A post for Anna: Homemade Vanilla Update!

So a while ago (ummm 6 months actually…) I posted about making homemade vanilla as an add-on for some Christmas gifts. I have the directions and how-to in the first post, so really all that was left to do was bottle the final product (assuming it didn’t suck). The day before we left for our Christmas travels, I strained the vanilla through my coffee filter (to get out all of the bits of solid vanilla), and poured it into jars I bought at World Market. Mostly, I bought the jars because they were the right size and I thought they were cute, plus they weren’t too big. The finished product?


I fished out a full vanilla bean and put one in each of the jars, just because it looks pretty. The final review? Pretty good! I think the vanilla tastes pretty much exactly like store bought real vanilla. I don’t really think it tastes better or worse, I can’t even tell the difference in anything that I’ve used it in so far. The only problem I had with finishing this project was the jars. They don’t seal as well as I was hoping, so I had to be very careful in transporting them.

So, that’s about it! Anyone who was waiting for an update on this post can thank Anna for consistent reminders until I finally put it up, haha. I’m not sure why it took so long, except that I don’t think the update is all that exciting. I made the vanilla, and it is vanilla-y.


Pinterest Challenge: Office Shelves!

Guess what time it is…. that’s right Pinterest Challenge Time! I get so excited whenever Young House Love posts another challenge, because it really gives me that extra push to choose and execute a project quickly. Although this time, I was actually a little bummed at the timing because I just did one of my very favorite projects ever last weekend– painting my office stripes! Still, the office is still a work in progress and the next item on my agenda was getting something up on that big bare wall.

As I’ve said before, the putting-stuff-on-the-wall finishing part of decorating is by far the hardest part of the process for me. I’m always very excited and inspired to do the big stuff. The painting, the building, and whatnot. But the actual decorating part of home decor, the hanging items on walls and picking up knick-nacks for display? Beyond my comfort zone or skill set. Which is why, with the exception of my gallery wall,  I just hang up one big item per wall and call it done.

The problem with the wall in the office is that it was really way too big to just hang one item and have the wall look adequately decorated. But I didn’t want to do another “gallery wall” type thing because I didn’t want to cover up too much of my lovely stripes. Here’s a reminder on what I was working with after I painted stripes last weekend.



I was chatting to my mom on the phone last week, lamenting the issue, when she suggested that I do white floating shelves on the white stripes. She thought it would look cool to have the shelves sort of blend into the stripes and almost look like whatever I put up was floating. That way it looked decorated, but didn’t take away from the stripes too much. It was better than any idea I had, so I decided to give it a try. Because drilling into a newly painted wall? My idea of a good time. (Except, not at all. So nerve-wracking thinking you might mess your wall up!).

I looked through my pins on pinterest and found a photo I’d pinned with white shelves and overlapping items. I thought it looked really pretty and layered.

Family Photos Two-BH& G July 1998 2(source)

And thus, my pinterest challenge was born. First things first, I had to get some white shelves. I keep a closet full of not-being-used decor items that I’ve collected over the years because you never know when you might want to use something again. In there, I found a set of three shelves I’d bought from target maybe five or so years ago. They were all scratched up, and black.


Two layers of gloss white spray paint later, and they were ready to hang. To figure out spacing, I measured the length of each shelf, and then centered each one one along the 1/3 mark of the wall. So, for example, my wall was 132 inches long, if you divide that by four you get 33 inches. I centered each of the three different-sized shelves over the three dividing lines. Which I don’t think I’m explaining very well so I did a rough sketch below of how I figured it out. Each black bar represents a shelf, and I just centered it over each vertical line.

shelf spacing

As for what to put on the shelves… I was at a bit of a loss. I decided that it was best to just grab whatever I could find around and put SOMETHING up. I can always change it easily later (the beauty of shelves! It takes about 2 seconds to swap things out), but having something up will look better than nothing, even if it isn’t the exact perfect thing.

The first thing I grabbed is this amazing Alice in Wonderland book that B got me for Christmas. I’ve been trying to add small amounts of pink throughout the office and I thought this would look great with the other pink.


Next up, I grabbed a yarn-wrapped letter I had downstairs (our last name starts with M), and two pictures of the cats that I had already framed and were sitting in the decorating closet.


Last up, and my favorite, I grabbed two other framed photos from the decorating closet and an 8mm video camera I had downstairs. The photo of B and I is from our engagement session. The giraffe photo is one that I took a few years ago that I have just always loved.


And the full effect…..



