Saturday, May 28, 2011

"Magic Tape"

Velcro on baby clothes? Brilliant! A friend sent a gift to baby Emerson a few weeks ago: a 3-piece set of Japanese clothes, which fasten with velcro. Super cute! And the ease with which I change diapers when he's wearing these clothes has gotten me wondering why we don't have velcro baby clothes in the US?! So much quicker than snaps! And who doesn't desire speed during a 3am diaper change?

Cute baby not included!

My favorite part: In Japanese, "velcro" is translated "magic tape!" Thank you for the gift, Katy, Craig & Kai!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Stenciling: A Lost Art

Stenciling isn't really en vogue anymore. We're more into vinyl decals. But it is so incredibly easy and feels natural and organic. My mom has been stenciling for years - she's the one that taught me! And great designers are using it again, in innovative ways. I think we lay designers are missing out! Here are some stencil projects that I am drooling over. Maybe stenciling is on it's way back...

Stenciled doormat from Lisa Leonard Online - Love!
If you're a member of my family, don't be surprised if you get something similar from me for Christmas next year :)

This stenciled floor from Casa Sugar is making me dream of stenciling my big front porch, which is in need of a make-over..

Another stenciled floor from Loft Life.

Stenciled wall at Apartment Therapy. I'm really loving grey & yellow these days.

Amazing graphic stencil on Isabella & Max Rooms. Who needs wallpaper?

Here are some stenciled items in my little nest.

A while back, I really wanted black and white shades to hang in my new kitchen. I was considering making them out of black and white fabric, but that seemed rather complicated for someone who has never made roman shades. Then I was perusing the clearance end-caps at Target (one of my favorite past-times) and I saw these neutral roman shades, just the size I needed, for $6! I had to go to two stores in order to find three in the right size, but at a whopping total of $18 for custom window treatments, it was well worth my time and gas money. I used some craft paint, with a fabric-safe additive (you can find it at JoAnns', Michaels, or any craft store), and an old stencil I had used for a past project, and voila! Custom window treatments.

I think they look great in my kitchen!

Yesterday I stenciled this old tray. It used to be shiny red (but I forgot to take a before picture - darn!). I bought it in a clearance bin during an after-Christmas sale, where they sell all the left-over decorations at 75% off. I used it for a while in it's original state, but this Spring I'm trying to "de-red" my house. There's too much red weighing us down, and I want it to feel more airy and light! Success, with this tray!

My first son was born on the 4th of July, and his power animal is the giraffe. So when we moved and re-did his room, we did our own twist on red, white & blue, with a lot of giraffes thrown in. We didn't have any artwork that went with our new theme, so I had to get creative. A small giraffe stencil from Michaels, and 3 square canvases did the job. This project was fun because it was so simple that he - at 2 years old - was able to help with the painting and stenciling.

So how easy is this? Very. I've yet to mess up a stenciling project - and that's saying something!

stencil brushes
craft paint
fabric painting medium

stencil brushes - they are round and fat - the bigger the stencil, the bigger the brush you need

craft paint (for this project I used a wall paint sample... really any paint works)

fabric medium, if painting on fabric

stencil - this one is from Stencil Planet. I just used the little fleur de lis on the left.

Begin by positioning your stencil. You can use a spray adhesive or masking tape, but I generally just hold it tightly. An adhesive is most important when you're doing a large area, or an intricate pattern.

Dip your brush in the paint, and then blot most of it off on a paper towel. You want the brush to be covered in paint, but almost dry.

Starting in the center of the stencil and moving out to each edge, tap lightly and quickly. For this little stencil (4x3 in), I tapped 50-100 times to cover the entire area.

Peel the stencil back carefully. Repeat!

I stenciled this fleur de lis pattern in two muted tones on this tray, for a layered effect.

When I was growing up, my mom made her own stencils with plastic and an exacto knife. So in honor of her, I think my next project might be an owl stencil of this little blue guy, off the fabric in M's room. Isn't he cute?

Frugal Find: Kid's Clothes

Shopping is one of my weaknesses. I love searching for that perfect item amidst the sea of choices. But what I love even more than shopping is finding an incredible bargain. Sometimes I have to stop myself from buying something I don't need or want, just because it's a good deal! But one way I take care of my family is by saving us money. So I put my love of bargain hunting to good use.

Here's my most recent find: Whenever I'm in Target, I cruise quickly through the kid's clothes, and check out the clearance racks. I buy things my boys will need when they're a good deal, rather than when we need them. For example, my boys need t-shirts for this summer, so I've been on the hunt for them. BabyGap has great clearance racks, so I headed there first a few weeks ago. But the t-shirts were still $8-$10 on clearance! So I resisted. A couple days ago, while cruising through Target, I found a stash of t-shirts for $1.12! So I stocked up. I got my toddler a couple for this summer (they're already in the wear & wash rotation - so no pics here!), and then I planned ahead:

Cute matching T's for my boys - they'll fit next summer!

A 2-piece sweater/pants set with cute details for $4.24! Emerson will be able to wear this in a year or so...

And this T for M to wear this summer was just too cute to pass up for $1.12!

