and I signed up for a Financial Peace University class and got on the same page in terms of where we are financially. I was finally engaged in the big picture stuff and he was finally aware of what was happening day to day. It hasn’t been easy but it’s definitely worth it.

I got so excited about Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University that I asked Eric if I could facilitate a class for Countryside (our church).

He agreed and we started in September with 10 families represented. Among those 10 families, we had more than $560,000 worth of debt.

That DIDN’T include home mortgages. It was lots of student loans, car loans, credit card bills, etc . . .

A few of the families had no debt. They just wanted to get organized and learn how to budget, pay for college, buy insurance, and other aspects of personal finance.

The course is 13 weeks.

In those 13 weeks we met every Monday for two hours. We watched a video of Dave Ramsey speaking about different elements of money management. We discussed what we learned and we shared our successes and challenges in becoming debt-free.

We also collected all of the credit card offers we received in the mail. . .

This is only some of them.

The other thing we did in that 13 weeks was we paid off more than $85,000 worth of debt! (applause happened here)

So, how’d we do it?

We got MAD at that debt.

We got seriously organized in looking at our finances.

We learned how to budget.

We learned how to live within our means.

And we supported each other as we chipped it away.

So we’re starting another class on Monday, March 19.

The cost of class is $89. You get a book, workbook, all of the lessons on CD, and the support of your peers. You also get a lifetime membership to Financial Peace University and you can always come back to class for a refresher.

Sign up if you’re interested, or just come to the first class and check it out. It will change your life!

When Mike and I first started doing Financial Peace University, I was a little embarrassed. I didn’t want anyone to know that we had debt and were doing a video class to help us. I was frustrated that we were in that situation even though Mike works with investments, but it’s like the old saying the cobbler’s kids wear holey shoes.  It was time to put OUR financial house in order.

Some major home renovations in the middle of a job change and a rental house emergency had gotten us there . . . but it wasn’t the first time. We had jacked up credit cards before but then paid them off. And when I say I tried to budget, I really did. It was just hard because our income can be inconsistent.

Reading Total Money Makeover was an absolute epiphany in my life. We’ve made some sacrifices in the last 18 months but it’s made us a stronger family. Mike uses Dave Ramsey’s principals in his work and it really resonates with people. And we have changed our ways. I create a budget every month. We pay in cash a lot more. Instead of the mall, I go to thrift stores when the shopping urge hits. We no longer “have” to take a yearly trip to Mexico (although I can’t wait to get back to that). And I’m thrilled to say that we just refinanced our home to a 15-year mortgage, and it was the first time in 10 years of marriage that I was actually engaged in the process.

The truth is I really like facilitating these classes at church. It feeds my soul to share with others as they figure this stuff out. I enjoy doing my budget each month and think that living more frugally has made me more creative.

Now stay tuned for more of that creativity and simplified living. And meanwhile, enjoy your week!

Personalized Pizza Peel

4 Mar

Hi guys, my first Guest Post (yay!). My sister Kim, who lives in Denver, has made us some great gifts over the years and this Christmas was no exception. Enjoy!

Stacy asked me to guest blog about the personalized pizza peel that I made her for Christmas. I found the wax paper transfer idea on Unexpected Elegance while blog hopping one night and became obsessed with giving it a try.

Wax paper, ink jet printer, credit card and an old cutting board–I had it all lying around. I grabbed a cool French graphic over at the The Graphics Fairy and was on my way.

A Google search found pizza peels at Bed, Bath and Beyond for $9.99. With a 20% off coupon in hand, I decided this was an even better gift then I originally thought–cheap.

I really liked the shape and size of the peels but the colorless pine was begging for a bit of stain. Staining something designed to serve food? Wasn’t so sure about that. I searched around a bit but no one seemed to have a solid answer. So I did what I always do when I can’t find comfort in the World Wide Web, I called upon the expertise of strangers working in the real world. I called one of the local woodworking (insert conundrum here such as plumbing, antique, etc) stores in town. I always keep my fingers crossed to get an experienced-sounding person on the phone, perfectly willing to give lots of, in this case, woodworking advice. And if his advice doesn’t start with “You need to get your husband…,” I drink it all in.