I love it! I’m so glad that I got over my indecision-induced paralysis and just got it done. I am not at all sure that what is up on the shelves now is going to stay up there, but for now I think it looks great and certainly a ton better than a boring un-adorned wall. It might have even given me a little bit of confidence and momentum to get things up on some other bare walls around here. Check back later this week to see how project get-shiz -on-walls goes! Regardless though, I’m claiming a completely non-sarcastic “Nailed It” for this edition of the pinterest challenge! 


One Hour Dog Bed

It’s crappy iPhone picture project time– woot! I have impulse control issues. Sometimes I get an idea in my head, and I try to ignore it, but then I just HAVE to do it immediately. And usually  I can’t be bothered to go get my nice camera and take nice pictures, I just do a few quick snaps with my iPhone. I’m working on it.

The project I had to do immediately last week was make a dog bed. After I started working in my office again, I started to feel badly because Stew always follows me wherever I go and there was nothing nice for him to lay on in my office. He had to lay on the floor. Oh, the humanity of it. Lucky for him, I always keep my scraps from any projects I do. You never know when you’re going to need some scraps for a quick impulsive project, if you’re me anyways.

This ended up being such a fast and fun project I had to share. First I pulled out some scraps of fabric from various quilts I’ve done that I still really like, and just sort of laid them together.


Then I had to measure Stew, got to know how big the bed has got to be! I made it just a little bigger than him, 20×35.


I thought seven was a few too many fabrics for this size, so I picked my favorite five and laid them out in an order I thought looked nice. And yes, there is pink in my (boy) dog’s bed. He’s secure in his masculinity. I trimmed the fabric into strips of various widths that added up to 22.5 inches (I wanted a 20 inch finished width + quarter inch seam allowances for each side of the five fabrics). I sewed them together and then trimmed the final piece down to 35.5 inches long (35 inch finished product + quarter inch seam allowance on each end).


I didn’t have a single piece of fabric big enough for the back that I wanted to sacrifice, so I used a few strips of plain light blue fabric scraps sewn together. And here is where I made a big mistake, because I was just doing this on the fly without paying too much attention— Yep. I sewed the back with the seams OUT instead of in. But, since that side will always be on the floor, and since it is just a dog bed for me, and since I was trying to be quick about things, I just let it be. I hope Stew won’t mind.


To stuff the pillow, I used scraps of quilt batting that I just piled into the general shape and size of the pillow, then stuffed it into the side of the pillow I’d left open. I sewed the opening shut with my machine (again, not super concerned about seams because ya know… it’s a dog bed). 

Ta da! All done (don’t mind the mini paper stripes I had taped to my wall to decide on stripe width).
image_4And Stew? Well, he was so grateful for a soft place to lay that he immediately rushed to the pillow and flopped down, sighing with clear satisfaction. 
Just Kidding. My dog– who ALWAYS finds the softest place to lay in any room– saw me spend an hour working on this pillow and promptly refused to go near it. I had to pick his ass up and set it on the pillow to get the photo (note the annoyed look in his eyes). And for the last week he has wholly ignored it. Today, finally, he did humor me a bit by putting his head on it…. although I kind of feel like he’s just mocking me now.


Oh well, at least it’s cute. And hopefully he’ll eventually give in and enjoy it, since that was sort of the point. But even if not, it only took an hour so I’d say it was well worth the effort just to get it off my mind.

Anyone else have project impulse control issues?


Organize-a-thon Projects 2 and 3

Happy Presidents’ Day all!! I had the most fantastic weekend. I think it is safe to say that I’ve gotten my inspiration back. Lately I see nothing but projects I want to do, and I am all motivation to get them done. I have no idea how long this will last so I figured I had better take full advantage of my motivation while it’s here.

I had the day off work, and nothing to do until 2pm when a good friend from out of town was stopping by for a visit. B had to work, so I was on the hunt for something to organize. Given my high level of motivation, I figured I ought to tackle the worst area of our house– the spare bedroom without a purpose. This used to be our office (which we never once used ever). Then when I made my office in one of the other bedrooms, we moved the futon into this room and things went downhill quickly.

The last time we cleaned this room (Um, the only time) was New Years Eve 2010. And then only because we hadn’t yet unpacked the our boxes from moving into this room (we moved in on January 30, 2010) and had set a goal for ourselves to get everything unpacked before the end of the year. Technically, we met our deadline-woot! Anyways, this is where random stuff goes to die. We tend to just toss things (literally) into the room when we don’t know where else to put them. And today, I fixed it. First– the spare room in all its messy glory.





And one more close shot of the futon/floor area…. yikes.


I decided to set my phone timer for one hour and see what happened. I don’t know why I’m obsessed with timing myself lately, except that I feel constantly amazed by how long cleaning/organizing projects DON’T take. I didn’t rush, and I was hoping that by the time my one hour was up I’d at least have made good enough progress to inspire me to keep going. But then something awesome happened. I finished. And I saw this.


