Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sew,Mama,Sew! Grocery Bag Challenge

One of the things I wanted to do for Christmas this year was hand-make as many presents as possible. I also liked the grocery bag challenge on Sew, Mama,Sew! (for example, here) so I wanted to participate in that.Well, Here are some pictures of the things I made for my family.

For my sister, I made a multistrand necklace. I have had fun playing with beads recently, even if I haven't blogged about it.

For my Aunt, Grandma and stepmom, I made each a set of 6 placemats. I used two different fabrics for each, a solid color on one side and a coordinating fabric on the other side. I used fusible fleece to give them some softness. Of course I packaged these in my reusable grocery bags!

The men were the hardest to make things for. What do make them? In the end, I made everyone a grocery bag. And I intend to keep making them! I purchased other presents for my dad and stepdad and packaged them in bags.

For my brother, I wanted to get him a digital camera, so I made him a camera case. My brother is quite the outdoors man, and one day at Joann's I happened to about a yard of some camo fabric in the reminant bin. So I used that fabric to make both the camera case and a reusable bag. I wasn't sure what he would do with the bag--he doesn't grocery shop-- but I figured perhaps my mom would use it. Well, he seems to really like it and says he will use it. Who would have thought?

And then the biggest handmade christmas present will get its own post: my moms kitchen.Of course I made her a bag, but I couldn't put the kitchen in it.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Because I couldn't resist...

I went to Target a couple days ago and saw the plastic bulbs in the $1 sections, and I couldn't resist buying some.I've seen so many ways people have used them this year, I decided to go for my own interpretation.

I wanted to use clear tacks so they weren't visible, but I didn't have any. All I had were these large color tacks, so I decided to just go with it and make that part of the decoration. This area at the top of the stairs has been puzzling me since I moved in so I'm appreciating the decor there for now.


One of the things I've always wanted in my living space is a chandelier. I've admired many chandeliers in stores, other peoples houses and of course, many DIY projects in the blogosphere. The dinning area in my apartment as I inherited it from my apartment complex was pretty bland.

The Day I Moved In

After some decorating

It started like this:

Gosh, I took really horrible pictures of this! I got this baby at the local Habitat for Humanity Restore for about $15. I also bought a can of spray paint after a couple days of internal debate, and then got to spray painting.
If I learned anything while spray painting this, its that I'm not very good at spray painting.

I spray painted her outside on my balcony, at night. My neighbors probably think I am nuts.

After I painted, and painted, and painted, I decided it was time to hang her up. Hanging the chandelier up really wasn't as hard or scary as I thought it might be, but I definitely needed the help of a guy friend who had hung a hardwired fixture before. It took a while for us to figure out the exact order in which we should hang things, even with reading the directions. But it was a fun puzzle. Our arms were definitely tired after.

I wanted to add some "bling" to the fixture, so I added some ornaments I picked up from Target to each arm, and one from the center.

The next step will be to fix up the ceiling where I removed the old fixture. It looks like the fixture that was there was original, and that part of the ceiling was never painted. 

The light doesn't seem to be in the center of the space, so I've done my best to center the table under the light while keeping the table in the "center" of the area....I think it actually looks more off in these pictures than in real life.

I'm unsure what else I am going to do with this chandelier, if anything. If I could find a tasteful way to add more bling to it, I would do that. I'm also open to repainting a different color--if I could pick a different color. The one I originally picked works decently with the other things in the apartment, I think. You can see the plates in the background on the wall that have a similar color in them.




Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Where Have I Been? and Christmas Details

Well, the honest answer to the question "Where have I been?" is I've been at work. I presented at a conference this week in Colorado, and my boss is presented in NYC at the same time, which means I was quite busy getting both presentations ready to go.
Further, while in Colorado (Snowmass Village, near Aspen), I suffered from some fairly serious altitude sickness. For those of you that don't know, when you go to somewhere that has a high elevation, the amount of oxygen in the air decreases, meaning your body has to compensate. Most people handle this with little inconvenience, but I was one of the lucky few who had a really hard time. I got to take TWO separate ambulance rides to the hospital, on two different days. The first day was relatively mild, I was short of breath and vomitting, so I got some fluid and an oxygen machine to use while sleeping. The second day was much more scary, I was still slightly short of breath, but had a horrible headache, was vomiting much more violently (sorry if this is TMI) and was generally confused and not sure what was going on. That day I was given a bunch of different medicines to take-- 2 steroids, an anti-nausea medicine, and some pain medicine.