According to Howard, all stains are non-toxic once they dry. I didn’t double and triple check Howard’s factoid but I wasn’t overly concerned since no one on my gift list has a home wood-burning pizza oven. I’m assuming that my peels would be more decorative than functional, but I wanted to be more safe then sorry. So I set up shop on the pool table downstairs and stained both sides with some Golden Oak we had left over. Since I’m sure the peels are cheapo pine, I used a wood conditioner first in hopes to get the stain as even as possible. I gave each side two coats of stain with a light sand between. Make sure you do both sides so you have an alternative blank side if your first transfer doesn’t work.

While I loved the graphics, I wanted to personalize my gifts with the recipients’ last names. Using PowerPoint, I gave it the same look and feel as one of the antique French graphics that I liked. I found myself drawn to the foreign word examples, and since it’s a pizza peel, I created mine in Italian. Using an online translator to figure out the specific words and spellings, I came up with this:

It says “Murphy Family Restaurant, 88th Street” in Italian or close enough.  Once you finalize it, print it out on plain paper, line it up on your wood and mark the corners lightly with a pencil. Before you print on the wax paper, reverse the image (in PowerPoint, check the Mirror Image” check box under Print, Properties, Finishing tab). I had the best success printing in the “Normal Fast” Print Quality. The ink often smeared inside the printer when printing in the slower, “Best” Print Quality option.

The original instructions said to feed the wax paper through carefully but often mine jammed the machine. I made several of these and found taping to wax paper to sheet of card stock worked better.  I cut the wax paper the exact same size with a paper cutter and taped it to the card stock on all four corners, and it fed through without issue. (I was freaking out a bit, because had it jammed and ruined my printer, my cheap little peels would be one expensive gift.)  Here’s how I taped it:

Make sure your graphic prints reverse.

Seems simple I know, but when it comes out of the printer, the ink is sitting on top of the paper so you have to handle it carefully. Taping it this way allowed me to quickly run an X-acto blade between the wax paper and card stock without damaging the ink. Once you free the wax paper, carefully flip it over and line the right corners (or left if you’re a south paw) on your pre-marked corners before you touch anything to the wood. Working from right to left or left to right, use a credit card to burnish (rub) the wax paper over the wood. It’s a very similar process to applying shelf paper (or a protector cover to your iPhone if you are not an anal shelf paperer like me), but you only have one chance to get it down even.

Do not move the paper or the image will smudge. If you want the ink from your image to be darker, lightly wet the wood before applying the transfer. I rubbed my peels down with a barely damp cloth, after I cut the tape and right before I flipped the transfer to apply. To polish them up and make them look more authentic (and provide a little protection from potential toxins), I applied a few coats of food grade bee’s wax. Overall I was very happy with the way they turned out.

Me too! Have a good week, All. Thanks to Kim for this post!

Oh Valentine!

9 Feb

I don’t go wild with Valentine’s decorations but I do a few things to bring some pink and red into my home.

I made a bunch of these yarn hearts with my daughter Charlotte last year. We had fun and they were easy. Here’s a link if you’re interested. I hung them on my hideous fireplace with fishing line.

I found these antique silhouettes years ago at the Walnut Antiques Fair. I was holding them back thinking I wanted to change out the frames, but I think they look kinda sweet “as is” on my piano.

I also changed the candles in my hanging candelabra ($1 find at an estate sale) to pink.

“Asabelle” (Charlotte named her) got a warm but springy scarf (oh and those furry two have been keeping me on my toes lately too).

And food also makes for a fun decoration during February.

Sometimes holiday decorations make me feel like a frustrated grade school teacher, but changing up my home decor helps to brighten the long days of winter. Am I the only one who feels this way?