More than ten minutes still on my timer. Which means I cleaned this whole room in under 50 minutes. SERIOUSLY? Why do I wait so long to do these things?! Check it out. Clean clean cleaaaaan.





I threw out a ton of stuff, particularly a ton of papers. We just kept way too much stuff we don’t really need. In the end, this is my stack of “too file” stuff. Over half of that is related to our home closing, so this is not a bad stack at ALL.


I think that B and I probably need to overhaul our whole filing cabinet (which we’ve not looked at since– you guessed it– New Years Eve 2010). He was so excited that I got the room cleaned that he said he’s more than happy to sit down with me next weekend, clean out the filing cabinet, and find a home for this stack of documents. In fact, when I texted him a photo of the room after it was clean, his exact response was: “WOW. My socks are knocked off.” haha— love him. Here’s a closer shot of the same bed/floor area after I decided to make the futon back into a couch rather than a bed… oooo clean.


Which isn’t to say this room is done. Obviously. I still don’t even know what it IS. But what it is today, at least, is clean and organized. Which is more than what it was yesterday. One of the things I want to figure out is a better way to store my wrapping supplies. That huge bag is full of gift bags, tissue paper, ribbons, bows, etc. I’m thinking of doing some sort of wall storage for these, but I haven’t gotten around to figuring it out. Another item to consider is this console table. I bought it from Target literally three homes ago, I’m thinking around 2005. I used it as a desk, even though it was always too narrow to work well for that purpose. I still love the clean lines of this table but I’m not quite sure where to re-shuffle it. Any ideas appreciated!


The last item to be considered from the spare room is this orange vase. I bought it from a yard sale almost ten years ago because I loved the shape, but it has never really gone in any of my houses. I still love the shape, but I’m not quite sure what to do with it. One option is to leave it as-is and put it in the great room. I’ve been thinking of adding a few pops of deep orange, and this would certainly fit the bill. The other option, though, is to paint it glossy white. Decisions!


So, that was my first project today. When I finished though, I still had a bit of time before my friend was stopping by, so I decided to tackle my closet. This is really only a mini project because it wasn’t TERRIBLE. Mostly, I have a bad habit of just tossing things wherever. I had a big stack of discarded shirts laying on the cedar chest in our room.


And the same was true of the top of the closet. Stuff was just tossed up top without much rhyme or reason, and all my clothes were mixed up without regard to organization.



So about half an hour of folding and shuffling later….



Okay, so I can admit it doesn’t LOOK that much better. But note the decided lack of mess on the top shelf, and believe me when I say that my clothes are now in an order that actually makes sense. Plus, no random pile of clothes in our bedroom– win!


And thus ends my super productive day-o-organization. Together with my stripey office from yesterday, I’d classify this as a wholly awesome three day weekend. Thank you Presidents Lincoln and Washington for the much-appreciated day off work!

Office Upgrade: Stripes!

Alternative Title: The Last Freaking Stripes I’m Ever Painting Ever. And I Actually Mean It This Time.

But maybe I should start with this: It was totally worth it. Even despite my bitching. I think that most of my issues were the result of my own mistakes. So come, learn from my mistakes so you don’t have to make your own (or um, at least not the same ones). And please, appreciate the awesome end-result. Because B’s reaction of “Wow. Stripes. Good Job.” wasn’t really sufficient for me, lol.

So last week, I cleaned my office. And when I was done, it looked like this.



I really love working in my office when it is clean, but the only problem is that I tend to get distracted by all the things I still want to do in there. Which is why I took on two office projects this week (one big and one small). The big one, as you’ve probably guessed, is painting stripes! I’m no stranger to stripes, as we did vertical tone on tone stripes in our dining room right after moving in. Lately though, I’ve been drawn to all of the horizontal stripes I’m seeing on various home decor blogs. I got it in my head around Tuesday that I just HAD to paint white stripes on the back wall of my office. And soon.

So first I had to break it to B. Who (seemingly having a better memory of the last time we tried to paint stripes than I did) responded with “YOU have fun with that.” haha (as if I’d let him off the hook). I really did not think this was going to be a big deal.

Mistakes #1 and 2: Underestimating and under-planning. 