Why didn't I leave early? Well, I tried. But as luck would have it, all the flights out of Aspen on Saturday morning had been cancelled because of the weather, so all the afternoon flights were overbooked. There was no way I could have gotten out of Aspen/Snowmass Village on Saturday. So I had to wait until my normally scheduled departure on Sunday, and hope for the best. I stayed hooked to the oxygen machine (the granny machine, as I was calling it) every minute I could--this was not a portable one. It had to be plugged into the wall to work. And I spent most of the day resting in bed and wishing I could be at the conference and/or in the hot tub.
Needless to say, I am not anxious to hurry back to that kind of altitude. I have seen various numbers for the altitude of Snowmass Villiage, but the consensus is something between 8000 feet and 9000 feet.

And now, back to normal posts: Here's part of what I've done to spruce my apartment up for Christmas:

The beginning of December meant some subtle changes in the decor around my apartment. My Christmas decorations aren't as elaborate as some that I see on blogs, but what I do makes me happy. One of the first things I did was change the filler for the big vase on the counter in my kitchen. Earlier this summer I got a whole bunch of lemons at the Salvation Army for very, very little, and they had lived in the vase until now.

I replaced the lemons with some purple ornaments I got a couple years ago.

I also replaced what was one the glittery pink pumpkins on my dinning table with a more seasonally appropriate centerpiece:

Ellie made a rare appearance in a picture to give us her opinion, and it doesn't look to good.

The silver beads are of the same type that I used for my tree--which can also function as a centerpiece.

And finally, I pulled out the Pièce de résistance-- the pink Christmas tree.

Yes, you probably notice that the armoire isn't around--I'll have to explain that in a later post (I am so behind!)

I also put up some multicolored lights around the sliding door in the living room, and some snowflake ornaments on the windows.

Edited to add: I took some better pictures of the pink tree and the other trees I made. 


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Welcome to My Home, Volume 4: The Salvation Army

I recently made a few purchases at the Salvation Army that I wanted to share. Both pieces were purchased with projects in mind. I'm sure looking at them you can easily imagine what I might want to do.

The tray was $1.99 and the jewelry box was $4.99. The jewelry box was conveniently priced on every.single.drawer, and also on the fake drawer on the top and the lid. 

Stay tuned to see what I do with these friends.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Christmas presents

Since the holiday season is officially "on", I've started thinking about what I will be gifting to my family this year. I have at least 8 people to consider for gifts, with others that will get smaller gifts. And this includes a range of people--from my grandmother to my 13 year old brother. In years past, I have often purchased things from the school I was at, but now that I'm no longer a student, thats not an option (plus I'm over it anyway.)
My family tends to gift eachother very practical things- my mother runs a daycare and goes through a lot of kitchen linens, so my gifts for her almost always include dishtowels and potholders (which might sound lame but she always appreciates them), my stepdad is a contractor and often works outside even in the winter, so lined carhart pants and laying pieces are key for him, as well as good tough work gloves.

Regardless, this year I don't want to do my "normal" Christmas thing. Last year I made candles and gave them to all my female family members, and this year, I want to take it a step further, and make ALL of my gifts. And apparently I'm not the only one! Over at (never home) maker, Ashley writes about how she would like to attempt a homemade Christmas (and also how shes otherwise decluttering her holidays) in this post titled Season's Greetings& Farewell to Stuff.

Along a similar vein, many people are suggesting that people wrap their gifts this season in reusable shopping bags. Sarah Richardson (of Sarah's House on HGTV) recommends this, and I see lots of great ideas at Sew, Mama, Sew! for how to make reuseable bags into pretty packages. I am planning to make use of these ideas--to start, I will make a bag like this
 to hold each gift. I made this bag using a pattern also from Sew, Mama, Sew!, which is super easy. You can find that pattern here: Classic Tote Tutorial

Then I will pretty them up even more, but using some of the ideas they blogged about yesterday. You can find the whole post here, but here is a picture that sums it up:
From Sew, Mama, Sew!
Since some of my family members actually occasionally read my blog, I can't go into real details yet about some presents. But I can tell you that I've so far used beads, yarn, ribbon, wire, fabric, and towels. Also I have already done a post about how while I'm home for Christmas, I will be seriously re-working my mom's kitchen (with only a little help from her). 