Where do you find affordable kid's clothing? Any tips to share?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Simple Accessory Wall

I wish I had a "before" picture to show of our master closet. When we bought our house, it wasn't a closet at all... just the old stairs/cellar access to the basement. As part of a large remodel, we planned to build a floor with a trap door over the stairs (which are only necessary for moving things in & out that don't fit down the new spiral staircase), and then create a walk-in closet over the cellar stairs. Brilliant, right? Well, yes, but... we've lived here a year and a half, and the closet was only recently completed because of myriad complex issues. We've limped along with an un-insulated, rickety closet this whole time, featuring a door to the back porch, across which we hung a drooping closet rod. I'm amazed it didn't come crashing down in the middle of the night. During the winter months, our closet was so cold that we avoided opening the door. Big piles of clothes lived on our bedroom floor instead! A friend recently helped us finish our closet, and he did a fabulous job with a really crazy space! I'm not ready to show pictures of the whole space yet... it's still pretty unorganized. The fact that I am still between maternity clothes and regular clothes doesn't help - I have everything crammed in together. However, we are getting there slowly. A couple weeks ago, I dragged my husband to Home Depot in order to buy a peg board and an accessory kit. I had plans to turn an un-used cranny into an accessory wall to house my husband's fedora collection, along with my scarves, hats, purses and belts. He mounted it for me, and within a few moments, I had claimed every last inch of the wall! I suppose I need to use one of the pegboard scraps to make a space for his fedoras...

My inspiration for this project was this craft-room pegboard on This Blessed Nest.

It was super- easy and affordable. I drool over the ELFA custom closet supplies at The Container Store, but this was more in lines with our budget:

Pegboard cut to size - $15
Pegboard accessory kit - $8 (with lots of left-over pieces for future projects!)
3-Basket pegboard kit - $10
scraps to mount behind the pegboard so that it sits a little off the wall - free

TOTAL: $33

Not bad for a custom accessory wall! And the best part? I can rearrange it anytime I buy a new purse.

Owl Therapy

Although I didn't think so at the time, looking back, I realize that my first pregnancy was pretty easy: minimal nausea, plentiful resting, part-time job, no children demanding my attention... I had lots of time to dream & nest & plan. Heck, I even took a 3 week trip to Europe days after learning I was pregnant! General life chaos was at a minimum. Pregnancy #2, however, was a completely different story. Here's a snapshot of the chaos in our lives during those 9 months:

  • I spent my days occupying and caring for a precocious, extroverted, extra-verbal 2 year old - which takes an incredible amount of energy.

  • I was working part-time at our church (where my husband is a pastor), and there is always plenty of chaos behind the scenes at a church! Staff transition, money issues, disgruntled parishioners...

  • We had recently moved into our "older home with character" (read: "100 year old money pit"), with unforseen & serious plumbing issues.

  • 8 weeks before my due date, we embarked on a double-bathroom renovation/waste line re-do, which couldn't wait.

  • As part of the renovation, our master closet was temporarily moved into the nursery, and was unfortunately still there at the time of baby's birth. We literally had to step over gigantic piles of clothes that had no home.

  • I was sick. Nothing serious, just pregnancy aches and pains... migraine headaches, nausea, back & hip pain, general exhaustion.

However, I was still delighted to be pregnant with this new life, and cherished those months getting to know my new baby before anyone else. Because I had spent the first three months sipping ginger ale, nibbling saltines and taking deep breaths, completely opposite from Pregnancy #1 with my baby boy, I believed that this baby was a girl. Although I wouldn't say it out loud, even to myself, I was dreaming of tutus, headbands and dark little curls. So you can imagine that I was feeling a bit shell-shocked when we saw this image mere moments into our 20-week ultrasound, and heard our cartoonish Russian ultra-sound technician say, "You vant to know sex? (we nodded) Eeees boy."

We were definitely surprised. And my husband doesn't do well with surprises. Although I generally love them, surprises during these hormone-ridden, chaos-laden months weren't part of my plan. So in those seconds, I was bracing for a few difficult weeks adjusting to this news. However, miraculously, by the time the ultrasound was over, I had adjusted my expectations. I was excited to have a second little bundle of boisterous, house-wrecking energy... and most importantly, I had decided to decorate his nursery with owls. Why? I have no idea. I'd never considered owls before. In fact, I generally don't like children's rooms based on animal themes. But somehow the tangible idea of owls - stuffed owls, hanging owls, owls perched in trees - was helping me to cope with circumstances out of my control and outside of my expectations. I spent most of that afternoon looking at various owl fabric and owl paraphernalia online. I remember texting my mom that I had owls on the brain (she was delighted). Then I spent the next months creating a room just for my baby-to-be. Here are some pictures of the nursery that was birthed, with much love and creative energy, in preparation for the arrival of my precious little Emerson Reed. The stolen moments that I spent dreaming for, planning & creating this simple nursery with hand-made, budget-minded things and hand-me-down furniture, were my haven during those tumultous months. Little Emerson is only 9 weeks old, but he clearly loves his nursery - it's his favorite room to be in, and the owl mobile will stop his crying every time. I like to think I already knew him, even from within.

More on the details of Emerson Reed's nursery in an upcoming post!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

"Happy Spring" gift

A lovely friend of mine came to visit a couple weeks ago and brought me a "Happy Spring" gift.

Don't you love the way she labeled the herbs? You can see that there is a little scrap of handmade paper wrapped underneath each label.

Completely unnecessary and completely charming.

She's the one that taught me to appreciate beautiful paper. Thank you for the gift, G2. You're one of the best gift-givers I know! (and yes, even the mint came up!)