It just seemed like it would be an easy project. I only wanted eight stripes, I already had plenty of blue tape, and I had leftover white paint from painting the furniture in our guest room. I even had a mini roller! So, I told B, this is going to take like, two hours. Tape off a few lines, roll in some paint, boom. Done. Except, not. The weird thing is, I’m generally a big planner and generally pretty realistic about stuff. But for some reason home projects just make me over-confident. I need to make a pledge to myself that before starting any project I will FIRST gather all of my supplies to make sure I actually have them all, and SECOND double the time I estimate the project will take. Unrealistic expectations are definitely the primary source of my project frustration.

So anyways, here is how we got ‘er done. First, we taped off the stripes on the wall.


Here are some tips that we sort of learned as we went for horizontal stripes:

1) Gravity is working against you, wanting to make your tape sag (unlike vertical stripes). Measure out guide points no more than 2 feet apart across your wall.

2) We used both 2 inch tape and 1.5 inch tape on this, the 1.5 inch was by far easier because it wasn’t quite so rigid to work with.

3) It is MUCH easier if you plan to place your tape directly UNDER your guide marks. At the start of things, I had marked out where exactly I wanted the edges of my stripes to be, so I had to alternate putting the tape over and under the guide marks. For some reason, the tape did not want to lay flat when we were squaring up the bottom of the tape to the guide marks, so for the last 2/3 of the project we added the width of our tape when  measuring guide marks and laid everything out to line up with the top of each line of tape.

4) Accept that this part sucks. And play some good music. Bonus points for random dance breaks.

Next up, I followed a tip I had read online which is to paint over the seams of your tape with the SAME color as is under the tape. This seals the seam between the tape and the wall, and if there is any seeping of color, it will be the color that is already under the tape rather than the color of your stripes. I found this was extremely helpful because our lines were super crisp, much moreso than the last time we did stripes and did not use this tactic.


Paint your stripes! This should have been the easiest step, but it was actually kind of a hassle. Once I had everything taped off and the edges sealed, I went to go find my mini roller and paint. The first thing I noticed was that my mini roller didn’t have any actual rollers (I just had the base) or a pan. So B and I ran to the store to buy some rollers and a pan (cost: approx. $7). Then we got home and I went get the paint and….. noticed it was latex enamel paint. Not normal wall paint. For some reason I was thinking I had used normal wall paint to do the furniture, but apparently not. And some blogs discourage using latex enamel on walls unless you’re going to use it on ALL the walls because it can present some challenges when you go to repaint it down the road. So off I went for pilgrimage #2, to buy some normal white paint. I was annoyed at having to spend more money when this was supposed to be a FREE project, and at having to waste more time making a second trip. So I ran in, grabbed the cheapest can of eggshell white interior paint I saw, and ran back out. (Cost: $11).

Mistake #3: Buying Cheap Paint

There is a difference. If I wasn’t sure before, I am now. The paint I used to paint the office (Benjamin Moore) went on like a dream. It leveled out amazingly, had great coverage, and was just super easy to work with. The paint I bought today? Sucked. It ended up taking THREE coats to get even coverage. This picture was taken after two coats, you can still definitely see roller marks.


Once your stripes are (finally) painted, remove your tape! This is really fun and super satisfying to me. It’s the moment when it all goes from looking like a hot mess to looking (almost) perfect. I say almost because our house has a bit of an annoying paint problem— bits of it peel off whenever it is taped. I believe it is a function of the builder not prepping the walls very well before painting them, but regardless– it happens every time we tape anything off. The white spots you see below are actually bare drywall, not dripped white paint. Luckily this is easy enough to fix and isn’t THAT frustrating because it is expected. I actually have a dedicated brush (it is an angled eyeshadow brush I got at target for like $4) that I always use for these touchups, and they go very fast.



And once touch-ups are done…….. the reveal!



Do you love it? I love it!! Even despite the frustration. Honestly, in the end, it cost me about 4 hours of my life (5 if you count lowes runs) and about $18. Really not a bad price to pay for an amazingly high-impact upgrade. But, as I said before, I think my frustration is a direct result of my own mistakes (not making sure I had all the right supplies ahead of time, buying cheap paint, and under-estimating how long it would take). Over all, I’m absolutely thrilled with this Sunday project. I still have plenty to do in this room, primarily in the getting-things-on-the-walls arena, but this was a giant step in the right direction.

Stay tuned for full details on my mini office project (which you may see in the corner of the room there!).

Anyone else have a serious love/hate relationship with stripes, or is it just me?


Organize-A-Thon Project 1

One of my favorite daily bloggers (Amanda over at Love and Renovations) has challenged her readers once again to organize one area of their home each week, and you know I love a challenge! Last year I only managed to complete one organization project in February, but this year my aim is at least three.