The trickiest part will be making something for my 13 year old, soon to be 14, brother. His top request is a video game, and while I am proficient in programming I am not a video game programmer!! (But wouldn't that be awesome?) If you have any ideas about what I could make for a 13/14 year old boy who likes camping, hunting and history, please, let me know!!

So what about you? Will you make some or all of your gifts this year?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My Mother's Kitchen: The Beginning

So the kitchen at my mother's house has seen better days. It's rather outdated. And since I have been keeping up with blogs, seen lots of kitchen make overs, have a good imagination and am slightly ignorant about how hard this might be, I've decided that my mothers Christmas present this year will be a makeover for her kitchen. I unfortunately don't have any GREAT pictures of just the kitchen, so bear with me here.

Actually, several years ago while home from college for Christmas, I repainted the kitchen. The kitchen originally had wallpaper, so I stripped that and then painted. (Ignore all the clutter in the coming pictures, plllleeease)

So to explain. The counter tops are a lovely royal blue, the cabinets are a rather dark wood and the floor is in bad shape. I kind of dig the pattern, in a "it's vintage" kind of way, but the condition of the floor is just not good. It's one of those floors that never looks clean regardless of when you last cleaned it. One thing that is hard to see from these pictures is the "peninsula" (you know, like an island but against the wall on one side). It is exactly the same in terms of counters and cabinets.

So during that visit many years ago, I took down the wall paper (which you can see I've started in the above pictures) and repainted.

And just for good measure, here is a picture of my adorable brother, his puppy and the ugly floor:

So obviously I have my work cut out for me. I'll explain in detail what I'm planning to do in a future post (perhaps next week...), but first, I want to know--what DIY updates would you suggest I attempt?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Some Winter Decorations

I can't really stomach calling this project "Christmas decorations" this early, and honestly, they're not for Christmas--they're for winter. I really like those feathered "trees" and wreathes that I've seen at stores the past couple seasons--Michaels, Joanns, even Target. Despite how much I like them, I just couldn't stomach the price these stores wanted. I've seen remakes of the wreath, but I don't recall any of the trees.

One day while browsing at Michaels, I came across some cardboard (Paper mache??) tree forms.
I bought three of them, because we all know to decorate in odd numbers, right?? (also, ignore the mess in the background of that picture.)
I also picked up two bags of white feathers. At first I was thinking maybe I would do three trees all with feathers, maybe of different colors. But then I decided to go in another direction, and do all silvery/white trees. Thus, I also picked up some white glitter and some silver strung beads meant for Christmas trees.
When I got home I gave them a quick spray with white spray paint, just in case the color shows through for some reason. 
Making the one with glitter was rather easy: cover that thing in glue and then shake on the glitter! 
The next one I tackled was the feathered one. I started at the bottom of the tree and hot glued the feathers around and around, moving up after I've finished a row. As you can see, Franklin was very interested in what I was doing. Or, he thought the feathers were a toy.
The feather tree used a surprising amount of feathers. I used about a bag and a half. 

Lastly I tackled the large tree. This one took the longest time and the most hot glue to complete. I simply wrapped the silver beads around, and around, and around, gluing gluing gluing. 
As you can see, when I started at the bottom of the tree, I wasn't paying a lot of attention to how the beads were stacking. Part way up I started squishing them together so there was much less white space showing. If I were insane and had tons of free time, I might try to remove all the beads and redo them. This tree took a lot of beads. I used three strings, all of which were about 6 feet long each. But, they are relatively cheap. I got two strings at Ikea, and the third at Target.

All together, I think they look pretty nice. My plan is to use them on my table, with some votive candles around them. Perhaps I will put this whole arrangement on a mirror to reflect the flame and silver even more.

Cost breakdown:
2 small trees: $1.99x2= $3.98
1 large tree- $2.50
glitter: unsure exactly- $2 maybe?
feathers- $1.99/bag x2= $3.98
silver beads- 3 strings at $2 each= $6
Total: $18.46 for THREE trees

vs ONE feathered tree on Amazon: 19.99 (and they claim this is 50% off)