A Bold and Brilliant Move

31 Jan

All hail JC Penney! The large retailer announced that as of tomorrow it will be “permanently marking down all of its merchandise by at least 40 percent so shoppers will no longer have to wait for a sale to get the lowest prices in its stores.” This is what the AP reported on January 25. Well, I say, good for them!

Whether you like JC Penney or think they stink, you must appreciate this bold marketing move.

Since the economy tanked a few years ago, retailers have conditioned us into coupon shopping and waiting for “the big one!” (yeah, you, Younkers and Nebraska Furniture Mart). I’m sick of it!

I went shopping this past weekend for my daughter’s seventh birthday and was irritated that I didn’t have an Old Navy or Gap coupon stashed away in my purse. Should I wait for the mail to come to see if Gap was going to send something? Should I see if I can print something off online? I know they don’t mean to charge $36 for a pair of little girls’ 6x jeans. They’re the Gap. They have marked them up knowing that most shoppers will wait for the sale or use a coupon.

If you think you haven’t been affected, think about the last time you bought something at Bed, Bath & Beyond without one of its “never expiring” coupons. Don’t you feel like a mouse in a maze?

I hope this move saves JC Penney. I really do. For the record, I like them. They have some great Pottery Barn-esque home items specifically in their lighting department, and my favorite (ok, only) skinny jeans are from there. JC Penney is a classic that has been around a long time.

I mean think about it . . . can’t you recall poring over the big ol’ catalog in the 1970s, dog-earring your Christmas gifts, or looking at the Men’s underwear pages and giggling? I can.

Can’t pass by

23 Jan

I’ve been thrifting a lot lately. It’s something my almost-four-year-old and I do on our afternoons together. He’s a good companion and surprisingly patient throughout these adventures. He likes to look at all the schtuff (as I call it) too, and if he picks something up, I don’t get stressed because most of it is less than $5.

After years of antiquing, I see things at these thrift stores that I can’t pass by. I KNOW it’s worth more than what they are asking. This could get bad, though. Yes, I found a chair for $6 that I found on ebay for $130,  but I can’t do that every time. I don’t have the storage space and I don’t want to keep something just because it was a smokin’ deal. But what’s a girl to do?

I heard milk glass was really hot right now. Brides love it! I think Martha did a segment about Milk Glass Weddings. The things that look like open-bottomed vases are actually milk glass shades that would look awesome hanging over a breakfast bar or island. They were 99 cents each. How can I leave them? Some other wannabe thrift blogger like myself will just snatch them up if I don’t!

And this ironstone platter. It’s only about 8″ long but it’s solid and heavy and I’ve been watching my friend Cathy buy these for years. I had to grab it for $1 in her honor, right?

And enamelware? Can’t, can’t pass it by. My mom still uses her enamelware double-boiler and I’ve always had a soft spot for anything with red. I used the bowl for my Christmas centerpiece and just found this covered pot last week.

And these little plates were adorable. They look Art Deco, I thought. They are only 6″ in diameter but the design is so cute. I actually had a  store in town in mind when I picked these up. I guess I have dreams of being a “picker” . . .

And this was my most extreme purchase but again I think it’s worth a ton more than the $20 I paid.

It’s actually about 10.5 inches tall with an open bottom. Again, I think it’s Art Deco in design and it looks like Milk Glass. People love vintage light fixtures, and it’s cool. But what do I do with it? I asked the store if they wanted it (that and the milk glass), but they “passed.” There goes my dreams of being a picker.

What do I do with all of this stuff? I don’t have the time right now to open an Etsy store? I love the idea but that’s a lot of work in terms of photography, marketing, shipping, etc.

My friend Steve has an antique booth that I could piggyback on probably, although his taste is decidedly more primitive. He says he can always use “smalls,” an antiquer’s word for little things, not furniture or anything big. So I guess I’ll give that a try.

What about you? Is there anything you can’t pass by?