I was a bit short on time this week due to my weekend being taken over by a parental visit (very fun, but not conducive to cleaning), a photo shoot (super adorable 6 month old), and doing our taxes (yea okay… that just sucked). In thinking what I could organize that would make a big impact but wouldn’t take a lot of time, I immediately thought of my office.

I just finished it last August and am a bit ashamed to admit how quickly it fell into disuse. I loved it for the first few months, but then I was in trial every day for a few weeks and then often after that, and between being busy and the holidays…. it just became a mess. I tended to just leave everything I took out laying out, including crafting and sewing projects, work stuff, boxes, photo stuff, etc. And then I didn’t WANT to use it because it was a mess. See?




I thought this would be the perfect project for this week because I knew it wouldn’t take that long, even though it would make a huge difference in the look and functionality of the room. In fact, I decided to honor the name of my blog and see if I could get it done in fifteen minutes. Annnnnnndddddddd……………….. I failed. But! When I the timer chimed for 15 minutes I turned it on stopwatch to see how much longer it would take to get it done. The verdict?



Yep. Two minutes fifty-one seconds. Which means a grand total of less than 18 minutes to clean and (re)organize this whole room. And the results?





And to prove I didn’t just throw everything into a pile in the closet….




Yay! I am so happy I got this done. Now I can start using it again, and I’m feeling re-energized to finish decorating the room! I don’t know why I have such a strong tendency to get a space 80% of the way finished and totally crap out on effort before doing the final decorating, but I have some ideas for this space I’m excited to get started on. Especially because most of them are (almost free).

For now though, I’m just excited to have my office back. Anyone else doing any organizing this February?

Project modern quilt

Before I was crafty, I was a quilter. My grandma was a seamstress and taught me to sew before I knew how to read. I made my first quilt in high school. In the decade since I’ve made, on average, more than one a year. Mostly I give them away. I’ve made them for my parents, my mother-in-law, and for friends. I have only kept one (well, two if you count the unfinished quilt top I have up in my sewing room because I just can’t decide what to do with it). And I use it every day. Like, EVERY day.

If I’m home, and not asleep, there is a 99% chance I’m sitting under my quilt, I love it to pieces and there is nothing cozier. The only problem is… I literally loved it to pieces.


Yep, that is a huge 8 inch hole in my quilt, and it isn’t the only one. The fabric has been so used, and washed so many times, that it is just disintegrating. I think it is almost time to say goodbye. The issue is, nothing else is the same. I made my afghan a few weeks ago and it is beautiful, but it isn’t the same as a quilt. I’ve bought throws, I don’t like them. So now I get to do something I haven’t done in almost a decade: Make a quilt for me!

In the past I’ve tended towards classic quilt patterns. Sometimes I stray into modern fabrics but mostly I like to make quilts that DON’T scream “this was made by a 20 something chick in 20-whatever. But this time, I think I do. I think that is EXACTLY what I want to do. Lately I’m embracing the trendy. I’m not seeking it out, but if fall in love with a trend I’m not shying away for the sake of being different. If I make a quilt and in 10 years it looks SO 10 years ago… well…. it was. (But let’s be honest, I’ll love it to pieces before that anyways most likely!). And if by some miracle it doesn’t disintegrate I’ll stick it in a box somewhere and my granddaughter will think it’s super cool and vintage. So 2013. Ya know.

So what is more 2013 than chevron? If there is something, I don’t know. I started sketching out options. And you wouldn’t think there would be a lot of options once I think I want chevron because like… just do zig zags yes? But you’d be wrong. Lo and behold

Option A: Big chevron (4×6  12-inch blocks)

Screen Shot 2013-02-08 at 5.11.09 PM

Option B: Medium chevron (6×9  8-inch blocks) 

Screen Shot 2013-02-08 at 7.33.42 PM

Option C: Small chevron (8×12  6-inch blocks)

Screen Shot 2013-02-08 at 5.34.39 PM

Option D: Maybe 3 colors? (6×9  8 inch blocks) (This could also be done
the small chevron, but not the big I don’t think)

Screen Shot 2013-02-08 at 7.58.11 PM

Option E: OR maybe I get all crazy and do more herringbone than chevron? Big (4×6  12-inch blocks)

Screen Shot 2013-02-08 at 5.13.45 PM

Option F: Medium Herringbone (6×9  8-inch blocks)

Screen Shot 2013-02-08 at 7.35.03 PM

Option G: Small Herringbone (8×12  6-inch blocks)

Screen Shot 2013-02-08 at 5.28.47 PM
So um… help? Try to ignore the colors. I haven’t decided yet what colors to use. I keep going back and forth on favorites, personally. I think C, D, and F are the current front runners, but if you asked me again in 10 minutes? Who knows. I’d love any opinions on favorites!